One of my long-time readers and supporters asked me a couple times to write a post on assertiveness, and I thought to myself, How?
Like I said in Thursday’s post, I have a long history of shyness. It’s only been a few years since I’ve come out of my shell and have been able to voice my opinions to the world.
I still have a hard time sticking up for myself sometimes because I despise blind defensiveness and the inability to hear what others have to say. I strive to make it a point in my life to listen, and truly consider the other side of the equation; there could be something I’m doing that I never realized before. This practice stops me in my tracks when defensiveness starts heating up my face, and allows me to open up my mind and learn from others.
There is a point, however, when you need to make your voice heard. When there is the threat of injustice, you should feel the freedom to speak up, no matter what the backlash may be.
This is where I have trouble today. I avoid confrontation like it’s the grocery store line that accepts checks. I have to actively talk myself into sticking up for what I believe in, no matter who’s yelling at me, disagreeing with me, or giving me guilt trips.
This is a learned trait. I have not been this way my whole life.
•It doesn’t have to be about who’s wrong and who’s right. It can just be about making your voice heard.
•You are worth just as much as that person that is trying to pull one over on you.
•You deserve everything that everyone else does, and we all deserve the same. You must speak up to claim yours in many cases.
According to Dictionary.com, assertive means confidently aggressive or self-assured; positive: aggressive;dogmatic.
Confidently self-assured. Ok, I can vibe with that.
To help you become self-assured–aka certain of yourself or sure of who you are–is one of my main driving forces for Strong Inside Out. So here are some steps you can take to become confidently self-assured/assertive when the time is right…
You Deserve To Be Heard
Your voice is the only one like it out there. If you stay silent and just hope that someone will find out how great you are, you may never get the chance to tell anyone what you think.
Why is anyone else’s opinion worth more than yours? Your opinion could save you or people you know from: wasting time, pain, or losing money.
Consider the fact that your voice could benefit others, rather than concerning yourself with the possibility of backlash or discouragement.
This step files under my motto, If it scares the s**t out of you, you’re probably on the verge of something great.
It’s intimidating when you start trying to assert yourself, I’ll give you that. When I first started to speak up, the fight-or-flight rush I would get would scare the begeezus out of me. What will everyone think? What if no one likes me after this?
If they don’t like it, F**k ‘Em.
You are who you are and sometimes personalities just don’t match. You will never please EVERYONE, so don’t try!
Remember these three things as you begin your journey towards confident self-assurance:
You deserve to be heard just as much as everyone else does.
You could help someone by speaking up.
Stop trying to be liked and be yourself because no one else is and that’s pretty cool.
When making big scary changes like starting to stick up for yourself or speaking confidently about your qualities (in cases such as getting a job or selling your services), start with little things.
If you fear speaking up, try writing a confident email or note first. I know that I personally speak much better in writing than I do in real life or interviews. This way, you can sort out your thoughts to make sure that you don’t miss anything, and practice how you prefer to present your side.
If you’re terribly shy, simply try asking people for something. I find that with very shy people, even asking for something you need is anxiety-provoking.
Go to a store and ask a sales person where something is, or if they have a brand or product that isn’t on the shelf. Ask the cashier at check out if you can get that bag refund that you rightfully deserve for bringing in your own bags (I know it’s only 10¢, but it’s the principle, damn it! ;p). Ask the barista that accidentally made your drink wrong to please make it again. Do it politely of course, but keep in mind that you paid for it!
Small actions like these build up your confidence, proving that you can get good results from speaking up.
Ask for something small now so you can feel confident asking for that raise at work!
Listen- They Could Have A Point
As you get better at this and more confident in yourself, remember to actively listen to what others have to say. This is the quickest way to growth and keeps you from becoming a complainer or an a**hole (more on this later).
To take this step, you must be willing to stop yourself when you begin to feel the inklings of defensiveness. This pops up when someone disagrees with you.
Disagreement comes in many forms, many of which put us on the defensive because we consider them a threat. Caveman you is right to feel that rage arising because disagreement might mean a fight to the death!
Calm down your inner Neanderthal by taking a deep breath. This person most likely will not kill you, but you may shoot yourself in the foot if you speak too soon.
Take that breath (and a few moments after if necessary) to honestly consider the other person’s side.
Have compassion for what the other person believes. Many times, people just fight back because they can’t handle the blow to their ego. It’s ok. Sometimes, you can just let them have it. Others, when it affects you directly, you need to stick to the course. You deserve justice as much as the next person.
Choose Your Battles Wisely
Know when to voice your opinions and when to keep your mouth shut.
Many people are scared of being assertive in the beginning because they don’t want to be viewed as cocky, arrogant, uncooperative, or just plain rude.
As you get better at voicing your opinions and your confidence starts to grow, remember that you don’t want to make other people feel the way that you felt before: discouraged and scared to speak up.
Act with empathy and compassion for the human condition, and you will rarely go wrong.
In each situation, ask yourself how much the result of making your voice heard would positively affect your life or the lives of others. Not at all or not much? Perhaps it’s a case to let slide. Quite a bit? Stick up for what you believe in and show them what you’ve learned!
Did you ask yourself that question and realize that it would negatively affect the lives of those around you? Be careful. You’re treading on the line between confidently self-assured and tyrannical. Avoid the latter by bringing yourself back to empathy and compassion. If you ask yourself again and realize that you need to do this to protect yourself, I would agree that there are some cases like that such as saying no to people when you’re spreading yourself to thin or defending your cancellation policy to a repeat offender.
This is where you-can’t-please-everyone comes in again. There will be some cases in which not everyone will be thrilled that you spoke up, but you need to do it to defend yourself. Stick up for you, just don’t stick up for a lot of things that don’t really matter.
I hope these tips help you become more confident and sure of yourself. I know they are all things that I still work on every day.
What do you find most difficult about being assertive? What tip resonates the most with you? Do you have any tips to add?
Looking forward to hearing from you all about this topic!