Assertiveness: The Power of Being a “NO”
Have you ever caught yourself saying “yes” to something you didn’t really want to do? Have you found yourself keeping quiet about something that was bothering you because the thought of speaking up felt overwhelming? If so, you’re not alone. Many people hesitate todevelop assertiveness skills out of fear that being assertive translates to being offensive, or that they’ll be viewed negatively for saying “no.”
However, the truth is that assertiveness is actually one of the most valuable communication skills that you can have when it comes to maintaining healthy personal and professional relationships. Knowing how to communicate assertively allows you to set healthier boundaries, communicate with more authority, avoid falling into passive-aggressive communication patterns, and even improve your overall stress levels.
What is the power of being a No?
Healthy communication is clear and direct.
Typically, the alternative to expressing yourself assertively is to become passive-aggressive. This may include behaviors such as saying the opposite of what you mean, making backhanded comments, or even trying to take revenge on others. This creates a toxic atmosphere in which negative feelings are prolonged instead of resolved. Being clear and direct gives everyone a fair chance to resolve problems.
Assertiveness allows you to establish confidence.
Being assertive by saying “no,” by being upfront about conflict, or even by directly asking for what you need is a great way to establish a sense of confidence and authority over your life. In particular, learning to say “no” gives you authority over your time and energy.
Your communication style can impact your quality of life.
Did you know that according to the Mayo Clinic, being assertive can actually lower your stress levels? This is because being assertive gives you the tools to set healthy boundaries, halt passive-aggressive behavior, and ultimately take charge in creating a life you want to live.
How can I be more assertive in my own life?
Know the difference between assertiveness and aggression.
People often mistake assertiveness with aggressiveness. However, these are two very different communication styles. Whereas an aggressive communication style is attacking and demeaning, an assertive style is calm, direct, and polite. One way to help foster an assertive – instead of aggressive – communication style is to focus on framing conversations using “I” statements. Instead of placing blame and beginning a conversation with an aggressive phrase that points out another person’s fault, “I” statements allow you to open with a more gentle, “I feel…,” or “I think that…”
Be clear about what you want.
When you want to be assertive, it doesn’t pay to “beat around the bush.” Although being clear can feel more difficult at first, it’s usually the better option in the long run. For example, if you need to say “no” to a request, don’t say “maybe” with the intention of backing out later. This prolongs your stress and can make the situation more difficult for the people on the other end, who may need a clear answer in order to make appropriate plans or decisions.
Don’t rationalize or try to explain yourself.
Think about the last time you said “no” to a request. Chances are, you probably felt a little guilty for declining an invitation or a request for help. This is common, and many people try to alleviate the sense of guilt by trying to explain the circumstances for the “no”. However, the truth is that you don’t need to come up with excuses for saying “no.” This undermines your authority over yourself by placing the power over your decision-making on external circumstances.
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