Assertiveness: Not Just for Negative Situations
When I hear the word “assertiveness” my mind automatically jumps to defense; conflict; cautiously unwinding the tangled threads of a delicate situation. I’ve recently realized that it doesn’t have to. Assertive communication can be used for so much more than conflict resolution.
Much of Britt Land’s strength is rooted in its dedication to the constant encouragement of personal growth within the team. I have a lot of opinions and a lot to say in any given situation, but I tend to avoid using my voice, especially in a situation that could potentially become, or is already negative. I felt that it would be valuable not only in the workplace, but also in my personal life if I could conquer this hurdle and really work on becoming more comfortable with speaking up in situations like this rather than saying nothing in order to actively avoid conflict, even at my own personal cost.
This got me thinking though: Not only do I have a hard time being assertive in negative situations, but it’s also difficult for me to be assertive in a positive setting.
I combed the web for any links or articles about positive assertiveness, but all I found was how to be positive when handling conflict. Why is the sole focus on this particular aspect of assertiveness when in reality there’s so much more to it?
I find that I’ll lose touch with people or won’t initiate conversations with them because I worry that they’ll get the wrong idea about me or think I’m clingy. I won’t compliment someone’s snazzy outfit or hair because I worry that they’ll think I’m delivering a backhanded compliment or am not actually being genuine. Mostly I assume that people don’t care that much anyway, so I keep it to myself. Just as being unable to articulate oneself assertively in a negative situation is unsatisfying, being unable to do the same in a positive setting is clearly just as fruitless: I want to say all of these things but the fear of offending or stepping on someone’s toes holds me back.
Just like working on assertiveness in conflict, this requires stepping outside of one’s comfort zone; I’ve started messaging a few friends on a daily basis that I don’t often see or talk to, telling them that I hope that they are having a fantastic day. So far this has been incredibly well-received with replies and thanks coming back 99% of the time. No one has told me I’m annoying, no one has rejected my positivity, and I get the benefit of knowing I’ve brightened someone’s day.
When we communicate assertively in negative situations, we want to make our own feelings clear, concise and easy to understand while remaining calm, empathetic and proactive. We aim for the person on the other side to understand and be understood so a favourable outcome can be reached for everyone. Shouldn’t this be the same for people we interact with all across the board? Whether we admire someone, care about them on a personal level, are grateful for some knowledge or assistance rendered, or just think they look fantastic today, being able to assert that to them is not only going to make them feel amazing, but it really proves that being an assertive person far breaches the confines of problem solving and conflict resolution.
Here are a few daily things you can try in order to practice positive assertiveness:
Be the first one to make a move: Find three or four individuals who you haven’t spoken to or seen in some time in your contacts. Send them a quick message/email or call them up and let them know that you hope they are having a wonderful day.
Compliment at least three people in passing each day: Strive for broad compliments that go beyond general observations such as, “You look nice today.” Instead, go for something that proves a bit of thought and real feeling has been put into the compliment: “You look fantastic today. The colour of that shirt really brings out your eyes!”
Don’t be afraid of questions about you: If someone asks what you did last night or over the weekend, assume that they’re asking because they’re genuinely interested in knowing how cool your life is; feel free to elaborate a little! If you had a great evening, don’t be afraid to show it. (Bonus points for asking about theirs afterwards!)
Practice assertive gratitude; if someone gives you a hand with a last minute task, treats you to coffee or lunch, or just generally does something that moves you, say it! You don’t have to lay it on thick – it can be as simple as, “Hey, I just wanted to say thank you for the (help/coffee/compliment) today, it really made me feel (happy/less stressed/appreciated.) Just saying “thank you” is nice, but being able to open up and be honest to someone about why you’re thankful to them shows that you’re someone who knows how they feel, what they want and how to articulate themselves in a positive manner.