Studio 5 Clinical Psychologist Dr. Liz Hale offers ways we can live more assertively so we can say “yes” when we want to and “no” when we mean to.
We can all think of at least one person within the last week with whom being honest with was a near-impossible task – perhaps a spouse, boss, in-law, or child. We were either passive – where we avoided saying what we wanted in order to avoid conflict; or we were aggressive – where all the bottled feelings came bursting out, leaving no room for communication.
Assertiveness, however, is being clear about what we feel and need, and how it can be achieved. Assertiveness seeks a win-win; where aggressiveness strives for win-lose. (“I need to win and will do so at the expense of others.) When we become more assertive (not aggressive) our communication at home, work, and school will improve and we’ll command a greater respect from others. There is a lot of truth to the saying that “we teach others how to treat us.” The more important the relationship is to you, the more important it is to be assertive.
I’ve listed a few things to help us out with becoming more assertive and command more of that respect:
POSITIVE MENTAL ATTITUDE:
Sometimes we just need to change our “tude.” Assertiveness is an attitude – it’s a way of relating to the world, backed by effective communication skills. We need to have the attitude that we are of worth and have a right to enjoy life, while equally valuing others’ opinions and rights to life enjoyment. Have the attitude that conflict is welcome – that you can negotiate and give-and-take. Maintain a positive, optimistic outlook.
WATCH BODY LANGUAGE
We say a lot even when we say nothing. The way we hold ourselves impacts how we are perceived and treated. Assertive people usually stand upright but relaxed, looking others calmly in the eyes, with open hands. In front of a mirror, try different types of posture and body language as you imagine being the passive victim (with hunched shoulders and poor eye contact), the aggressor (with clenched fists and jaw, and glaring eye contact), and finally the assertive individual. The next time you talk to someone, try to watch yourself: Where are you looking? What is your body position? Is your voice clear and confident?
Communication is an important part of assertiveness – it’s the content and delivery that matters. Be honest with yourself about your own feelings and use “I” statements, versus “everyone” or “we.” Stay calm and stay with the issue at hand without getting side-tracked or bringing in other situations you’re upset about. Listen to the other person’s point of view and objections to make certain that your message is clear.
Its proven being asser4tive can actually make us more happy. Psychologists at Wake Forests University led the study claiming that simply behaving in a bold manner can make you happy. Their research supports the idea that any extrovert behavior has a positive impact on your mood. Now, it’s certainly not the only way to happiness but it is a much neglected way of achieving a positive self-image. Every single student in the study reported being happier when he or she acted extroverted versus introverted; i.e., singing aloud, freestyle dancing, or mustering up the courage to approach someone they found attractive. The moods of the students were boosted for some time after the event or action. Make a concerted effort to be more extrovert; sing in the car or shower, dance to some music or approach others to initiate a conversation. Practice being more talkative or assertive – voice your opinion or ask more questions.
We have many interests. But there is a big difference between being interested in something and being committed to something There has to be something in your future that is big enough and inspiring enough to overcome the obstacles that will inevitably arise in your path. Commitment always provokes some action and the resulting action always produces a result. When we are emotionally or intellectually bond to some outcome, certain actions take place without thinking about them. Here’s a quick way to rate your commitment, whether it be to losing 20 pounds or writing a book.
Bottom line: You will produce the result you are committed to producing. If you don’t like the result you are getting, then you must take a rigorous and honest look at the real commitments leading to that result.
Dr. Liz Hale is a licensed clinical psychologist and a regular Studio 5 Contributor. Your comments and questions are welcomed! Please visit www.drlizhale.com to add your thoughts to today’s discussion or learn more about her private practice.