Why is assertive communication, such a tough thing to practice for some of us? Saying NO seems like one of the easiest life lessons to learn.
One word two letters what could be simpler than that?
For some, it is the easiest thing- knowing how to say no to things or to people. But for many of us, myself included, it’s not.
If you are one of those people then you too probably struggle with having assertive communication. Do you hate feeling like you are letting someone down? Do you avoid confrontations at all costs? Do you choose to walk away and to let things cool off over hashing it out in an uncomfortable conversation? then you know the danger of people-pleasing, and how taxing it can be for our emotional health.
The good news? There are ways we can practice assertive communication and saying no with confidence.
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- What is assertive communication all about?
- Why should we master the art of assertive communication?
- The role of assertive communication in everyday life
- How to Practice Assertive communication and stop saying yes when you want to say no
- Assertive communication – summing up
What is assertive communication all about?
Assertive communication is about being able to speak our mind and our feelings in a truthful and direct way whether we are expressing negative or positive opinions and thoughts.
It means we can stand our ground even if it is not the popular stance. It means we are comfortable setting boundaries and standing up for our own rights.
It also means we can handle confrontations without feeling stressed or anxious.
Why should we master the art of assertive communication?
People pleasing and avoiding confrontations can end up presenting as passive-aggressive behavior and lots of resentment. We can also end up managing way too many toxic relationships in our life because we lack the ability to set healthy relationship boundaries.
Assertive communication allows us to be more honest with the people in our life, we are able to live and the way we want to and according to our true values and belief systems, and it reduces our stress levels and anxiety.
The role of assertive communication in everyday life
I used to think of myself as just missing that assertive bone inside, so I either had to run away from situations in which I needed to stand up and fight or I just “people pleased” to maintain the peace. That was until I had my twins. I
hadn’t realized it before, but once you have a baby that can’t express his needs and wants, you need to become an advocate for him/her. At times, that includes fighting for them, fighting to get them what you believe they deserve and need. Sometimes you have to stand up to people who try to steer you away from what your instincts tell you is right for your child.
My eldest child needed a lot of medical attention, and at times I had to demand it, fight for his rights. That was when I realized I could actually do that. I had an assertive person hiding inside of me.
Things changed even more when on top of being a mother of 3, I became a business owner.
I just couldn’t do that anymore. It was a choice between twisting myself up like a pretzel in order to not let anyone down, or I could be successful in my business. The two could not co-exist. I had to learn how to say NO clearly, to people and to things. And that is why assertive communication is so important.
How to Practice Assertive communication and stop saying yes when you want to say no
1. Focus on your own needs and your business goals
Paulo Coelho wrote, “When you say yes to others, make sure you are not saying no to yourself.”
We have to admit to ourselves that we can not do it all and be everything to everyone.
We have to accept that we only have a certain amount of energy that has to be split and prioritized.
So for example, if another mom needs me to take her kids for the afternoon and I have a work deadline, I should just say “No, I’m sorry but today I can’t”.
We have to practice saying “no” clearly and simply. And yes, we may feel guilty at first but it will go away over time. Be clear and send an un-conflicting message, without squirming, stuttering, or sugarcoating, a simple NO will do.
2. Set Boundaries – especialy when facing negativity
It’s ok to not always be the nice one. We can stop being the patient listeners to people who just HAVE to tell us why their way is right and ours is wrong. It’s OK to pick and choose who to spend our precious – and yes it’s PRECIOUS time with.
Choose the people who bring positivity to your life.
One of my coaches told me once that we become the average of the 5 people we spend our time with. I want to be a brave positive successful person. So I started saying NO to spending my time with people who were dragging me away from that.
When I started breaking my own patterns, the people around me also had to get used to the new less compliant me.
When we start setting boundaries and say NO when people try to cross them, we slowly discover this whole new person that was lying dormant inside of us all these years. It’s important to set boundaries in our professional life, but it is also very important to set boundaries with family and loved ones, so we can keep those relationship healthy and honest.
That process will benefit your business life but it will also benefit your personal life. Your loved ones will get a more relaxed version of you, instead of the one running around stressed and passive-aggressive all the time.
3. Speak YOUR truth
Assertive communication is all about speaking up, voicing your truth respectfully and directly.
Tell the people in your life, whether it is in your professional life or your personal life, how you feel about the way they treat you or speak to you, honestly but without being combative or accusing.
To make sure you are not coming off as aggressive it’s a good idea to speak in “I” statments.
“I feel like this way is better” instead of “YOU are doing it the wrong way”. “My feelings are hurt” instead of “You hurt me”.
Speak politely and specifically. If you want something done, say something like “I can use your help with this”, instead of giving out an order. You are Despite what we think, people are not always aware of the impact their acts or words have on us. Part of being taking responsibility in our own lives is to take ownership of our feelings and needs and express them instead of passively waiting for others to understand or read our thoughts.
4. Fake it till you make it
It takes some time until assertive communication becomes second nature. It also takes time to break our people-pleasing habits.
At first, we may have to fake our way through it. Confrontations are not easy for people who tried to avoid them their whole life. It is really easy to become emotional and escalate a confrontation instead of resolving the conflict.
So for the duration of your conversation with the other party, try to keep it together. Be aware of your posture, the tone of your voice. Keep yourself in an upright posture. Make eye contact, and try to keep your first relaxed and your tone even.
If you feel like releasing your emotions, wait till you are alone, if you feel emotional before the conversation, wait. Breath deep until you feel you have yourself in check.
Assertive communication – summing up
Adopting assertive communication is beneficial to our well being and to our ability to reach our goals. When we set boundaries it makes it possible for us to stay focused on our priorities. It also relieves the stress and anxiety that come with constant people-pleasing.
We need to keep in mind that saying no is not selfish, it is a necessity and it helps us maintain the integrity of our relationships with the people around us.
I will end with a quote from a very meaningful book I love, by
Stephanie Lahart (Overcoming Life’s Obstacles: Enlighten-Encourage-Empower ) words:
“Give yourself permission to say NO without feeling guilty, mean, or selfish. Anybody who gets upset and/or expects you to say YES all of the time clearly doesn’t have your best interest at heart. Always remember: You have a right to say NO without having to explain yourself. Be at peace with your decisions.”