Don't be Passive-Aggressive: Learn How to Be Assertive!

Don't be passive-aggressive! Learn how to be assertive and stand up for your rights. By being assertive you hit the sweet spot between passive and aggressive and respectfully stand up for your rights.

Perhaps one of the most basic and most important communication skills is assertiveness. Though people often confuse assertiveness with being a bully or getting what you want all the time, the opposite is actually true.

Being assertive simply means that you're standing up for your rights or even your opinion in such a way that is direct, but also respectful of others' rights.

Assertiveness is essentially the difference between the "passive" and "aggressive" communication styles; it is the sweet spot in the middle where your voice can be heard and opinions respected.

Here we look at:

  • the need for assertiveness
  • the use of "I" statements
  • learn to say No
  • using assertive body language
  • checking your emotional state.

The need for assertiveness: Four Communication Styles

There are many reasons why you need to be assertive in your approach when communicating with others.

First, assertiveness helps others' understand the content of your message -- what you're trying to say -- in a way that cannot be understood if you're either too passive or too aggressive. If you're too aggressive with others, you may come across as intimidating to the other person.

The opposite is true if you communicate passively or in a passive-aggressive manner!

A passive communication style is one where you might say "yes" to others, or go along with something, when you're truly thinking "no." Though a passive style may help you avoid conflict, it gives others the right to disregard your thoughts, feelings and needs. The passive communicator may feel anxious and out of control or depressed because they are not standing up for themselves and their needs.

On the other hand aggressiveness is when the individual expressed their feeling and opinions and disrespects the rights of others. As they intimidate and attack others with "You" statements they are likely to alienate others and cause discontent.

Are you passive on the outside but angry and resentful on the inside? Passive-aggressive communication...the muttering behind the scenes at work...a rude note left on the windscreen of your car...the smiling face while they plan and plot behind your back...

Passive-aggressive communicators discharge resentment while the underlying issues remain.

Since both passiveness and aggressiveness are undesirable communication styles, a good way for dealing with stress is to learn how to be assertive when dealing with others.

How to be assertive

Use "I" statements

The use of "I" statements tells other people what you're thinking and feeling.

The idea behind this is to use a simple sentence to express your feelings about an issue or topic instead of sounding accusatory or derogatory to others. For example, you can say "I disagree," instead of "You're wrong."

During disagreements, you can also use "I" statements like "I feel hurt when you..." or "It makes me angry when you disregard my feelings."

Learn to say "No"

The word "No" is a very important word to learn and practice if you've previously been solely passive in your communication style. For a passive communicator learning to say "No" more often is probably one of the most effective ways to manage stress as it pares down your to-do list and focuses you on what is important for you.

Chances are that if you're constantly passive, you say "Yes" more than you say "No."

When it's time to give a "No" answer, such as if you're asked to take on too many responsibilities, keep your response direct and brief instead of beating around the bush.

Body language is important

Your body language communicates just as much, if not more, about your feelings or thoughts as your words do.

By appearing confident (even if you don't feel confident!) your body convinces the brain to follow.

Keep an upright posture with your shoulders straight up instead of slouching over. You should always make eye contact when talking to others.

You also don't want to appear angry or sad, but keep a positive or neutral facial expression when dealing with other people. Overall, you want to appear confident and capable.

Check emotional states

Although feelings and emotions are a normal part of everyday life, they can put a damper on resolving conflict. If you feel like crying, getting frustrated or angry to the point of walking out, you need to wait before confronting the person or situation.

Once you are confronting the person, breathe slowly and take deep breaths before gathering a response so that you can communicate effectively. These breathing exercises can be useful to reduce your warning signs of stress.

The changes you need to make to become assertive will certainly not come overnight.

This is especially true if you've communicated in a passive-aggressive style for so long.

In some cases, you may want to start out with small situations with close friends to try out your assertive communication style before negotiating or communicating on issues that really matter.

With regular practice, assertiveness helps you boost your self-esteem and confidence, improves your communication and relationships, and can help you earn respect from others.

Search here for more information on being assertive rather than passive-aggressive

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