How to be more confident and assertive
Remember your rights: The Bill of Rights
- I have the right to ask for what I want (recognising that other people have the right to say no)
- I have the right to say “yes” and “no” without feeling guilty
- I have the right to say “I don’t know” and “I don’t understand”
- I have the right to be respected
- I have the right to have my own opinions, views and ideas and to express them appropriately
- I have the right to have feelings and to express them assertively in appropriate situations
- I have the right to decline responsibility for other people’s problems
- I have the right to make mistakes
- I have the right to have needs and wants (that may be different from others)
- I have the right to change
- I have the right to be myself (to be different from what others are, or want me to be, or do)
- I have the right to choose not to exercise my rights
What is the difference between passive, aggressive and assertive behaviour?
Others can feel this about a person who behaves passively:
Aggressive: people may shun someone who gives in again and again to their wishes
Irritated: they wish you’d stand up for yourself and make your own decisions
Withdrawn: they avoid you because your negative attitude makes it difficult for them to maintain their own positive attitude
Superior: they lose respect for you as a person, because you aren’t willing to stand up for what you believe in
Tired: they waste valuable energy dealing with their negative reactions to you.
Passive body language fails to engage people and suggests a lack of self-confidence:
Eye contact: minimal
Facial expression: fawning
Others can feel the following about this behaviour:
Angry and threatened: they resent your unfair tactics
Frustrated: they waste valuable energy defending themselves from your abusive ways
Withdrawn: they avoid you because when you’re around, they feel they must be ready to defend themselves
Anxious and defensive: they can’t relax because they’re preparing for the next attack
Resentful: they resent the power you seem to have over them
Hurt: they can’t help being affected by your put-downs, even if they know your comments are undeserved
Humiliated: they don’t enjoy being corrected or made to appear foolish in public
Tired: they waste valuable energy preparing for what you’re going to ‘throw’ at them next
Aggressive body language alienates people. It suggests that the person is not comfortable with what he/she is saying and raises doubts about his/her message:
Eye contact: staring
Facial expression: taut
Others can feel the following about this behaviour:
Positive: they sense that you will be pleased if they succeed
Secure: they trust you because you let them know where they stand with you
Co-operative: they respond to your straight-forward positive behaviour by trying to help you
Respectful: they reciprocate the respect you show for their needs and rights
Energetic: they’re able to use their energy constructively because there is no game playing
Assertive body language makes people feel confident. It suggests an understanding of the situation and knowledge of what is wanted:
Eye contact: direct
Facial expression: responsive
How can I use this information to become more confident and assertive?
In difficult situations there are a few things you can learn to assert and protect yourself.
Before you meet, you can practise what you want to say and how you will say it. Role play with someone you know well, or just try it out by yourself. While you rehearse, stand or sit with a strong, open and upright posture. Even when you are on the telephone you might find that standing gives you a feeling of power.
It is important to allow the other person time to speak without interruption, listening carefully to what they have to say. Try to understand them, express yourself clearly and then try to come up with ideas which consider both of your feelings.
Try the following:
Use eye contact, but if this is difficult you could try looking at the bridge of the other person’s nose
Be aware of your body posture, stand or sit upright
Don’t use too many gestures
Make sure your tone of voice is even and clear, and speak at a slow and steady pace
Use specific speech
Own your emotions and use “I” statements, such as, “I feel upset that...” instead of “You make me feel...” as this blames others.
Pause whenever you need to, giving yourself time to think, and breathe!
Other people have a right to a point of view, so consider saying something like this when you respond, “I can hear/see that you.........., however, ............”
Remember you don’t always need to win. Express your needs, speak your truth, and if the person is still being aggressive then walk away.
As well as rehearsing assertive practice, you can reinforce these positive feelings in self-hypnosis. Use the techniques in the ‘self-hypnosis’ section and visualise yourself using all of the assertive behaviours. Imagine the other person and the scene as clearly as you can, seeing the room, the details, the colours and so on, and make the image bright and expand it, then drift into that body and really feel the positive feelings, experience the assertive posture.
If you find it difficult to see yourself behaving assertively, then picture someone you admire behaving assertively in that situation (friend, colleague, actor, celebrity). Imagine yourself stepping into that person. Feel yourself filling their body and take on their assertive posture. Allow yourself to really experience the positive feelings and imagine behaving in this way. Then you can absorb those assertive feelings and bring them back with you as you step back into yourself.
By rehearsing, visualising, and practising assertive behaviour, you will find that it will soon come easily and naturally. You will also begin to notice the physical and emotional benefits of expressing yourself calmly and clearly. It is as important to be heard as it is to listen and assertiveness allows you to connect with your truth, respecting yourself and others.
Some information gathered from LCCH