Assertiveness. Something we all need but something that doesn’t always come naturally. In my last post we looked at the importance of assertiveness, what it meant to be assertive and whether or not this was something we needed to work on for ourselves and our children.
Whilst we know that personality and the gene pool lottery can play a part in how easily or not one can assert themselves, we also know that assertiveness is a behaviour, and behaviours can be challenged and changed.
Below are some strategies to help you become more assertive, as well as those to help our children. As they begin to become more independent and venture out into the world beyond the family home, it is important that our children too are equipped with the skills to assert themselves.
When trying to assert ourselves, get our point across or have our needs met in a particular way, it is important to:
1.Be clear about what you want. Get straight to the point and refrain from long winded explanations. The more you talk in circles, the less weight your point of view will have and the more likely it is that you will be overwhelmed or intimidated.
2.Ask for more time. When somebody asks a favour of you and you are unsure how to respond, then don’t be afraid to ask for more time or for more information. Again it is far better to give yourself time to assess the situation to determine whether it is something that will work for you. To avoid saying “yes” when you may in fact need to say “No” you can instead respond to a request with something like “I am not sure yet, I need more time to work out what I am doing”. Remember when we say no to someone we are only rejecting their request, we are not rejecting the person.
3.Watch people and observe. What is it about peoples body language that makes them assertive or not? How do they word their requests? Look at the eyes, posture, facial expression and gestures of those that are both assertive and those that are not. Obviously these sorts of non verbal behaviours are much harder to change, but at least being aware will help you gain some control and think about the way in which you are presenting yourself.
4.Be Prepared: know the facts ahead of a foreseen situation. Be prepared for how people may respond. If we have a situation we know may result in a confrontation, then try and anticipate others behaviour. By thinking ahead about the possible scenarios you will be in a far better position to tackle any situation with greater confidence.
5.Have faith in your own abilities, knowledge and strength. Know that you are valuable and deserve to have your needs met. We all have a right to assert ourselves no matter what our personality or position.
6. Role play situations. If a child is being bullied or shy or lacks confidence, try to conjure up some situations and ask them to respond how they usually would. Discuss the repercussions of this response and try to come up with other ways they could have coped with the situation and practise a new response.
7. Expose your children to different situations and people. Children need to occasionally be moved out of their comfort zone in order to challenge their own social skills. Urge them to ask questions and make their own requests. Encourage them to say hello when others say hello. Ask them to hand the money to the shop assistant. If they want sauce with their chips, try to get them to ask the waitress rather than always speaking for them.
8.Be a role model for your children The best way we can ensure our children acquire assertiveness skills is for them to witness those around them being assertive. If they are seeing you get what you need in a confident manner whilst all the while respecting both yourself and others they will be far more likely to mirror such behaviour.
So whether you are asking a boss for a raise, approaching a PR company to sponsor you for an international blogging event, turning down a colleagues request for a favour or whether you are a small child asking for the return of your favourite toy, assertiveness skills are something that can be taught, practised and developed and most importantly can be role modelled and encouraged by parents.