If you google the word assertive, you will find the definition: ‘having or showing a confident and forceful personality’. Whilst assertiveness can sometimes come across as forceful, there are many ways to be more positively assertive, without seeming forceful.
Why be assertive?
Most people would categorise themselves as either outgoing or not, but in both groups, you will find people who do not feel listened to. Although there are increasing numbers of ways for young people to offer their opinions (for example, school councils), many still feel that they don’t have much impact in the decisions made in their lives.
Feeling like you aren’t being listened to or respected can be particularly bad at times of stress. As we touched on in our ‘The ‘Chimp’ Brain’ blog, when faced with stress we have an innate ‘fight or flight’ response. This can lead to us becoming forceful with our views, or else retreating and keeping our opinions to ourselves. Neither of these approaches are beneficial to being heard or respected. The key is learning to balance these reactions through assertiveness.
What do you want?
The first step on the road to being more assertive, is being clear about what you want, or what you think. Before you can convey this to other people, you need to decide this for yourself. Maybe you want more help from a teacher, but feel they aren’t hearing you. Or perhaps you’ve fallen out with friends who can’t see your point of view. Part of the problem here is often that the people we want to hear us are not getting a clear understanding of what your views are.
It can be hard to decide what you want, or to remember it when you then go to act upon your wishes. It can help to sit down somewhere quiet, and write things down. If you’re finding it hard, you can always ask someone you trust to help you. You might like to write down how you’re feeling, why you are feeling that way and what you would like to change. If you have a suggestion of a way to change things, even better! Try and remember to keep what you want realistic, if you set your sights on things that are unrealistic, you could be setting yourself up for failure.
Make a plan.
Once you’re clear about what it is you want, it’s time to plan. If you’ve written down your feelings and wishes, this will be useful when planning what to do next. This may be a plan to talk to someone, but it could also be a plan for something you want from yourself, or include things you will do or change.
When planning, it’s important to think about any other people involved, as well as your own feelings. It is here that you will find the difference between positive assertiveness and coming across as forceful. By considering the feelings and effects on others, you will show that you have considered other people, and people will be more willing to listen to you. It may be that you consider a time that’s best to talk to someone, or being willing to give something up to meet with them. For example, if you insist on talking to a teacher about getting more support at a time when they need to be in another class or a meeting, it can make them feel less able to support you. However, if you are willing to go and see them during a break time, they may be more willing to set aside time for you.
Again, be realistic! Having realistic expectations of other people will make it easier for them to consider you. You will usually need to negotiate with other people and often you will need to accept that you cannot have everything you want and may need to change your own expectations or behaviour. Working with other people to come to an attainable plan will set you up for success!
Be Assertive with Yourself.
This can be applied to being assertive within yourself and your own goals as well. Being assertive about your goals can mean the difference between taking control of your studies, or feeling overwhelmed by them.
Just as you would with being assertive in talking to another person, being assertive with yourself regarding your own goals starts with being clear with what you want. Set yourself realistic goals, and then plan how to achieve those goals. It can help to set yourself small targets and work towards these in your own time. Get My Grades can help you take control of small goals and build your knowledge bit by bit. By learning this way, you can track your progress and feel successful every step of the way.