It is common to face situations in which we wish to say something or behave differently, but find it difficult to do so. This hesitation usually stems from our concern about what others feel about us and our fears regarding how they would react. It is in these situations that we end up suppressing our emotions. This frustrates us and at times finds an outlet in aggressive outbursts. Often it is people with low self-esteem who may find it difficult to speak their mind. Then there are those who fear they may lose a friend or face rejection if they are honest about the way they feel.
Express yourself clearly: Use plain and simple words to convey your message and thoughts to the other person in a straightforward manner. At times, you may be required to use tact but as far as possible communicate and state your feelings openly. Try and not blame the other person. Also, never assume that the other person will know what you are feeling or what you want. Always be clear and honest about what you need.
Avoid letting your emotions get the better of you: You may feel bad for hurting the sentiments of others or angry at the other person for hurting your s, but you should never allow these emotions to get the better of you. Always keep a cool head.
Don’t feel guilty: Just because you are refusing a favour or turning down another person’s request, does not mean that you should hold yourself responsible for hurting the other person.You should never feel guilty or think that you have displeased the other person for having spoken your mind. It may be difficult for you initially to assert yourself, especially if you have always tried hard to please people, but you will learn fast. Remember that it is always healthy to speak one’s mind.
Don’t confuse assertiveness with aggression: Often in our attempt to avoid being walked over by others, we may end up becoming aggressive.
Assertiveness doesn’t make you selfish: Remember, being assertive simply means putting your own needs first. This is important not only for your own well-being but also in resolving conflicts effectively. Remember, being assertive does not mean that you are being selfish. Also, never worry or become anxious about what the other person thinks of you if you get what you want your way.
Try the ‘broken record’ technique: Sometimes, despite communicating assertively, the other person may insist on getting his work done. In such situations, it helps reiterating your previous stance.
Be confident: Maintain eye contact and sit upright. Your body language should exhibit confidence. You can practice these positions in front of a mirror.
(The author is director, mental health and behavioural sciences, Fortis Healthcare)