Do you have a hard time speaking up for yourself and being assertive? When you want to say something, do you tend to hesitate or mince words?

If you wish you could develop the confidence to speak up and start affecting people more deeply, then this is the episode for you!

Today, we’re going to be discussing how to become the most powerful, assertive version of yourself so that you can learn to speak up and stop being afraid of what other people will think of you.

When you’re feeling frustrated, irritated, or resentful, that is just one sign that you need to be more assertive.

Often, we experience these emotions because we can’t get away from the situation that is making us feel them. This is why they usually rear their ugly heads around coworkers, bosses, partners, and spouses. Hence, when we notice the recurring patterns that bring these emotions about, we need to take note and introduce assertive communication.

Instead, thought, people who are afraid to speak up prefer to avoid confrontation by telling themselves a story that keeps them safe:

–          It’s my fault because I should be more tolerant.

–          Everyone acts like that once in a while.

–          What s/he said wasn’t that bad, and I deserved it, anyway.

Whenever that urge to speak up for yourself begins to arise, you must resist the need to stuff it down and ignore it. Acknowledge the feeling and understand that you have a right to speak up.

The next thing you need to do is actually make your voice heard.

This part is especially hard for people who worry about what others are going to think. We imagine it coming out all wrong, we see the other person or people getting upset with us, and we invent a ridiculous set of circumstances from which we’ll never bounce back.

Fact: communication is healthy, essential part of any ongoing relationship.

No matter what kind of relationship you’re working with—friend, colleague, lover—it will be made stronger if you are able to communicate openly and directly.

In fact, if you’re in an ongoing relationship and have never come across a reason to disagree or discuss conflict, then there’s something wrong: you’re stuck, distant, or doomed.

So, if direct, assertive communication is essential to a thriving relationship, how to we work toward being able to speak up for ourselves in an honest way?

Discover what’s bothering you, and dive right in.

Maybe this sounds obvious, but let me tell you why it needs to be said: even after we finally admit that we have a problem with assertiveness, we will still do anything to avoid conflict.

–          Ok, I know I need to speak up and have a conversation with this person, but first I’m going to figure out exactly what to say.

–          Now I’m going to go figure out exactly how to say it, so I don’t upset them.

–          Now I have to practice it so it comes out perfectly.

–          Now I need to consider how they’re going to react, so I know how to respond.

We can literally spend decades of our lives timidly avoiding conflict and never actually having the conversation that needs to happen.

The truth is that there is no way to avoid conflict: no matter how much time you spend planning, the conversation is going to be a little uncomfortable, and you’re probably going to have to work through an emotion or two together.

When something is bothering you, avoiding the conflict is not going to work—you must confront the issue and solve the problem.

This does not mean, however, that you have to have an attitude. It is possible to be direct without being aggressive (hence, the word “assertive”).

The best way to accomplish this is by invoking curiosity, rather than anger. I like to do this by using the phrase, “I noticed. . . .”

–          “I noticed that there are a lot of dirty dishes all over the kitchen.”

–          “I noticed I haven’t received a response to my email from the other day.”

–          “I noticed you haven’t cleaned your room yet.”

The idea here is to remain neutral and gather information. You don’t need to launch into an attack on their personality, and you don’t need to apologize profusely for being a nag—simply wait and see how the other person/people respond.

Many times, when we’re in a situation in which we’re angry or upset, we don’t have all the data.

Yes, being silent and waiting for the information is tough, but it’s a necessary part of creating a healthy dialogue and understanding what’s going on without anyone feeling attacked.

Maybe the other person had a lot on his plate and had not had time to respond; maybe the kitchen was a mess because the kids were hooligans that day; maybe the room is a mess because she had a ton of homework.

Here’s the catch: your curiosity cannot be fake. You do actually need to go in with the intention of learning something and solving a problem, rather than “being right” or “winning the argument.”

Once you’ve created the space for a legitimate conversation, you can come to an agreement based on the whole pool of data:

–          Maybe you agree that when the kids are nuts, their consequence is to help with cleaning, or that you at least get a warning, so you don’t come home to a mess.

–          Maybe you can agree to a reasonable time by which the email will get a response.

–          Maybe you make a rule that the room gets thoroughly cleaned every Sunday, so you start the week off on the right foot, when homework isn’t an issue.

Now, of course, there’s a chance that the person will break this agreement—in fact, it’s likely they will. In that case, it’s on you to begin the conversation again, but with even more assertiveness.

Once someone has backed out on an agreement that you’ve reached together, the time for being curious and overly understanding has passed. This is when it is ok to show frustration or irritation. Not only is it ok, but it will also be more impactful, because the other person will know that you mean business.

Again, there is a skillful way to do this.

Even though you may be furious or frustrated, freaking out, screaming, and character assassination will only make you lose your power.

Firstly, when you attack the other person in broad generalizations (“you’re a slob”; “you’re lazy”; “you’re irresponsible”), you’re just using guilt and blame, and nobody responds well to that. Secondly, when you lose control of your own emotions, you look like the one who is deserving of a character assassination.

Instead, try using “I” language:

–          When this happens in work situations, I feel ignored. I spoke with you about it, and we agreed on a fix. Then two more days went by, and I still don’t have what I need from you . . . and I can’t accomplish X, Y, and Z until I have it. I am not sure what the new solution is, but this is not working for me.

That sounds strong, firm, and controlled, yet you can still sense the frustration—you know this person is done being “kind.”

After that, the only option is a consequence. If you’ve given them your understanding and your patience, they’ve used up all the consequence-free currency available, and a punishment of sorts will need to be doled out.

This, of course, depends on the nature of the relationship (it’s obviously hard to dole out consequences to a spouse), but you might try writing the person up, taking them off the project, grounding them, or making it clear that you’re not going to be able to function in the relationship anymore if something doesn’t change.

Assertiveness is not about kicking the door down and taking hostages—it’s about doing your honest best to relate and connect to other human beings in a manner that’s respectful to both of you. If you can manage to remove emotion in the beginning, you stand a far better chance of finding this balance and coming to a compromise from which everyone will benefit.

So, what are the major triggers for you when it comes to frustration, anger, and resentment? What language has been successful for you in addressing it with others? If you still feel like you need some more guidance on this subject, I recommend you check out my book, Not Nice, and subscribe to these episodes so that you can receive content as it’s released.

Until we speak again, we have the courage to be who you are. And to know on a deep level that you’re awesome.