1) Know what assertiveness is and isn't.
2) Know how to stand up for your rights.
3) Know how to communicate what you need, clearly.
4) Know how to be honest and appropriate.
Assertiveness is presenting your needs clearly and calmly, noting body language.
Assertiveness is not aggression. This is when you stand up for yourself in a way that violates the rights of others such as being punishing, hostile, blaming, or demanding.
Assertiveness is not passive aggression. This is when you are not clear or direct with what you need. For example, you are hurt by a friend's behavior so you ignore that friend. The friend may not actually not why he/she is being ignored and so the issue can't be resolved and your need will still not be met.
Why do we avoid being assertive when it can be so much more effective? Often we avoid being assertive for fear of displeasing others and of not being liked. It is also scary to clearly present a need and have the other party say no. The sad irony is that although you may avoid some immediate unpleasantness by not being assertive, you may be jeopardizing the relationship in the long run.
Below are the steps to increase your assertiveness.
First, develop a value and belief system. [See my blog on creating a life compass.] This helps to guide you on knowing what is important to you and gives you permission to say no as well as to ask for what you need.
Second, learn and practice the four types of assertiveness.
Basic Assertion. This is a simple straightforward expression of your beliefs, feelings, or opinions. It often begins with "I want...." or "I feel...."
Empathic Assertion. This conveys sensitivity to the other person. There are two parts: recognition of the other person's experience followed by a statement in which you stand up for your rights. For example, "I know you've really been busy and I want to feel that our relationship means something to you. I want you to make time for me and for us."
Escalating Assertion. Tread cautiously with this type of assertion. When someone fails to respond to your basic assertion and continues to violate your rights, this allows you to become increasingly firm with a type of resulting action that you will follow up on. For example, "If you don't complete the work on my car by 5pm tomorrow, I will post a comment on Yelp."
I-Language Assertion. This type has three parts:
When you do... (describe behavior)
The effects are... (describe how behavior concretely affects you)
I'd prefer... (describe what you want)
De-emphasize the other person to minimize defensiveness and focus on impact on you.
Third, use your best communication skills.
Over 70% of communication is non-verbal. Tone and body language is key.
1) Maintain direct eye contact
2) Keep your posture open and relaxed
3) Be sure your facial expression fits with the discussion
4) Use a level, even tone of voice
5) Select an appropriate time to be assertive or ask the other person when works for them
6) Don't serve raw potatoes. When you first become angry, Thich Nhat Hanh describes the experience as a pot of uncooked potatoes. Before you talk to the other person, consider your part in the situation and allow the potatoes to cook. Then hold the discussion.
Fourth, Practice! First use these types of assertion in a situation with someone who really gets you or in a situation that doesn't cause as much tension. Don't jump right into using these tools with a co-worker that continuously oversteps your boundaries.