Many women struggle with assertiveness. In the patriarchal society that we live in, women smother their needs in favor of more passive and less effective forms of communication. When “niceness” is a greater priority than confidence, honesty and directness, it’s no wonder women struggle with standing up for themselves when the time comes.
We all do this in some way or another and assertiveness exists on a spectrum. You might feel assertive with your family but not your friends, with your friends but not your partner. These tips can help you bring a little bit more directness to your interpersonal relationships…
1) Face problems right away
The longer you wait before approaching someone with an issue, the more time you have to get in your own head, lose track of the details and build up a lot of excuses for not taking the direct and assertive approach. Deal with issues in the moment they happen to you. If someone says something inappropriate, you may be tempted to stew before approaching them. The assertive approach involves dealing with the problem right away before there’s any bad blood.
2) Get your facts straight
One of the best ways to improve your assertiveness skills is to feel confident in what you are saying. Stick to the facts of a situation rather than character attacks. Of course, your feelings are important too but when you know exactly what you want, sticking to the facts of the situation makes speaking up for yourself easier. When no one can cast doubt about a series of events or your feelings about those events, you can better assert your needs in a situation.
3) Know what you want
This is an addendum to the second point. You have to know what you want not just as it pertains to a situation but in general. You decide what kind of treatment you will accept. When you know what you want, you can ask for it in a clear and direct manner.
4) Practice assertiveness
As with any skill, you can improve your assertiveness through practice. Start small. Do you struggle to send drinks back when someone makes you the wrong order? Start there. Find the easiest place to make improvements in your assertiveness and start there.
5) Identify your weaker spots
Once you start practicing assertiveness you will realize where you are incredible at sticking up for yourself and where you need a ton of help. Start noting moments where you have been successfully assertive and areas where you wish you stood up for yourself. What pattern do you see? Find your weaker spots and give those areas extra attention.
6) Eliminate black and white thinking
There is no one who is 100% assertive or 100% a doormat. This isn’t a zero sum game! Stop thinking of yourself as either one or the other. Assertiveness is an ongoing process and it takes time. If you fear “backsliding” or making mistakes this can slow down your progress. Assertiveness takes time and it takes practice. You don’t have to be perfect to consider yourself a strong, assertive woman, even if you’ve made mistakes in the past.
7) Surround yourself with assertive women
Are you surrounded by people who guilt trip you into being “nice” as opposed to supporting your growth as a person? Many of us have friends who encourage us to “take the high road” and enforce the notion that a woman standing up for herself is akin to a cardinal sin. Sometimes, you have to switch up your friend group. No, I’m not saying dump all your old friends. Simply add a few more positive relationships to the mix by interacting with women who support your journey to become more assertive and to express your needs. You shouldn’t be afraid of judgment from your closest friends, so if you need to, surround yourself with women who understand how important assertiveness is for all women to become truly empowered.
When was the last time you wished you were more assertive but it didn’t work out? Can you remember any thoughts that went through your head? Comment down below if you can. Every comment matters because it’s an opportunity to spark conversation and discussion.
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