Three Techniques for Practicing Assertiveness

March 20, 2020
The techniques for practicing assertiveness improve your sense of security and your communicative capacity.

You’re at the supermarket, standing in line to pay, when someone cuts in. At that moment, even though you’re really mad, you don’t dare say anything that would start a conflict. Or the opposite might happen. Maybe the person who cuts receives all the rage you’ve been accumulating during the day. Then, you start feeling frustrated and guilty. In order to avoid this or other similar situations, read on to discover three techniques for practicing assertiveness.

In that example, the first response is what experts call passive. It’s usually a result of insecurity and a low tolerance for conflict. As a result, in order to not cause a problem or an unpleasant situation, you become an accomplice in the violation of your own rights.

In the second case, you manifest aggressive behavior, which means that you lack the ability to channel the energy that accompanies negative emotions. The difference here is that, while you defend your own rights, you’re violating someone else’s. Even if you’re right, you’re wrong in how you express yourself.

People standing in line at the grocery store.

What’s assertiveness?

Assertiveness is a communication skill, which means it can either be absent or present. You’ll see its direct influence in situations where it isn’t easy to deliver the truth of a message. Due to this, it’s part of an important toolbox of social abilities. In addition, it’s closely related to emotional intelligence.

This form of communication is a safeguard of your rights: the ones you already have and the ones you still need to learn. In this regard, we could say that it’s something you get better at with practice. It’s easier for people who are sensitive to the context of the situation and able to maintain balance among different connections: the one that connects them to themselves, and the one that connects them to others.

Three useful techniques to practice assertiveness

1. Broken record

This is a very useful technique when you want to maintain a firm position in front of a person who won’t stop insisting you do something else. For example, maybe they want you to do a favor for them you don’t want to do.

The other person will insist and insist, trying to get you to their side. It’s a form of manipulation – often unconscious – with the ultimate goal of getting you to give in out of sheer exhaustion. They want to get to the point where you’re so fed up that you want to end the interaction at all costs. And “all costs” likely means that you wind up giving in and over-compensating.

The technique to use when faced with this incessant and abusive tactic consists simply of fixating on an argument that you repeat over and over again. For example, maybe someone wants you to do something, but you’re tired and need to rest. The “broken record” is the message: “I’m very tired and I need to rest”. Giving that same message will ensure that you’re not wasting your own resources in thinking about other possibilities.

For example, the request might be “I need you to help me with this on Saturday” and the broken record answer: “Thanks for thinking of me, but I’ve been really tired. I need to rest, so I wouldn’t be much help. I’d love to help you out another time!”

2. Talk about how you feel instead of attacking

When something upsets you or you think that someone isn’t respecting your rights, you probably use the word “you”. For example, “You’re a mess. You haven’t cleaned anything!” In these cases, the other person feels attacked, meaning they’ll probably attack back, which will likely cause an argument.

On the other hand, if you start with “I” and explain how a situation makes you feel, it’ll be easier to awaken empathy in the other person. Thus, it’s less likely to end in an argument. For example, “I feel overwhelmed because the house isn’t clean. How can we solve this?”

A man and a woman having an argument.

3. The fog bank technique

It consists of finding a point you and the other person can agree on. Even if it’s a small point, you can use it to show that you have something in common. For example, “I agree that the economic situation in the country isn’t very good, but the other workers in my sector charge more than I do. Also, I don’t think I deserve a salary that’s below-average.”

These three techniques for practicing assertiveness will allow you to notably improve your communication with others. On the other hand, your inner voice will finally stop jabbering about what you might have or should have said.