The Art of Being Assertive

Written by: Madeline Redetzky, M.S.
The Art of Being Assertive

I once had a client who was working on their communication skills. When I had issued a challenge between sessions and asked if they thought it was realistic, they responded, “I think so…and I can always fake it until I make it, right?”

Now do not get me wrong, becoming a healthy and assertive communicator is much more than this simple concept. It takes laying a good foundation of skills and hard work. However, my client had put in a lot of hard work and was ready to practice their skills. They truly did have the ability to overcome their fear and past experiences.

A good place to start is knowing your current strengths in communicating. Are you told you are a good listener? Do you know how to compromise? Have you ever been told you are honest and share your thoughts with others? Are you comfortable making eye contact with others?

You can use that knowledge to build your strengths and narrow down your areas of growth. Once you identify your growth potential, I invite you to be honest if there are additional factors that have impacted your communication skills and styles. The next step to the art of being assertive can be difficult if you are not addressing the root of what may be going on.

Now I want you to picture yourself speaking loud enough to others, making good eye contact, and actually hearing the people in your life.

It may be difficult to do but make a scenario and play around with that video in your head. The only difference between this and your former video is that you are in control. You get to decide how you interact with others and vice versa. Sometimes even picturing a successful outcome can give us that extra boost of self-assurance and comfort that we need to finally make it.

Now we return to this concept of “faking it ‘til you make it.” No one expects you to be a brilliant listener and speaker immediately. I always advocate for taking small, significant steps. For example, if you are not comfortable making eye contact with people yet, start with your friends and family first. This could mean making a passing glance or holding their gaze while you keep talking instead of turning your head or multitasking. Then graduate to trying the same at work or school or the store. If you make eye contact with someone, acknowledge if you feel awkward and then remind yourself what you need next in the store. This applies to any area of growth. Identify small steps and try those before even practicing any other skills.

The whole concept of “faking it ‘til you make it” means practicing the skills you know make an assertive communicator while acknowledging and accepting that you are yet comfortable with it. Keep in mind that growth is a little more uncomfortable. If you feel slightly out of your comfort zone, you are doing it!