My journey to living assertively has been slow and steady, but so worth the effort. In fact, my battle with anxiety and depression, caused by passivity, is practically gone and my relationships continue to get better!
In order to understand the journey to assertiveness it is crucial we have a good definition. I love what Psychology Today says about assertiveness,
Demonstrating assertiveness means there’s no question where you stand, no matter the topic. Cognitively, to be assertive implies a lack of anxious thoughts in light of stress. Behaviorally, assertiveness is all about asking for what you want in a manner that respects others. Assertive people don’t shy away from defending their points of view or goals, or from trying to influence others. In terms of affect, assertiveness means reacting to positive and negative emotions without aggression or resorting to passivity.
So how can we apply this? The best thing you can do to start being assertive is to be honest and say something! In the beginning it may be awkward, but creating new habits is challenging and awkward.
After you’ve decided to say something, use the following bullet points to help you assert yourself in a respectful manner.
- Express your feelings (hurt, angry, lonely, fear/afraid, sad, shame/ashamed, guilt/guilty, or glad)
- Explain your reasoning and
- If necessary tell them what you want.
- “I’m really glad that you could join us.”
- “I’m hurt that you would speak to me that way.”
- “I’m angry that you would watch TV while I’m doing the dishes. I would like you to help.”
In addition to a professional counselor, one of the best tools that helped me become more comfortable with being assertive was a notebook and pen. In the midst of difficult conversations, I would briefly step away to collect my thoughts by writing in my notebook. It provided me a safe place to recognize and identify my feelings and express my reasoning before asserting myself in a stressful situation. Writing my thoughts on paper was almost like a dress rehearsal. It allowed me a safe place to “practice my lines.”
Because of my ability to communicate assertively, my health has improved and I’ve been able to draw closer to my wife, family and friends. I finally understand what my pastor, Ray McKelvy, meant when he said, “conflict is the gateway to intimacy.”
Speaking the Truth in Love: How to Be an Assertive Christian by Ruth N. Koch & Kenneth C Haugk