Drawing the line between standing your ground without coming off as rude and abrupt can be tricky.
And for the shy individuals amongst us, speaking up and standing up for ourselves has even more added pressure and difficulty.
It’s important to remember that you’ll never really get your point across to others if they feel like you’re being rude to them.
It’s possible to get your point across and stick to your boundaries while at the same time respecting the boundaries and feelings of others.
Assertive communication can soon become aggressive if you don’t stick to some of the basic rules of respect.
Getting angry, abusive, or sarcastic isn’t a mature way to get your point across and it will be ineffective at battling the issue.
So how do you be assertive without crossing over into more antagonistic conversations? Keep reading to find out.
1. Maintain Respect
Assertiveness and respect should go hand in hand.
You can’t assert your feelings and opinions well if you don’t have a base level of respect and understanding for the person that you are speaking you.
Starting the conversation with I understand that or I recognize that is usually a good way to start.
Before you move into how their actions or words are affecting your boundaries, let them know that you can see where they are coming from themselves and why they may be doing something.
For our example, let’s pretend that you’ve recently had a baby, and you feel like you are being micromanaged by a parent and it’s making you feel like they don’t trust you.
Here’s what not to say:
I know how to look after my own child, you know? What makes you feel like the expert? Why do you always need to get involved? It’s nothing to do with you and it’s not your place.
Instead, try saying something like:
I understand that you’re trying to give me the best advice to make things easier for me, but it’s putting a lot of pressure on me, and I’d prefer if you let me trust my own maternal instincts for now.
One of these is much more confrontational than the other. In the second example, you’ve got the same point across but in a much more pleasant way.
2. Remain Calm While Explaining Your Feelings
This is all about posture and tone. You don’t need to yell or intimidate to express your feelings.
Having a clear head will allow you to say what actually needs to be said, rather than getting caught up in your emotions.
Keep your body language open and positive. Don’t get in their face or try to make yourself seem bigger
If you remain calm and the other party continues to escalate things. Walk away and talk about it once you are both in a calmer mindset.
Using the same example above here is a way not to express your feelings:
You obviously think I’m a bad mother. Oh, because you’re so perfect! I’m fine doing things my way thanks, I’ve seen how well you did at raising kids!
This is the emotion talking but you’re attacking, not talking about the issue. Try this instead:
When you are telling me I am doing things wrong, it makes me feel like a bad mother, or that you don’t trust me. This may not be your intention but I’d appreciate it if you would let me do this myself.
3. Be Straightforward
Don’t beat around the bush. For those of us who are a bit shy, we can have a tendency to sugarcoat or be overly nice and diminish our own feelings to appease others.
But you deserve to feel happy too, and if you are not firm you won’t effectively create that boundary.
I’m really grateful for all the advice, it’s all been really helpful, and I don’t want you to stop completely, but maybe every now and then just let me figure it out myself.
If that’s not what you mean, they aren’t going to know that you’re just being too polite, and in this case, they’re probably not going to modify their behavior all that much. Instead, say:
I understand that that is how you did things, and while I have taken what you’ve said into account, I want to figure out a way that works best for me.
4. Non-Verbal Communication
A lot of the time, it is not actually the things that you say that cause the issue. It’s the way in which those words are spoken, how you’re holding yourself, your facial expressions.
You can say a lot more from non-verbal communication than you can from the actual words themselves.
For example, are you maintaining eye contact while speaking or staring off in the distance angrily? Do you roll your eyes when they are communicating?
Are you huffing or sighing when they make their points? Are you towering over them as you speak? Are you covering your face with your hair?
Are you visibly unrelaxed? Are you speaking at a loud volume?
If the answer is yes, you are probably coming across as rather abrupt, rude, aggressive, or harsh. Your intention is not to wound or hurt.
It is simply to explain how you are feeling and what you are not appreciating. This does not need to be done nastily.
In most cases, you’ll either love, respect, or spend a lot of time with the people you are trying to establish these boundaries with.
So you really don’t want to offend them or cause major ruptures in the relationship.
With that being said, you do still need to stand up for yourself. This is why it is really important that you always stay calm, keep a level head, and inform and never attack.