Many of us shy away from expressing ourselves openly at work. We may fear that we could come across as too aggressive, or we worry that we may overstep a boundary with our colleagues or boss. Or we may be concerned about not being able to get across what we want to say in a clear and effective way.
Avoiding conflict and keeping thoughts, feelings and emotions bottled-up can do us more harm than good. While keeping quiet may feel like a safe move, in the long term not communicating openly can cause anxiety and stress.
The good news is that developing a more assertive communication style can help reduce stress at work. Assertive communication is different from aggressive communication: it is about getting your message across in a considered, honest and diplomatic manner.
1. Assertiveness boosts self-respect
Communicating assertively involves having mutual respect for yourself and the person you are communicating with. When we clearly communicate our needs to others, we develop greater respect for ourselves. Over time, assertive communication also helps us to earn respect from others.
2. Assertiveness helps resolve inner conflict
When we don’t stand up for ourselves or ask for what we want, we can be left with a feeling of resentment or stress. Always going with the flow to please others, or saying “yes” when you really want to say “no” creates inner conflict because you are constantly putting the needs of other people first.
While sometimes putting others first is necessary, it is also healthy to express your genuine needs from time to time. Assertiveness helps break through patterns of people pleasing to resolve this inner conflict.
3. Assertiveness creates honest relationships
Learning how to clearly communicate and speak up for yourself helps the people you work with understand you better. When you can express yourself in a truthful, simple and direct way, you open the doorway for more direct and honest communication.
Building assertiveness gradually
As with anything in life, developing assertiveness takes practice and courage.
To develop your assertiveness muscles, try starting small with something relatively minor that has been bothering you. Then, try this.
First, write down what you want to say. Use “I” statements to let the other person what you want to say without accusing them of wrongdoing.
Second, consider and acknowledge why communicating what you want to say is important. This may include how you will regret it if you don’t communicate.
Third, rehearse. Being assertive can be hard at first, so practice keeping your emotions in check and standing your ground as calmly as you can.
Finally, commit to it, then go for it!
Afterwards take a moment to reflect on the experience. How was it? Was it worse than you feared? Chances are it felt good to express yourself.
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