What is assertiveness? It could be the answer to your question. Simply put, assertiveness is the characteristic trait of being confident and self-assured regardless of how others may treat you. From a psychotherapist’s perspective, assertiveness has to do with your ability to express your needs and desires.
Assertiveness can take many forms. In psychotherapy and in particular, behavioral therapy, assertiveness is an essential component. You are taught how to make decisions based on your own feelings and your own needs and how these feelings will impact your relationship with others. Through this process you gain control over negative emotions and learn to let go of unwanted feelings and behaviors. It is not easy but it is worth the effort.
When you feel anxious, negative or fearful, it is your response to the stimuli around you that send messages to your brain. Your brain then decodes these messages into feelings and behavioural responses. In order to alter your self-perception and to improve your self-esteem, you need to change the way you react to these stimuli.
The challenge for self-help and assertiveness training is to get you to be more assertive without becoming aggressively assertive. One great way to do this is to model the behaviour you want to see in yourself and then take small steps towards it. By being a passive, even timid person, you can begin to increase your self-confidence gradually. You can also practice this behaviour with your friends, family and colleagues by taking on a passive, yet confident role in a neutral setting.
A second great exercise in improving your assertiveness skills involves eye contact. Eye contact is one of the most recognised and used forms of assertiveness. Often, passive people are put off by strong, visual messages and so it can be useful to take a few subtle steps towards increased eye contact. Always look at other people’s eyes when talking and use them as an opportunity to clarify your point, ask a question or make an observation. By making eye contact, you will increase your confidence levels and show that you are confident too!
The best way to improve your assertiveness skills is to practise them repeatedly. By doing so on a consistent basis, over time you will start to notice a positive difference in how you behave in different situations. You might also consider joining a self-help group in your neighbourhood. These groups often have other people who are also working through similar issues to share their experiences and help to support each other.