Being assertive

Saying no isn’t always easy, especially when we’re responding to someone who’s important to us. But not saying no can prove even more difficult for us in the long term by damaging our self-esteem, wellbeing and relationships.

Assertiveness is an important communication skill. It is different to aggression, which can be perceived as bullying, and to passivity, in which the wishes of others are accepted without question. Assertiveness is having the confidence to express ourselves honestly and openly while showing respect for others, so that differing opinions can be expressed without causing offence or showing disrespect.

While an aggressive communication style can clearly cause problems, the problems that can stem from a passive style are more subtle. The tendency to acquiesce leaves an impression that our views are not important, which can result in stress and hidden resentment. Pent-up feelings of conflict can negatively affect your relationships.

The benefits of assertiveness include increased confidence and self-esteem, a greater sense of control over our lives and reduced stress. And as being stressed can amplify feelings of pain, assertiveness can be a helpful skill for people with osteoarthritis.

Like other skills, assertiveness can be developed with practice. If you feel that you would like to be more assertive, here are some tips:

  • Aim for open communication, respectful of others
  • Try to understand the other person’s point of view
  • Agree to disagree
  • Avoid making accusations or making others feel guilty
  • Stay calm
  • Use statements such as ‘I think’ or ‘I feel’
  • Be patient. Being assertive is a skill that needs practice.

In essence, being assertive is about being true to yourself.