We’ve all been in situations where hindsight later whispers, ‘I should have said this’. Often, this little voice follows up after an argument or confrontation where we've been overwhelmed by another party. It could be your partner being unreasonable, a neighbor overstepping their boundaries or a co-worker tossing their weight around.
The problem is that standing up for yourself improperly only worsens things, leaving you angry and unconfident without even effectively communicating your stance on the issue. The solution is learning how to be more assertive, without being over aggressive, and addressing issues more constructively for all involved.
Don’t Play The Victim
Sometimes, even when you know someone is wrong or there is a point of contention, it’s easiest to just let it go and move on, hoping the problem will fix itself. However, the ‘don’t rock the boat’ mantra has its drawbacks. Internally, you know you have a valid point to make. Remaining passive will result in frustration building, until you eventually snap in an angry tirade - tossing aside any form of constructive communication in favor of yelling and slinging insults. Or, you continue keeping it in -- leading to depression.
You may feel guilty over the way you behaved during that outburst and end up apologizing -- further reaffirming that no good comes from bottled-up feelings. Instead, it's important to learn how to handle these situations in an properly assertive manner.
Be Assertive, Not Aggressive
Being assertive is not being aggressive -- the key difference being that assertiveness allows you to convey your feelings in a clear, calm and concise way. Tell the person directly what is bothering you without raising your voice or making personal attacks. As soon as your voice is raised or the topic becomes personal, the argument is lost and forgotten.
Stay calm and collected, but get your point across and let others get theirs out too. The idea is to let the other party know that you are open to their suggestions or ideas, but that you have your own views that are equally as valid.
The Broken Record Technique
The key to the broken record technique is remembering to stay calm as you practice patience. The name gives a lot of it away, but it’s not simply repeating your point until the others are forced to take it in -- that would be aggressive!
The key is to make the same suggestion, but in different ways. Say you’re after a discount on faulty goods. You could demand a refund and be refused. Or, you could suggest that as a long-time loyal customer, a discount would be very appreciated and strengthen your trust. Voicing how you feel a few different ways will help better get your point across.
Hone Your Skill
Being assertive isn't a personality trait, it's a skill. Like any skill, you'll have to work on effective communication to improve. You may lose your cool once in a while, but don't give up on being assertive all together. The more you practice this approach, the more confident you'll feel in difficult situations and the better you'll be at standing up for yourself without putting others down.