As women, it’s not a random situation for us to be overly apologetic or overstated. So, what is the effect of this on us?
Psychologist and author Anne Dickson, who has been working on assertive communication techniques for over four decades, spoke on BBC Radio’s Woman’s Hour about why assertive communication is important and shared her tips on how to master it.
Why is assertive communication important?
Dickson says assertive communication is “open and direct communication.” “It is important that it is not aggressive,” he says and adds:
“It’s more about being equal. That is, there is no question of oppressing, despising or humiliating another person. But you treat other people’s needs as equal to your own. It means taking responsibility for what you want and being specific about it.”
“For example, let’s say there is a woman who is at the peak of her career. Maybe he is a doctor and he is very confident and very successful. But a man may feel insecure when faced with his counterpart.”
“Why? Because a man will never doubt his right to be at the top, because behind him is a tradition that has been going on for hundreds of years.”
“Knowing how to deal with such situations is one of the things that empowers women. How can I speak differently? How can I be strong? How can I approach things differently?”
Anne Dickson’s five tips for mastering assertive communication are:
1. Give yourself space to think
“When we’re asked to do something, we usually have a hard time saying no,” says Dickson. Instead of mumbling something vague or admitting something you don’t want to do and then making an excuse, give yourself time.”
“If you feel any hesitation when asked something, say it bluntly: ‘I’m not sure.’ I want an hour, a day, or a week to think about it. Thus, you will have a chance to make a decision without the pressure of that moment.”
2. Accept your feelings
“Try to identify and respond to an emotion (worry, anxiety, anger, resentment) without censoring yourself. Acknowledging your emotions as they are is an important first step to effective communication, because pretending you don’t feel anything will weaken and distort your desires. Then you can learn to put your feelings into words.”
3. Listen to what your brain is saying
“If your intuition guides you to a person or situation trust if it says you can’t, that’s your reality. Instead of telling yourself to be logical or clinging to a fantasy you wish would come true, your inner voice trust do.”
4. Don’t try to be loved all the time
“The need for approval from those around us weakens our authority. Ending this effort while maintaining your self-respect will make others respect you as well. And that’s always better than being liked.”
“Experience how to use your influence without giving in to pressure. When you make decisions, give instructions, or criticize openly, the commitment to equality means making it possible for the person in front of you to express their reaction to your position.
5. Wait until you have the full attention of the person in front of you
“Never start a conversation when someone is looking at a screen, talking on the phone, reading something, talking to someone else, i.e. not paying full attention to you.”
“It takes practice and you can feel weird while you wait. But if you start talking when someone’s attention is elsewhere, it sends a subtle message that what you’re saying isn’t important.”