When referring to assertiveness, we rarely associate it with a way to reduce stress. However, it is very effective. This is a character trait that can easily improve your mood so you might want to learn more about it as soon as you can if you are faced with a lot of stress in your life.
We define assertiveness as an ability to express feelings and assert rights while being respectful about the rights and feelings of others. With assertive communication, we have a way of communicating that is honest, open, and direct.
Related: 4 Ways To Avoid Stress At College
For some people, assertiveness is natural. For others it is not. At the end of the day, this is a character trait you can learn. When you master assertiveness, you reduce the possibility of being faced with interpersonal conflicts. This is how you reduce stress since conflicts with others often cause it.
Assertiveness Versus Aggressiveness
It is very easy to confuse assertiveness with aggressiveness. This is because both of these behaviors include expressing needs and standing up for yourself. The main difference is that when you behave in an assertive way, you express yourself in such a way that you do respect the people you talk to. You initially assume the very best and try to make a compromise.
When you behave in an aggressive way, you usually use disrespectful, abusive, demeaning, or manipulative tactics. Negative assumptions are made, especially in regards to what other people think. The “win” appears at the clear expense of other people and unnecessary conflict is oftentimes created.
The passive individual does not adequately communicate needs and feelings. There is this conflict fear and all feelings are kept secret. Passive people let others win arguments and they lose out. Unfortunately, when this happens, everyone involved actually loses something.
Let’s use 2 examples to highlight the differences between the various ways to communicate.
A person cuts right in front of you while at the market
- The aggressive response: “Hey, (insert swear word here), do not cut in line!”
- The passive response is obviously to say absolutely nothing.
- The assertive response is to say something like: “Excuse me sir/madam, I was in line.”
A friend calls to vent but you have no time to talk about it because of work
- The aggressive response: “Just get over it! It is not like I do not have problems!”
- The passive response is to let the friend talk without saying anything, even if you will have work-related problems because of it.
- The assertive response implies that you listen for some time but you then show compassion and you say that you want to listen but you do not have time right then because of work. At the same time, you ask if you can talk at a later point in time.
When you are assertive, you are faced with fewer conflicts when you talk to others. This means that you automatically have less stress in your life. Your needs are much more likely to be met so you do not have to deal with extra stress caused by those unmet needs, all this while you help other people to have their needs met.
You are going to have a more supportive, stronger relationship so people will trust you. They will count on you and even your body will be healthier since you reduce stress.
If you are aggressive, you start to alienate other people. You actually create stress that is not at all necessary. As time passes, you end up faced with very little social life support and your relationships will most likely all suffer.
When you are passive, you do not communicate. You do not talk about your feelings and needs so people do not know them. Relationships are damaged because of the lack of communication.
As you can see, being assertive is much better for all aspects of your life.
Becoming More Assertive
In order to become more assertive, you need to practice. You have to be completely honest with yourself and analyze your responses so you know exactly where you stand. Think about the following to get started:
- Is it difficult for you to accept criticism, even constructive criticism?
- Do you feel as if you are attacked if someone else has a different opinion about something?
- Is it difficult to voice things when you have a different opinion?
- Do you often just say yes to what you want to deny just because you do not want to disappoint someone?
Move towards assertiveness and you will quickly see that you feel better and you have less stress in your life.