Struggling to voice your opinions at school or work? Or are you having trouble selling yourself at job interviews? It can be frustrating when we lack the confidence to speak our opinions clearly. However, our lack of confidence or uncomfortableness in being assertive can improve through training. Assertiveness Training is one way to become more assertive.
Express Yourself Through Assertiveness Training
How can we learn to be more assertive? Sure, Assertiveness Training can help eliminate our uneasy feelings towards being assertive while increasing our self-esteem. But first, what exactly is “assertiveness”?
Borrowing from a study on assertiveness training, it’s defined as the following:
It’s about, “valuing one’s feelings and expressing one’s thoughts honestly and openly in an appropriate way,” while “communicating in a mutually respectful manner”.Reference: The Effectiveness of Assertion Training on Self-Promotional Difficulties – Incorporating Workshops to Talk About “Your Preferences”
In other words, it’s about properly expressing our feelings and opinions. People who are not used to being assertive tend to feel uneasy or resistant when they have to be assertive in certain situations. However, in a society expected to become more and more focused on the abilities of individuals, assertiveness is an indispensable skill.
Not the Same as Being Pushy
Does assertiveness mean that we say what we want to say? Not quite. The key is to value our opinions, but at the same time accept and respect the other’s opinion as much as your own. For example, when there’s a disagreement with someone, imposing your side of the argument on the other or compromising to avoid arguments will not result in a constructive discussion. The goal in assertiveness training should be for both parties to accept each other’s opinions without fear of disagreement, thus arriving at a third answer.
Easy Assertiveness Training: Speak Your Preferences
Now, what exactly does Assertiveness Training look like in action? An easy and low-resistance method is practicing to talk about one’s “preferences”. This has shown to reduce difficulty with assertiveness.
In an experiment with job-hunting college students, a workshop was held once a week for five weeks, where participants were encouraged to talk about their own preferences (anything from the food they like, hobbies, activities, dislikes, etc.). Through this workshop, their difficulty with self-assertion improved compared to before the experiment.
Throughout this workshop, participants trained to express themselves by sharing their preferences. In addition, participants were encouraged to listen and accept the opinions of others while they shared their preferences. This resulted in participants feeling comfortable to “say whatever they wanted”, thus alleviated their discomfort with self-assertion.
If the subject matter of the training is centered around an issue within an institution or a social theme, we’re likely to feel more pressured to make meaningful participation in the discussion. But what if the theme was “personal preferences?” We can talk about our interests without thinking too hard, so it’s easier to feel relaxed and express who you really are.
A Lack of Confidence is Not a Personal Issue
This article introduced the Assertiveness Training method of “sharing our preferences”. One thing to remember when implementing this training is that “assertion” assumes equal respect for your opinion and the opinions of others.
A lack of assertiveness or self-confidence can be seen as a personal issue. Oftentimes an individual is told, “you should speak up more,” or “why don’t you share your opinions?” But first, it is important to create a place in the group where the individual feels safe and secure, and where they can be accepted no matter what they say.
On the other hand, voicing our preferences is relatively easy to do, even when practiced alone. It’s helpful to talk to friends and family about each other’s likes and dislikes. Be careful not to get too caught up in talking about ourselves while neglecting listening to others. If you’re not comfortable with that, try using social networking sites to communicate your preferences first. It’s not the same as talking in person, but if you want to get used to expressing yourself in your own way, social networking sites may be a good place to start practicing.
Kuboyama, A., & Yoshioka, K. (2015). The Effectiveness of Assertion Training on Self-Promotional Difficulties – Incorporating Workshops to Talk About “Your Preferences”. Fukuoka Prefecture University Journal of Clinical Psychology, (7), 21-30.