The Appearance of Assertiveness

"The practice of assertiveness: being authentic in our dealings with others; treating our values and persons with decent respect in social contexts; refusing to fake the reality of who we are or what we esteem in order to avoid disapproval; the willingness to stand up for ourselves and our ideas in appropriate ways in appropriate contexts". Nathaniel Branden

  • EYE CONTACT.  Looking directly at another person when you are speaking to him/her is an effective way of declaring that you are sincere about what you are saying. There is a difference between good eye contact and staring or intimidating.
  • BODY POSTURE.  The “weight” of your message increases if you face the person, stand or sit appropriately close to him/her, lean toward him/her, and hold your head erect.
  • GESTURES.  A message accented with appropriate gestures takes on an added emphasis. Over-enthusiastic gesturing can be a distraction.
  • FACIAL EXPRESSION.  Have you ever seen someone trying to express anger while smiling or laughing? The true feeling just does not come across to the listener. Effective assertions require an expression that agrees with the message.
  • VOICE, TONE, INFLECTION, VOLUME.  A whispered monotone will seldom convince another person that you mean business, while a shouted epithet will bring defenses into the path of communication. A level, well-modulated, conversational statement is convincing without being intimidating.
  • TIMING.  Spontaneous expression will generally be your goal since hesitation may diminish the effect of an assertion. Judgment is necessary, however, to select an appropriate occasion, such as speaking to the person in private rather than in front of a group of peers where resentment or embarrassment might occur.
  • CONTENT.  Strive for fundamental honesty in your interpersonal communication along with spontaneity of expression. It is not necessary to put down the other person in order to express your own feelings.

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