It can be rough when you don't feel like you're heard in a conversation, but it can be even worse when someone hears exactly what you're saying and tries to steamroll right over you. Here are a few tips to help you stand your ground and get the respect you deserve in a conversation.
What It Means to Be Assertive
Being assertive isn't the easiest thing to jump into when you're shy, so perhaps the best way to start is by explaining what being assertive is not about. Being assertive does not mean being aggressive. Many people confuse the two or believe that you have to attack another person in order to assert yourself, but that's not the case. Being assertive does not mean that you make demands or tell someone what to do, and it also does not mean that you're only trying to get your way. In fact, you can be assertive and still find a way to reasonably compromise with someone, no problem.
It all comes down to respect. You show respect to who you're talking to, you make it clear that you want respect in return, and — most importantly — you respect yourself enough to not be a pushover. Remember, the point of being assertive is to make sure your thought gets the respect it deserves from others. You're not trying to intimidate them or make them feel beneath you. So try to avoid sarcasm, snark or other types of communication that could be taken the wrong way. Be sure to practise good presence in the conversation by maintaining eye contact, showing positive body language, and actively listening to whoever is talking. A little confidence never hurts either. If you go in with this mindset and practise these other tips, you'll manage to be assertive without looking like a jerk.
Be Specific and Speak Clearly
You can't assert your thought or feelings if the other party isn't sure of what you're trying to say. This means that you need to know what it is you want to say. If you're not sure of the point your making, don't say anything. If you are sure of what you want to say, boil your thought down to its most understandable form. Stay on topic and say exactly what you mean.
You also need to make sure that other people can literally hear what you're saying. Enunciate your words and project your voice from your diaphragm. This is tough when you're shy, but you don't need to say much. You just need to say what you feel needs to be said. Take a deep breath and get the words out as clearly as you can.
Use Fogging If Someone Goes on the Offensive
If you feel like you're being confronted or attacked, personal development web site Skills You Need suggests that the fogging technique can deflect some of the heat and keep you in an assertive role. When fogging, you surprise the other person by agreeing with their statement, even if it's something critical of you. For example:
- Other Person: "You're not doing a very good job with your work."
- You: "Yeah, I'm not doing as well as I hoped I would and I've been concerned that it was making you unhappy."
By agreeing with the attacker, you disarm them. They're hoping to catch you in a weak position where you'll be surprised or suddenly on the defensive. But when you agree with them, they don't feel like they have any sort of advantage. This is a helpful tactic for shy people that feel like others take advantage of their shyness. With fogging, not only are you standing up and responding to attackers, but you're also removing their fuel to keep attacking.
Be a Broken Record If They Won't Listen
Assertiveness is not just about defending yourself. Part of being assertive is confronting others when things need to be dealt with. Some people are more difficult than others, however, and they will try to take advantage of shy people by staying firm. They hope that you'll get too shy and give up before you manage to say what you need to say. In those situations, Clay Tucker at Psych Central recommends you use the broken record technique:
You calmly and firmly repeat a short, clear statement over and over until the other person gets the message. For example, "I want you to be home by midnight," "I don't like the product and I want my money back," "No, I don't want to go drinking, I want to study." Repeat the same statement in exactly the same way until the other person "gets off your back," regardless of the excuses, diversions, or arguments given by the other person.
If you have a point you need to get across, don't back down. Will it be annoying to the other person? Yes, but that's the point. You might be shy, but they need to respect your thoughts, feelings and choices.
Give a Strong 'No' with a "Thanks, but..." Phrase
Saying no can be tough, especially when you're shy. You want to avoid as much confrontation as possible, but saying no is bound to create it. If you need some help saying no, Meg Selig at Psychology Today recommends you go with a simple "Thanks, but..." phrase. Here are some examples:
- "Thanks, but I'm not interested."
- "Thanks, but I can't make that a priority right now."
- "Thanks, but I need some time to myself right now."
- "Thanks for thinking of me, but I think I'll pass on this one."
- "Thanks for keeping me in the loop, but I can't make it this time."
Starting with a "thanks" can help more than you think. If you honestly sound appreciative with your thank you, you make it a lot easier to assert your "no". You're saying "I appreciate what you're trying to say/do, but it's not going to happen and that's the way it is." Of course, if you work at it, you can just say "no thanks" with a smile. You don't always need a reason for why you say no, and a smile is a great to put a cap on it.