Assertiveness is an essential communication skill that allows us to confidently express our wants, needs, feelings, and rights. However, it’s often misconstrued as aggressive or rude.
Striking the right balance to communicate your thoughts assertively and without offending others is key.
So let’s explore simple and practical ways to improve your assertiveness while maintaining a positive and respectful demeanor.
1) Be calm and composed
There are many things that make us appear rude. I’ve often wondered if my approach to people could be perceived as such by some.
Since then, I’ve started paying attention to the tone of my voice and have strived for a balanced approach.
That means avoiding aggressive or passive-aggressive tones, as many see them as rude or disrespectful.
I also recommend keeping your emotions in check, as that’s essential when expressing your point of view.
It’s completely normal to feel passionate or strongly about topics, but letting anger, frustration, or defensiveness take over holds back effective communication.
Instead, take a deep breath, remain composed, and focus on expressing your message clearly and respectfully.
Let’s continue the article on the same note.
2) Use positive body language
If you want to be decisive but not rude, you need to use positive body language. It’s well-known that nonverbal cues play a significant role in communication.
To incorporate positive body language, maintain good eye contact, use an open posture, and have a relaxed facial expression. By doing that, you’ll convey openness and friendliness.
You can also utilize mirroring. It involves subtly reflecting the other person’s body language, tone, or choice of words.
By mirroring their communication style, you establish a connection and a sense of camaraderie, which makes them more receptive to your assertive message.
3) Show genuine interest
Another way of not appearing rude while being assertive is to show genuine interest in what the other person has to say.
Again, this also means maintaining eye contact but also giving them your undivided attention.
Additionally, avoid interrupting or dismissing their thoughts prematurely (or at all). By actively listening, you demonstrate respect for their ideas and create an environment that encourages reciprocal respect.
The more you practice assertive communication, the better you’ll become at expressing your wants and needs effectively.
4) Share funny anecdotes
I always try to use as many funny personal anecdotes as possible when talking to others. This helps establish a friendly and relatable tone.
For example, if someone consistently forgets to respond to my emails, I say, “I feel like I’m sending messages into the Bermuda Triangle. It’s like my emails are on a tropical vacation!”
Sharing funny anecdotes also helps you:
- Be more relatable
- Disarm defensiveness
- Make information stick
- Ease tension
- Build rapport
5) Use self-deprecating humor
When someone starts looking at me like what’s this guy going on about, I simply lightly poke fun at myself. Once I diffuse the situation, I continue saying what I want to say.
Using self-deprecating humor not only diffuses tension but also shows you don’t take yourself too seriously.
Here are some examples:
- “I’m a professional procrastinator… or at least I will be once I get around to it!”
- “I must have a Ph.D. in tripping over my own feet!”
- “My cooking skills are so legendary that smoke detectors cheer me on!”
- “I have a love-hate relationship with technology. It loves to hate me!”
6) Offer solutions
However, you can be as funny or assertive as you want, but if you don’t provide or at least suggest solutions, it can all be in vain.
So, next time, instead of simply pointing out problems, offer potential solutions or suggestions for resolving the issue. This shows your willingness to find common ground and work towards a mutually beneficial development.
It will also shift the focus from dwelling on the problem to actively looking for ways to address it.
This problem-solving direction illustrates your constructive intent and shows you’re committed to finding a resolution rather than dwelling on the negativities.
Above all, it demonstrates a sense of personal responsibility for the issue you have. It shows you’re willing to actively find a resolution rather than relying on others to come up with all the answers.
7) Express gratitude
In the past, I’ve often led a team of 20+ people. That presented many challenges, as anyone who was in that position knows.
I quickly learned that you can’t just bark orders at people and expect them to respect and go to great lengths for you.
What I would often do was express my appreciation for something positive related to the situation or the person. By starting with gratitude, I’d set a positive tone and show I value their contributions.
Expressing gratitude shows you’re aware of the efforts or positive aspects. It cultivates goodwill and fosters a sense of reciprocity.
When people feel acknowledged and appreciated, they’re more likely to be receptive to your concerns or requests.
In fact, the primary reason people leave their jobs is lack of recognition.
8) Find points of agreement
Finding common ground or shared interests with others before expressing your dividing opinion or needs is another way to be assertive without being coarse or disrespectful.
That way, you’re building rapport and creating a sense of trust. When people feel a sense of fellowship or shared values, they’re more likely to listen attentively and be open to your viewpoints.
Also, by coming to an understanding first, you demonstrate that you understand the other person’s perspective.
You can also shift the focus from differences to shared goals or objectives. This helps both parties recognize they have a similar ultimate aim or purpose, even if they have different approaches or opinions.
By emphasizing common goals, you create a sense of collaboration and promote a cooperative mindset.
In the end, when discussing an issue, inclusive “we” language implies collaboration and teamwork.
Phrases like “Let’s find a solution together” or “How can we address this problem?” create a sense of partnership rather than placing blame or responsibility solely on the other person.
It signals that you see them as a partner rather than an adversary.
9) Frame your request as a favor
Another personal favorite of mine is framing requests as favors. Instead of demanding or commanding, I try to present my needs as a favor I’m asking for.
For example, instead of saying, “You need to do this,” say, “I would appreciate it if you could do this.”
Framing it as a favor acknowledges their autonomy while expressing your needs.
To be honest, this type of assertiveness isn’t welcome in all situations, and it can make you look weak, something worth considering.
10) Stick to the facts
Some people lean on the dramatic side of personality. They might also overcomplicate things or even embellish them.
Does this sound familiar to you?
To be assertive and not rude, sometimes it’s best to simply stick to the facts. Just express your opinion or discuss an issue. Focus on specific facts and evidence rather than generalizations or personal attacks.
Presenting objective information can help you make your point without sounding rude.
11) Put yourself in the other person’s shoes
Being empathetic and putting yourself in the other person’s shoes is also a surefire way to assertively communicate your points without sounding rude.
When you try to understand their perspective and acknowledge their feelings and concerns (even if you disagree), it shows how compassionate you are and promotes a more cooperative environment.
But something else also happens. When you genuinely try to grasp their point of view, you also become more alert to their concerns and motivations.
This is great for a more exhaustive and meaningful exchange of ideas.
12) Use the “sandwich” technique
Another communication technique I learned relatively recently is the “sandwich” technique.
You basically need to sandwich your assertive statement or ask between two positive or complimentary messages.
So you’d start with a positive comment or appreciation, then express your concern or request, and end with another positive note.
This clever approach balances the conversation and helps prevent you from looking entirely negative. Here’s an example:
“Hey, I wanted to talk to you about the project. First of all, I really appreciate your dedication and effort on this. It’s clear that you’ve put in a lot of time and thought into it.
I did notice, though, that there were a few areas where we could improve the organization and clarity.
I think if we work together to fine-tune those aspects, it will take the project to the next level. Overall, though, great job on what you’ve accomplished so far.”
Being assertive is a balance. It’s about standing up for your needs while also respecting the rights and needs of others.
By including these strategies in your communication style, you’ll be assertive without coming across as rude.