Being assertive is all about making sure your voice is heard and being able to clearly explain how you feel about something, what you need, or why you feel something should be changed. It means saying ‘yes’ when you want to and ‘no’ when you don’t agree with something or someone (rather than agreeing to something just to please someone else).
It means taking responsibility for yourself and decisions you make, and sticking to them, even if this provokes conflict; being able to ask for help and support when you need it; being able to say what you think or feel without getting angry; standing up to difficult people and being confident about handling conflict if it occurs. Being assertive will also help you to give and receive feedback, whether it's positive or negative.
Carers often say they struggle to get support and understanding from family and friends. Others say they are constantly battling to get the support services they need. All this can leave family carers feeling abandoned and powerless.
If you’re in this situation, asking for help when you need it can be hard. Assertiveness is an important communication skill to have, not just for interaction with the person you support, but so you can communicate properly with doctors, nurses, family and friends.
Being unable to communicate your needs, feelings or specific information clearly will not only cause you frustration and anger, it may also cause tension between you and the person you are communicating with. For example, you may feel that people aren’t listening to what you are trying to explain to them, which can lead to feelings of anger, stress, isolation and even depression.
Anyone can become more assertive with a bit of practice. The best place to start is to look closely at how you communicate with other people – for example, your body language when you speak to someone, the way you ask for things, or the way you approach a subject that needs discussing. Clear communication is a fundamental part of assertiveness.
Keep conversations clear and specific, and remember that you have choices, so say ‘I could’ or ‘I might’ instead of ‘I must’ or ‘I should’. Also, say ‘no’ – you’re allowed to! And don’t apologise if you have to say no to something. It may not seem it at first, but people will soon recognise this as a strength and respect your assertiveness. If you’re trying to explain something to someone who doesn’t seem to be listening, or who doesn’t agree with something you feel is important, you could try something called the ‘broken record’ technique. This involves repeating your point over and over again until it’s clear to the other person. It’s important to be polite and calm, but firm with your point and always explain the advantages or benefits of what you are talking about. Keeping written records of conversations is also a good idea so, if needed, you can refer to them later.
Once you begin to identify ways that can help you be more assertive, your confidence and quality of life will improve.