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Search Health Information    Stress Management: Reducing Stress by Being Assertive

Stress Management: Reducing Stress by Being Assertive

Introduction

Poor communication is one of the biggest causes of stress at work and home. Being unable to talk about your needs, concerns, and frustrations can create stress. Being assertive helps you communicate without causing stress to yourself and others. Assertiveness is a skill that you can learn and put into practice.

Key Points

  • Assertive communication means speaking up for yourself in a thoughtful, tactful way. Being assertive helps you express yourself about things that matter to you. This reduces stress by helping you feel more in control of a situation.
  • You can use the assertiveness ladder to practice assertive communication. Each letter in the word "LADDER" stands for a step in the process. The ladder helps you define a problem, describe it to others, and express your feelings.
  • Write out your plan to be more assertive, and get comfortable with it. Practice it out loud so you can hear what your assertive statements sound like.
  • To be more assertive, you focus on what you say and how you say it. Using the right body language helps you communicate more assertively.
 

Assertive communication means speaking up for yourself in a thoughtful, tactful way. It's one of the three main styles of communication. The other two are passive communication and aggressive communication. If you are passive or aggressive, you might get better results by trying to be assertive instead.

In passive communication, you may not express your opinions, feelings, and needs. You may be uncomfortable speaking your mind, especially when you are with supervisors or people you see as important. When you are passive, you don't take part in decisions that affect you, or you don't take a stand on issues that are important to you. Being passive can make you feel like you have no control over a situation. Feeling a lack of control leads to stress.

In aggressive communication, you honestly state your opinions, feelings, and needs, but you do it at the expense of others. You may be seen as rude or demanding. And being aggressive often offends others. Their negative reaction can lead to stress for everyone.

In assertive communication, you state your opinions, feelings, and needs openly. You do this in a respectful, tactful, and thoughtful way. In most cases, being assertive works better than being passive or aggressive.

Test Your Knowledge

When I speak assertively, I state my feelings openly, without being rude or demanding.

  • True.
    This answer is correct.

    When you speak assertively, you state your feelings openly in a respectful, tactful way.

  • False.
    This answer is incorrect.

    When you speak assertively, you state your feelings openly in a respectful, tactful way.

  •  

You can be just as effective in expressing yourself whether you use passive, aggressive, or assertive communication.

  • True.
    This answer is incorrect.

    In most cases, being assertive works better than being passive or aggressive. Being passive may make you feel a lack of control, which creates stress. Being aggressive often offends others.

  • False.
    This answer is correct.

    In most cases, being assertive works better than being passive or aggressive. Being passive may make you feel a lack of control, which creates stress. Being aggressive often offends others.

  •  

Continue to Why?

 

Being assertive helps you communicate in a healthy way. It helps you stand up for yourself without offending others. It helps you feel more in control of a situation. When you are assertive, you take part in decisions that affect you. You have the satisfaction of knowing that you can express your feelings and opinions honestly with others. And being assertive can reduce stress.

There are other benefits of assertive communication. You may:

  • Be more comfortable with supervisors at work.
  • Find that your views are more respected.
  • Be more effective in having your needs met.
  • Feel more confident about asking others for help.
  • Feel less angry toward others.
  • Find that you are more comfortable with saying "no."

Test Your Knowledge

Being assertive can reduce stress by helping me feel more in control of a situation.

  • True.
    This answer is correct.

    Being assertive reduces stress by helping you feel more in control of a situation.

  • False.
    This answer is incorrect.

    Being assertive actually does reduce stress by helping you feel more in control of a situation.

  •  

One of the benefits of assertive speaking may be that I'm more comfortable with supervisors at work.

  • True.
    This answer is correct.

    One of the benefits of assertive speaking may be that you are more comfortable with supervisors at work.

  • False.
    This answer is incorrect.

    One of the benefits of assertive speaking may be that you are more comfortable with supervisors at work.

  •  

Continue to How?

 

To be more assertive, you focus on what you say and how you say it. You can plan and practice how to be more assertive using the assertiveness ladder. You can use the assertiveness ladder at home or at work. Use the letters of the word "LADDER" to recall the steps.

  • L: Look at your rights, what you want, and what you need. Define what you want, and keep it in mind during your discussion.
  • A: Arrange a time and place to discuss the situation. You can skip this step if the situation isn't planned, such as when you receive the wrong food at a restaurant.
  • D: Define the problem for the other person. Don't assume the other person already knows about the problem.
  • D: Describe your feelings using "I" statements. An "I" statement tells how you feel without blaming someone else. For example, try saying "I'm feeling frustrated," instead of "You frustrate me."
  • E: Express what you want or need. Be specific, brief, and firm. For example, instead of asking your husband to be "more considerate," ask him to call if he'll be more than 15 minutes late.
  • R: Reinforce the idea of getting what you want. Show the other person how your request might be good for both of you.

How to use the assertiveness ladder:

  1. Write out a plan, with one or two sentences for each step on the "ladder."
  2. Practice your step-by-step plan alone, and get comfortable with it. You may find that it's easier to write your plan than to practice it out loud. But you'll do better in the real situation if you've heard yourself make these statements before.
  3. Put your plan into action in the real situation. Don't worry about all the details. Just keep the main points in mind.

Using assertive body language

Body language is the way you sit or stand, move, and use your eyes and hands when you speak. Sometimes when you think you're speaking assertively, your body is sending a different message. That message can get in the way of what you are trying to say. Using the right body language helps you communicate more assertively. Try these five tips:

  1. Make eye contact with the person you're talking to. Try to keep your facial expression open and sincere.
  2. Sit or stand up tall with a straight back. Speak clearly and firmly.
  3. Use your hands and facial expressions to highlight your most important points.
  4. Try not to sound as if you're asking a question when you're not.
  5. Don't use an apologetic tone of voice.

You'll be more comfortable if you practice these rules in front of a mirror. When you practice, you can also hear your tone of voice.

Test Your Knowledge

One of the steps of the assertiveness ladder is to describe my feelings using "you" statements.

  • True.
    This answer is incorrect.

    One of the steps of the assertiveness ladder is to describe your feelings using "I" statements. An "I" statement tells how you feel without blaming someone else. For example, try saying "I'm feeling frustrated" instead of "You frustrate me."

  • False.
    This answer is correct.

    One of the steps of the assertiveness ladder is to describe your feelings using "I" statements. An "I" statement tells how you feel without blaming someone else. For example, try saying "I'm feeling frustrated" instead of "You frustrate me."

  •  

I'll do my best in the real situation if I don't get too comfortable with my plan. It's better to be fresh and unrehearsed.

  • True.
    This answer is incorrect.

    Actually, you'll do better in the real situation if you've heard yourself make these statements before. That's why it's a good idea to get comfortable with your plan and practice it alone and out loud.

  • False.
    This answer is correct.

    You'll do better in the real situation if you have heard yourself make your assertive statements before. That's why it's a good idea to get comfortable with your plan and practice it alone and out loud.

  •  

The way I "speak" with my body can help me communicate assertively. One of the ways I can show assertive body language is to make eye contact with the person I'm talking to.

  • True.
    This answer is correct.

    Body language is the way you sit or stand, move, and use your eyes and hands when you speak. One of the ways you can show assertive body language is to make eye contact with the person you're talking to.

  • False.
    This answer is incorrect.

    Body language is the way you sit or stand, move, and use your eyes and hands when you speak. One of the ways you can show assertive body language is to make eye contact with the person you're talking to.

  •  

Continue to Where?

 

Now that you're read this information, you know more about how to reduce stress by being assertive. Try practicing the assertiveness ladder and body language on your own.

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Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Lisa S. Weinstock, MD - Psychiatry
Last Revised April 20, 2011

Last Revised: April 20, 2011

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