Telling Your Truth: The Art of Assertive Communication

Do you ever struggle to feel heard, or to express yourself in the way you desire? Maybe you’ve always found it easier to swallow your own wishes and desires and go with the flow, or maybe you’ve been called a nag but still never seem to get what you want? Friends and clients have asked me for years to offer a workshop on assertive communication, and I finally did it recently. The first key is an energetic shift into the willingness to be uncomfortable in changing the behavior and communication strategies that have become your habits and patterns over a lifetime. I’m not gonna lie, these things will be uncomfortable at first. They always are. But once you accept the fact that by not communicating assertively on your own behalf, you have actively made the choice to sacrifice yourself - and often at a great cost - then you can, and should, choose to change it, and focus on how to get there. 

We start with something you’ve probably heard before: you just say what you mean and mean what you say, but don’t say it in a mean way. Makes it sound so easy, right? But it is, or it can be anyway. Practice by giving kind, honest feedback online when possible, take the surveys, fill out a review of a business, or when the manager comes around in the the restaurant where you’re eating, tell them what you think. Even if the feedback is not entirely positive, it’s still possible to let them know. It helps you feel heard and helps them improve their system. Think of it as doing them a favor. They really want to know! 

Practice saying “no” to anything you can. Small “no’s” can add up to a whole heap of self care and really help you to feel heard. Say “no” to bringing a dish, or to picking up someone else’s child, to taking on a new account at work when you don’t have to, or to a date you don’t feel joy in going on. You can say, “I’m just swamped,” or “I’m exhausted” or “I wish I could” if it feels easier. Those are just soft “no’s.” We can’t and shouldn’t say no to everything, but necessary “no’s” can free up our minds and spirits for the things that really matter. And when it feels like an added burden or doesn’t resonate on a fundamental level, no should be the answer.

Then graduate to saying “when you do...I feel...” When your child ignores you even though you’ve called him five times, go to his side and say calmly “when you ignore me, I feel frustrated and angry. I need to feel heard.” Or when a coworker or superior sends you urgent emails expecting an immediate response, say “when you don’t give me ample time to respond to your requests, I feel overwhelmed and anxious. Can we work together on a solution for mutual success?”

Find a community - join a club, or sign up for a workshop and use the energy to feed your voice. What’s your thing? Advocacy, reading, politics, art? There’s a group for that. Always wanted to write? Amherst Writers and Artists has creative writing groups all over the world who meet face to face. There are also online community options at and countless other places. Find the one that resonates for you. 

The most important thing is this: without judgement or expectation, just let the words come. Even if they’re only for you on the page, you will be better for having written them, and releasing them into the universe will be the beginning of moving stuck energy and opening up a space inside of you and in your life for prosperity, healthy relationships and a joyful authentic spirit. It is possible to be both quiet and communicative, kind and tough, sensitive and strong. We are an array of contrasts. This is part of what makes you so beautifully you!! Embrace the discomfort, and let’s do this!

I’m thinking of developing an online version of my recent workshop. Is Assertive Communication something you’d like to hear more about? To discuss more practical strategies? Let me know in the comments!

Hollie Ziskind