How to be assertive (when you’re a quiet introvert)

(Wake Up World | Aletheia Luna) We’ve been the rubbernecks. The doormats. The wishy-washy, watery weaklings. Us introverts have had plenty of experience of being the unheard, uninvolved and unassertive ones in social situations.

But just as being shy doesn’t necessarily mean you’re introverted, neither does being introverted necessarily mean you’re by default an unassertive person.  Unfortunately, however, our reserved and quiet natures mean that we’re frequently cautious, slow-to-speak and passive, usually resulting in a lack of personal assertiveness. Unless we are self-aware, our temperaments can serve to elevate our levels of passivity or passive-aggression.

On one hand, we can fall into the trap of being walked over because we don’t know how to be assertive.  On the other hand, we can fall into the trap of becoming reactively passive-aggressive, because of our inability to practice healthy assertiveness.  Either way, for most introverts learning to be quietly assertive is an invaluable life skill that will greatly enhance almost every area of your life.

Like any introvert, I have had experience with both passivity and passive-aggression.  Only in recent years after researching the lives of quietly assertive introverts and practicing quiet assertiveness myself, have I discovered some of the best and most beneficial tips.  Review some of these ways to Control, Alt and Delete unassertiveness from your life below.

Please don’t do that … or I’ll have to castrate you

“How can I deal with conflict?”

For many quiet, introverted and loner types, having to deal with conflict is not only confronting, but is basically our biggest pathological fear.  We like to avoid it at all costs, and when conflict does come along, we don’t know how to approach it – perhaps due to our inexperience of avoiding it so much.  I’m no pin-up model for dealing healthily with conflict – in fact, I’ve had plenty of times of tears, passive-aggression and chagrined stony silences.  But in my experience, the peaceful practice of passive resistance is the wisest way to approach conflict, not only for introverts, but extroverts as well.

Indian political leader and renowned introvert Mahatma Ghandi, can be thanked for the modern day practice of passive, or nonviolent resistance.  This form of action can be attributed to many of the picketing, lobbying, boycotts and protest music produced in the world today.  It can also be attributed to the well-known behavior of American African woman Rosa Parks whose quiet assertiveness and passive resistance led to her refusal to sit on the “black side” of a bus in December 1955.   So what are the marks of passive resistance?

What to do & what not to do when passively resisting

  • Don’t make assumptions.
  • Don’t use emotional or accusational language.
  • Don’t shout or use aggressive tones of voice.
  • Don’t use verbal or physical threats or any form of black mail.
  • Don’t use verbal insults, or belittling language of a personal nature.
  • Don’t emotionally sabotage  in any way.
  • Don’t use psychological manipulation.
  • Don’t use physical violence.

On the other hand …

  • Do be mindful.
  • Do be calm, both mentally and emotionally.
  • Do have confidence and poise.
  • Do use words that challenge the persons behavior NOT them as a person.  You must be able to distinguish between them and their actions and not generalize them as being the spawn of Satan  e.g. Good examples of positive passive resistance are: “I don’t appreciate the way you’re behavior just affected me”, “I don’t like those words you just used – they’re inappropriate“.
  • Do use open body language and words that encourage civility, questioning and negotiation.
  • Do use language that clearly distinguishes your perception of the situation from the reality of the situation to the person. e.g. “The way I saw that situation at lunch was that you and Samantha don’t like my personality.  Is that right?”, “When you said those words, I felt as though you were personally attacking me.  Is that correct?”
  • Do walk away from the situation if the person becomes overly verbally (or even physically) abusive.  Explain to them that you’ll talk to them later and that you’re not interested in their aggression.

I want to say something … but I feel like puking …

Being quietly assertive can be a nerve-wracking experience for the introvert stuck in the habitual patterns of passivity and passive-aggression.  However, if you’re eager to conquer your anxiety and get the ball rolling, these tips may help:

1.  Start by being mindful of your behavior and your internal patterns of thought when you enter a troublesome situation (i.e. when you feel you  could be more quietly assertive).

2.  Review some of the points in the next paragraph.  Make sure that you deeply understand your rights and the various mental traps that may be plaguing you.

3.  Set a goal for yourself each day to approach at least ONE troublesome situation differently.  You could try asking a question first, briefly voicing your thoughts, or asking for something that you need politely.

4.  Once you gain confidence and adapt to these small changes, try approaching 2, 3, 4, and 5 more situations differently each day.  Don’t rush, and don’t force yourself.

5.  Once you feel happy with your level of being quietly assertive, you can approach some conflicting situations.  Start from square 1.  You could practice passive resistance by, for instance, stating your right to be talked to civilly or you could simply walk away as a silent protest.

6.  After you have made some small steps, you can then proceed to start questioning, protesting and negotiating.

Remember that it’s OK to be nervous or scared.  But remember that with persistence, patience and courage your nerves will subside as quiet assertiveness becomes second nature to you.

Important things to know

“I’m stupid, unworthy … and I stink.”

Unfortunately, many introverts find it impossible to assert themselves because of the unrealistic beliefs they have about themselves and other people.  As a shy introvert I struggled for a long time with low self esteem, feeling as though I was lesser and dumber than the people who spoke to me.  Consequently, this meant that it was practically impossible for me to be quietly assertive, because of my mental barriers.  But through time, experience and mindfulness, I learnt some important pointers:

Before trying quiet assertiveness, understand …

  •  No one can have power over you unless you LET them.  YOU are in charge of your mind and your reactions when you become conscious of them.  If you let someone intimidate you, THEY have the power over you, and YOU have given that power to them.
  • Your opinion is just as valid as anyone else’s.
  • You aren’t a subordinate to anyone unless you LET yourself be.  You are among equals.
  • Lacking assertiveness is a result of having low self confidence and self esteem.
  • Low self confidence and self esteem are accompanied by the mental traps of making assumptions, having negative beliefs, creating comparison, harmful expectations and unrealistic ideals. e.g. “I’m quiet, I have nothing to say, therefore I’m stupid”, “Everyone should always like me“.
  • Challenging the mental traps that cause your low self esteem, increases your confidence to become quietly assertive.

Possibly, one of the most essential things to realize is that you are not powerless, or a lost cause.  You have the power to choose how you act, and to choose what mental notions you adopt.  You have the power to become quietly assertive – and no one can take that away from you.

About the author

Aletheia Luna is an influential spiritual writer whose work has changed the lives of thousands of people worldwide. After escaping the religious sect she was raised in, Luna experienced a profound existential crisis that led to her spiritual awakening. As a psychospiritual counselor, tarot reader, and professional writer, Luna’s mission is to help others become conscious of their entrapment and find joy, empowerment, and liberation in any circumstance.

Source: Wake Up World  Photo: i love simple beyond


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