by Dr. Jocelyn Markowicz, PhD, Psychologist in San Diego, CA
At the 2021 Presidential Inauguration, Amanda Gorman, a poet and activist, performed her poem “The Hill We Climb.” She shared these powerful words: “When day comes, we ask ourselves, where can we find light in this never-ending shade?” This line illuminated a shade that looms over our young girls, cloaking their voices within the darkness of unassertiveness. While Gorman’s performance spoke powerfully across a vast sea of change needed, her presence and assertiveness courageously inspired people all over the world to stand in the light of assertive power. How can we help young girls be more assertive, despite their fear of being seen as aggressive?
Why Female assertiveness is complicated
Research supports the benefits of individuals sharing their authentic thoughts and feelings in an assertive way (Eslami, Rabiei, Mohammad, Hamidizadeh, & Masoudi, 2016). Research also highlights the consequences women have faced when their assertiveness was incorrectly viewed as aggressiveness (Maloney & Moore, 2019). Parents have been reluctant to encourage daughters to assert their assertiveness because of the challenges they face when a woman embraces it.
How to Nurture Female Assertiveness
Why is it necessary to encourage young girls to be assertive? First, most people will admit that what they don’t say can lead to anxiety, depression, or general dissatisfaction. Although there are consequences to being assertive and aggressive, people feel empowered when they are open about their truth. How can you keep authentic communication healthy without becoming aggressive? How can you become assertive when there is real bias against assertive females? Young girls need support in developing their assertive voice and navigating any challenges that may come. These are some general behavioral tips to help.
Self-awareness is the first step to being a good communicator. Do you see a young girl in the family who shouts loudly when she is excited about a topic? Do you find that her words are barely audible when she speaks about something important? Does her voice quaver when she shares her true feelings? If you can answer any of these questions you are at least somewhat aware of her natural communication style. You must now help her become more aware of how her tone can be affected by her emotions and, in turn, her listener.
The brain does not process information as well as it does in calmer states when it is experiencing intense emotions. Particularly in times of intense emotion, the right tone is important. The right tone can deescalate a situation and allow the receiver of communication to process the information better and appraise the speaker more favorably (Helfrich & Weidenbecher, 2011). The tone of voice used can affect the receiver’s perception of the message. A confident tone can be passionate and intense, but it can also have a calm air. An aggressive tone may be passionate and intense, but it can also sound uncertain. A harsh tone can cause negative emotions in the receiver. A calm tone can promote positive feelings which can help the message be heard clearly.
Information about the Message Receiver
It is important to teach young girls how to know their audience. Think about who is listening to what you have to say. Strong communicators can effectively communicate with anyone with a doctorate or someone with a third grade education. You can’t do that without awareness of the receiver’s capacity to receive and absorb the message. Your message may be valuable, but it won’t work if you use the wrong tone or use ineffective language. Communication is easier if you know how to adjust depending on who your audience is.
Our young girls need feedback. They need to understand how their communication is received by their audiences. They can use feedback to improve their communication skills and reduce any negative communication methods.
Does the young girl in you’s life take up space while communicating or do they shrink? Does she make wild movements with her hands or hid them behind her back when she’s trying to assert herself? Natural reactions can be caused by behavioral positions. Our brains decide if a person’s posturing is threatening or soothing. It is important for young girls to learn how their bodies react to authentic thoughts and how that might affect other audiences. A girl may be passionate and passionate, but her posture could make it seem aggressive to others. Although perceptions of posture are often biased, young girls can learn from others how they perceive her behavior and develop flexibility and intention in their body movements.
These behavioral TIPs can help your young girl develop lifelong assertiveness. It’s also important to expose her to assertive women.
Stock up on books
Be sure to surround your young girl in your home with women who have done great things. I encourage you to create a shelf in your home that contains books about a variety girls and women who have succeeded. Keep filling shelves with inspiring stories about the importance of women in the world. Self-confidence encourages assertiveness. Include books by adult and child female authors, who were confident enough in their ideas to write them and publish them. Here are some book recommendations.
Target Conditions that Negatively Impact Assertiveness
You must teach the young girl in your family assertive communication and provide her with examples of assertiveness. However, you must also work actively to address any potential obstacles to her assertive communication progress. In order for her to experience the true power of her assertiveness, she’ll need your help to reduce anticipatory anxiety or behavioral-skill deficits associated with her unassertiveness (Speed, Goldstein, & Golfried, 2017). Untreated anxiety and depression are but two conditions that can impact a young girl’s confidence to assertively communicate her thoughts.
Therapy is a great tool she can use to talk about her assertiveness challenges and practice specific skills. Assertiveness training, which can be conducted in therapy, decreases anxiety, stress, and depression (Eslami, Rabiei, Mohammad, Hamidizadeh, & Masoudi, 2016). Eslami and colleagues. (2016). Unassertive behavior is a sign of internal aggressions, such as worries, fears, social anxiety, and other anxieties. An assertive person can build closer relationships with others and express a wide range emotions without feeling guilty, stressed, anxious, or violating the rights or rights of others. Young girls can become assertive women who make a difference in the world. As Amanda Gorman stated at the inauguration, ‘If only we’re brave enough to be it.’ We owe it to the young girls in our lives to help them to Be the It called an assertive communicator.
IfThe young girl in your life might benefit from therapy, start looking at options with our child therapist search. If you’re reading this and thinking you might need to work on yourself before you’ll really be ready to nurture assertiveness in someone else, begin your search for a therapist near you in our directory.
Read the full text of Amanda Gorman’s inaugural poem ‘The Hill We Climb’. (2021, January 20). Retrieved April 22, 2021, from https://www.cnbc.com/2021/01/20/amanda-gormans-inaugural-poem-the-hill-we-climb-full-text.html
Rabiei.L. Mohammad. S.A. Hamidizadeh. S. and Masoudi. R. (2016). The Effects of Assertiveness Training on Stress, Anxiety, Depression Levels in High School Students. Iranian Red Crescent Medical Journal. Jan 18, 1: e21096.
Helfrich, Hede & Weidenbecher, Philipp. (2011). (2011). Swiss Journal of Psychology. 70. 85-93. 10.1024/1421-0185/a000042.
Maloney, M. E., & Moore, P. (2019). From assertive to aggressive. International journal of women’s dermatology, 6(1), 46–49. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijwd.2019.09.006
Speed, B. C., Goldstein, B. L., & Goldfried, M. R. (2017). Assertiveness Training: A forgotten evidence-based therapy. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice. https://doi.org/10.1111/cpsp.12216
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