How to Be More Assertive When You are Shy or Introverted

Military strategist Sun Tzu said that “Every battle is won before it’s ever fought.” In this vein, your psychological, philosophical, and physical preparation determine how you meet challenges where assertiveness is warranted.
 
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “Shy” as “Easily frightened: Timid…” Quite often shyness is viewed synonymously with introversion. 
 
Under “Introvert,” the Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines an “Introvert” as “A reserved or shy person who enjoys spending time alone.” 
 
To avoid splitting hairs, let’s embrace the notion that both definitions include these individuals collectively who are inwardly focused. Consequently, whatever is going on inside a shy or introverted person is often characterized as reticence or hesitancy by outsiders. 
 
Such hesitancy may be viewed as a sign of weakness and can become fodder for exploitation. To overcome being taken advantage of when you are shy or introverted requires that you become more assertive, and when necessary aggressive.
 
What I Learned in Elementary School That Changed My Life
I once read that, “You don’t get out of life what you deserve, you get out of life what you command.” If one adopts this philosophy early in life, the road is smoother. However, it is a process and may evolve well into adulthood. 
 
The same games played on the playground in elementary school are played in all stages of life.  Being shy and introverted, I witnessed the social dynamics that go on with those deemed undesirable. I grew up in the inner city of New Haven, Connecticut.  
 
The power plays that go on in such a community are phenomenal. The family that had the most members wielded more power and control over families with lesser members. There were only two children in our family at the time, which put me at the bottom of the totem pole within community dynamics. 
 
Consequently, the youngest in another family could bully me, because they had brothers who were older and bigger than I.  If I were to fight the bully and win, I would have to contend with his older siblings until revenge was exacted. 
 
Coupled with the fact that I was not “cool” made for a frightful existence.
My brother and I were reared by my mother and grandmother who were strict disciplinarians. We had to be in the bed every night at 8:30 p.m. on school nights. While we were in bed, we could hear the kids we played with outside. 
 
They had to get up the next day for school also!  The seemingly “cool” behavior of doing one’s own thing without discipline became valued in this community.  
 
A tough demeanor went along with this behavior, because it took on seemingly adult behavior that made children grow up faster than they should have. Many were experiencing sex and drugs while we were still in elementary school. 
 
I felt like a kitten in a jungle of lions and tigers. I was doing regular childhood things like playing football, baseball, and basketball. I had a paper route, got good grades, and won awards for Perfect Attendance. 
 
I did everything right according to mainstream values. However, these are not the values of such communities.   
For many shy and introverted personalities, life’s journey has to be rationalized before solutions can be manifested.
Many self-help books talk about evolving from the inside to better reflect our outside conditions. This is a very important perspective, but let’s face it, sometimes; we are not that strong or insightful. 
 
We worry too much about the judgement of others. Even with healthy confidence, our faith may be shaken.
Who Are You?
Quite often, the response to this question can go in various directions. By asking yourself, “Who am I,” you begin deciphering what motivates and inspires you.  
 
Once you pull back the veil of your existence, it becomes easier for you to begin tackling the challenges in life and experiencing more joy. But first you must discover and love the process.
 
When quality of life issues affects your motivation, you have to discover innovative ways to do more with less.  In other words, use strategies that don’t have unnecessary restraints.  You should build on the skills you have already developed rather than your weaknesses. 
 
In this process, you will become better motivated and confident in your strengths.  Whether you are protecting your intellectual property or yourself, assertiveness is essential.
Shy or Introverted
 
 
What Does Being Assertive Mean?
 
The word “Assertive” is defined as “Characterized by bold or confident statements and behavior.” This definition suggests that an assertive person communicates AND behaves boldly. Not one or the other. 
 
This is an important distinction because an assertive person has to align his internal wiring with an outside persona. Unfortunately, many shy and introverted people have not wrestled with this reality to formulate a life’s plan or strategy. 
 
In other words, they have not drawn a line in the sand. They have not proclaimed to the world, “This is what I believe…here is my creativity…and I will defend it to my death.” Sounds melodramatic? 
 
However, in a domineering world where only strength counts, everyone has to make that decision. Or else it will be made for you.
Aggressiveness is defined as “Ready or likely to attack or confront.” Suffice to say that aggressiveness is an elevated degree of assertiveness.
 
As a preteen, I was walking home from the basketball courts where I grew up one day.  Paul Jones (name changed to protect the guilty) grabbed me by the collar and pinned me against a brick wall. He was yelling some things at me that didn’t make sense.  
 
My younger brother, Chris, ran home and told my mother that Paul was beating me up. My mother found me as Paul still had me pinned against the wall.  My mother said, “Paul get off of him. Don’t you ever put your hands on him again. If he does something to you, you tell me, but don’t you touch him.” 
 
My mother then told me to get home. 
 
For days after the event, I pouted around the house before my mother called me into her room. She said, “From now on, you’re on your own. You are too big for me to keep fighting your battles. Some of these kids are the same size as you. It’s time to grow up.” 
 
It’s something about someone you have relied on all of your life removing a safety net away from you. For some reason it was exhilarating. There was a freedom attached to being on my own. It didn’t mean that I wasn’t afraid.  
 
But it forced me to find my own way. After this talk with my mother, I started working out in the gym and befriending guys who shared my love for academics. 

It is important to take into consideration that lacking assertiveness, if not dealt with at some point in your life, preferably early, becomes a never-ending saga. In my early twenties, my aunt Ann told me that as a person gets older, his battles become less physical and more psychological. 
 
Although, I wasn’t bullied after I grew into a man, the potential for psychological bullying was always there. 
 
The guy who jumps ahead of you in line at a grocery store.  The woman who cuts you off in traffic. The man who disrespects you while you’re out with your girlfriend or wife.  These are adult bullying tactics that you have to address by becoming more assertive and self-confident. 
 
Bullying ends when you say it does! And assertiveness wouldn’t be necessary if the world wasn’t predatory. In the end, what you are after is power, which leads to freedom. Freedom to live life according to your own rules and desires. 
The process for becoming more assertive begins with building your psychological, philosophical, and physical strengths.
Psychological Strength
Your mind is essentially divided into two regions, which are called:

       -The Conscious Mind
       -The Subconscious Mind

To help you better understand the conscious and subconscious mind, they may be compared to a tree and its roots.
 
Your conscious mind being the tree, which helps you with daily situations like, decision-making, rational thinking, or just simply figuring out what to do and how best to do it.

Whereas, your subconscious mind are the roots, which deals mostly with the repetitions of learned behavior.  This can be very helpful for you, because it enables you to deal with situations easier due to the predictable patterns that have been established over years.  
 
For instance, once you have learned to ride a bike you don’t have to consciously think about it anymore.  This is because the stored information will come to you automatically the next time you get on a bike to ride it. 
 
Whatever we see, hear, smell, taste, touch or feel passes through the conscious mind and reaches the subconscious mind where it is stored.  
 
Not only is this memory stored as the incident itself, but also any feelings, which went with it at the time, are also stored.
 
Your subconscious mind does not only store your memories and feelings.  It also takes care of your bodily functions – your heartbeat and automatically runs such activities as movement, language, visual perception, and a whole host of other processes of your mind and body for you.  
 
It also scans your mind for conflict and distress; assesses your environment for danger and threats, and relays and interprets perceptions, sensations, and feelings.  Finally, it is also the storehouse of all your experiences and decisions – everything that makes you the person you are.

Understanding your mind is important for decoding the necessary messages that prompt you to become more assertive. 
 
James Allen, author of the classic book, “As a Man Thinketh,” said, “The outer conditions of a person’s life will always be found to be harmoniously related to his inner state…Men do not attract that which they want, but that which they are.”
It is essential that you program your mind to consistently operate within your self-interest. Since we were children, most of us have been taught about the importance of proper behavior and social graces. 
 
We don’t interrupt when another person is talking or arrive late for a scheduled appointment. To do any of these things reflects inconsideration and improper comportment.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “Enlightened Self-Interest” as “Behavior based on the awareness that what is in the public interest is eventually in the interest of all individuals and groups.” 
 
In short, by acting within the interest of another person, group, or population, you are serving the greater good of others, as well as yourself.
 
How does this differ from selfishness?
 
With selfishness, society at large isn’t considered when an individual makes a decision where he is the sole beneficiary.
 
This notion of enlightened self-interest helps you, maybe for the first time, act in a manner where mutual interests align.
 
In the modern-day classic, “The Selfish Gene,” author Richard Dawkins postulated that the predominant quality within our genes is ruthless selfishness.  
 
That the biological need for survival and perpetuity were encoded within our DNA.
 
For too long, many of us, particularly introverts, have overridden our biological encoding in favor of social engineering that seeks to undermine any benefits to ourselves.

Using Dawkins’ precepts of selfishness while adopting the notion of enlightened self-interest paves the way for collective empowerment for the individual, as well as society.

Henceforth, as a change-agent and social reformer, you are encouraged to begin looking closer at your self-interest as you align it with the interests of others.
 
Pure altruism and magnanimity are recipes for long-term emotional, physical, and psychic pain. Measure your self-interest with its societal impact and consistently align the two for self-actualization.
societal impact
 
 
 
Philosophical Strength
Your personal philosophy is essentially your experiential understanding of the world and its guiding principles. In the movie “The Accountant,” starring Ben Affleck, Affleck plays an accountant who takes on clients with criminal backgrounds. 
 
His character is introverted, autistic, and overcomes learning disabilities through share will and with the help of a domineering father. In one scene, Affleck is described as a killer. The response to this notion is, “Only when someone breaks his moral code.” 
 
In this sense, becoming more assertive is a wholistic approach that combines enlightened self-interest with a core realization that the world revolves around strength. It has been oft repeated that courage is feeling fear and acting progressively despite it. 
 
The key to establishing an effective moral code is to live according to acceptable, mainstream values. 

You have the right to live under the radar, in solitude, and without transgressions against you. Many people rely on metaphysical or karmic justice to intercede when someone has interloped into their personal space. 
 
Once you adopt a philosophical code to live by, you become the justice that you seek—the enforcer or reformer. Although the tone of such requirements seems to imply violence or some form of physicality, violence isn’t necessarily required.
 
By characterizing your life as personal property, you deem all that you create worthy of protection. You should fight as hard to protect your intellectual property as you would your physical being. 
 
The tenets that you develop are subjective according to your self-interest. No one can tell you what’s appropriate for you in your assessment. You must go through this creative process alone. 
 
After all, you cannot live life on your terms if there are no terms. Set the terms and with all vigor, ensure its enforcement. Also, it has been said that a made-up mind is the hardest thing to change. So, make-up your mind!  

Here is a 5-step process for constructing a personal philosophy for assertiveness.
1.     Determine general observations about human nature based on your experiences. At this point, you are being asked to be a self-proclaimed social scientist. In the course of your life, what objective facts can you state about human nature that impacts your views on assertiveness? Try not to point to exceptions or “outliers” in your assessment.

2.      After listing your facts, determine what will be your general rules for coping with human nature?
3.     What outcomes and results would you like to derive from your rules?
4.      Monitor and evaluate your rules periodically.
5.      Modify or change the rules that are ineffective or no longer apply.
By constructing a personal philosophy that you can live with, you are well on your way to manifesting results that are intellectually sound, and based on reality.
Physical Strength
 
Throughout my life, I have taken some form of martial arts. Unfortunately, I never advanced to the rank of black belt, and thus felt some level of inadequacy in my fighting skills. Several years ago, I joined a karate school or “Dojo.” 
 
As a kid, the martial arts instructors seemed to be the epitome of discipline and comportment. However, as I joined this particular karate school, I witnessed something totally different. The instructors were not fulfilling an intellectual void.

Along the way, something had changed for me that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. There was a philosophical gap that existed now more than when I was younger. Based on my research, there are three objectives within martial arts, which are mutually exclusive: 1. Self-Defense, 2. Inner Peace, and 3. Competition.
At that point in my life, I had mastered introspection and self-awareness enough to nurture and maintain inner peace. And I had no aspirations to compete in tournaments with other martial artists. The only reason I have ever desired martial arts training was to defend myself. 
 
That was the missing link!  It doesn’t require years of study or a black belt to use basic self-defense techniques. It wasn’t until I did some extensive research on Google and YouTube that I discovered what was always missing.

So, I began practicing with everyday objects as weapons (cell phones, keys, etc.) coupled with the basic routines I had learned in karate school, and kept my focus on the soft targets on a human body. With this 3-step technique, I developed a simple self-defense system that works.   

Essentially, quietude and introversion should not be a weakness. If you remain civil and congenial to all that you meet, no one should ever attempt to harm you.

But, if one does take your kindness for weakness, the penalty should be harsh and swift.

The power of introversion can be very dangerous, if you view it as a secret weapon, and not a tool to be used against you. In reality, shy and introverted people exaggerate danger exponentially greater than everyone else. 
 
The hesitancy of shy people comes from the thought that the other person intends to do extreme bodily harm or worse. One you have intellectualized, practiced, and prepared for the worst possible attack; you can merely let your muscle memory take over. 
 
Your self-mastery and preparation have checkmated any harm that could come to you.
Becoming more assertive requires more than a series of tactics. It is an intellectual journey developed inwardly to outwardly communicate a strong, vibrant, and authentic persona. 
 
If it is true that you don’t get out of life what you deserve, but what you command, assertiveness is not a nice to have, but a need to have. 
 
If you want life on your terms, start commanding more out of life.
In the famous words of Roman general Vegetius, “If you want peace, prepare for war.” These are words to live by if you want peace of mind, as well as a peaceful existence.
Edward S. Brown, M.S.
 
 
 
 
 
 
Reference
Gill, N.S. (2019, July 5). “Who said ‘If you want peace, prepare for war?’” ThoughtCo. Retrieved from: https://www.thoughtco.com/if-you-want-peace-prepare-for-war-121446.

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