Hear the emotion behind the words

Did you know: It’s the higher frequencies of human speech that impart emotion. You can become more attuned to these frequencies by exercising the tiny muscles of your middle ear (the smallest in the body). Try singing, playing a wind instrument, or listening to certain types of high-frequency music (a Mozart symphony or violin concerto, for example, rather than low-frequency rock, pop, or hip-hop).

Assert yourself

Direct, assertive expression makes for clear communication and can help boost self-esteem and decision-making. Being assertive means expressing your thoughts, feelings, and needs in a clear and honest way, while standing up for yourself and respecting others. It does NOT mean being hostile, aggressive, or demanding. Effective communication is always about understanding the other person, not about winning an argument or forcing opinions on others.

To improve your assertiveness:

Value yourself and your opinions. They are as important as anyone else's. Know your needs and wants. Learn to express them without impinging on the rights of others Learn how to express negative thoughts in a positive way. It's OK to be angry, but you must be respectful as well. Accept feedback positively and compliments graciously. Recognize and learn from your mistakes, then ask for help when needed. Learn to say "no." Know your limits and never let others take advantage of you. Look for alternatives so everyone will feel good about the outcome. Developing assertive communication techniques

Empathetic assertion conveys sensitivity to the other person. First, recognize the other person's situation or feelings, then state your needs or opinion. "I know you've been very busy at work, but I want you to make time for us as well."

Escalating assertion can be used when your first attempts are not successful. You become increasingly firm as time progresses, which may include outlining consequences if your needs are not met. For example, "If you don't abide by the contract, I'll be forced to pursue legal action."

Practice assertiveness in low-risk situations to start with to help build up your confidence. You could practice assertiveness techniques on friends or family first.