It’s the oldest truth – the assertive people get ahead. It has always been like that, and by the looks of the world today, it will always be like that.
And, why is that?
Because assertive people can tell other people what they think, they request the resources they need, they ask for raises when they think it is deserved, and don’t take no for an answer.
Is it being assertive easy?
It is everything but easy for someone who is not like that by nature. However, as everything can be learned, one can work on the assertiveness and make progress while at it.
But, let’s start from the beginning.
What is assertiveness?
It is the quality of being self-assured and confident without being aggressive. In the field of psychology and psychotherapy, it is a learnable skill and mode of communication. Dorland’s Medical Dictionary defines assertiveness as:
…a form of behavior characterized by a confident declaration or affirmation of a statement without need of proof; this affirms the person’s rights or point of view without either aggressively threatening the rights of another (assuming a position of dominance) or submissively permitting another to ignore or deny one’s rights or point of view.
When they say “it’s a learnable skill”, what do they mean?
Well, anyone can make progress by improving some of the skills needed for succeed. That means that everyone, including you, can build on a natural communication style. You can use one’s unique strengths to personal advantage, all while eliminating self-sabotaging behaviors, confidently handling complaints and criticism, and persuading others to see their side of any story.
All these skills come from one – the assertiveness. If we consult a dictionary, we will find that assertiveness is the ability to declare and express one owns opinion, and to defend it by any means necessary. Of course, without dominating, humiliating or degrading others while doing it. Assertiveness involves a self-esteem that comes with a respect for the rights and values of another person.
Where do we start?
Let’s start by identifying basic types of behavior in interaction with others:
• PASSIVE – AGGRESSIVE
PERSON WITH AN AGGRESSIVE COMMUNICATION STYLE expresses thoughts, feelings, and beliefs but in a way that is often dishonest, inadequate and threatens the rights of another person. The goal of the aggression, in general, is to establish control over the situation and people, demonstrate the power and dominate.
You will recognize this type of person by the constant requests and orders to others. They tend to accuse and blame others, rather than seeing (and confessing) their own mistake.
The communication message of this kind of people is: “This is how I think – you’re stupid if you think differently,” “I want this – what you want is not important,” “This is how I feel – your feelings are not important.”
When you see a person like this – run for your life.
PERSON WITH A PASSIVE COMMUNICATION STYLE often violate other people rights and values but in a more perfidy and concealed way. They do not really respect other people’s needs and wishes, and their weak spot is setting boundaries in a relationship with people. They are insecure and anxious, often unable to take responsibility for their actions. Their goal is to avoid conflicts at any cost. The passive person avoids discussion, does not express an opinion, quickly acknowledges every mistake and apologizes way too often.
The communication message of passive person are: “Do not take me into consideration; you are more important than me”, “My feelings are not important, only yours”, “What I think is irrelevant – You are the only one worth listening to,” “I am nobody – You are superior.”
PERSON WITH A PASSIVE- AGGRESSIVE COMMUNICATION STYLE very often has sarcastic, ironic remarks, rarely express his opinion publicly, it’s always some kind of “a victim”, does not show true feelings, and accuses others of their frustration. With no guilt whatsoever, this type of person does not hesitate to use lies, scams, and gossip to come to the determined goal. This kind of person very often fails in fulfilling an agreement with others, having prepared a bunch of excuses as he does not accept personal responsibility for almost anything.
PERSON WITH AN ASSERTIVE COMMUNICATION STYLE knows how and does listen to others!!! He or she respects everybody, demanding the same treatment for him/herself. Assertive type of person speaks up directly and clearly. They are always ready to apologize for their mistakes, and never run from expressing feelings.
Assertive people respect themselves and their energy. They know how to control themselves, how to avoid (or deal with) stress, they believe in the possibility of resolving the conflict in a calm manner, they are not afraid of articulating their disagreement and have more confidence in themselves, but in others as well. This kind of person develops over time a high level of responsibility, even in a difficult situation. He is not selfish when it comes to praising and celebrating the accomplishment, even though if it’s his merit.
A very important part of assertiveness is to take responsibility not only for one’s action but his rights, also!
The good news is that this skill is learnable, as we mentioned before. The basis of assertiveness training is the acquisition of a solid self-confidence and learning to take the stand.
And why is assertive behavior the most preferred style of communication and expressing oneself? What are the benefits of the assertive behavior?
If more self-confidence, better self-control (absence of impulse response), healthier relationship with others, more productivity, greater success in achieving goals, increased level of satisfaction with yourself and your life – sounds good, great even, then you are ready for some self-improving.
Practicing assertive behavior leads to a personal growth while nurturing good interpersonal relationships.
When it comes to a situation where our rights are endangered, it is necessary to defend them, but not by any means and aggressively. It is necessary and it is more constructive to do it in an assertive way in order to take equally into account yours and others rights and needs.
This is the form of proactive behavior. And proactive is always a good idea.
So, how assertive are you?
In order to know if we are sufficiently assertive, we should ask ourselves if we have a problem with asking for help when we need it, do we express anger and dissatisfaction in an adequate way, do we openly say when we disagree with the opinions of other people, do we present our own ideas and thoughts without hesitation, do we say “no” loud and clear?
If the answer to all of this is NO, then read no further and congratulations.
If you are not that sure, keep on reading, we prepared a few tricks you will find useful.
A sense of personal value is crucial for assertive behavior because exactly that is what gives us the feeling we deserve our rights. And with that attitude, we will fight for what is rightfully ours. Mind you, this is not a call into battle. An assertive person tries as hard as possible to avoid any conflict whatsoever. A characteristic of healthy interpersonal relationships is not the complete absence of conflict. What can seriously distort the quality of the relationship is a great number of unresolved conflicts and inadequate methods used in conflict resolution.
And, what are the causes of ineffective conflict resolution?
- Misunderstanding of the conflict’s nature
- Low tolerance for frustration
- Rigidity in thinking
- The misconception that we are always right
- Excessive vulnerability
- Ignorance and disrespect of differences
- Low self-esteem
- Incompatibility for empathy
- Inexperience in conflicts
So, how to become more assertive and resolve any potential conflict in a healthy and constructive way?
If we want to be more assertive, it is necessary to try to be as direct, honest and open as possible in terms of how we feel, what we think and what we want. All reasonable requests should be made in a direct and confident way without hesitation or apology. We must not, at any cause, dismiss the ideas and values of others.
Try hard to put yourself in their shoes and to think about people’s motives and reasons for a certain behavior towards you or anybody else.
However, it is necessary to learn to say “no” to all the unjustified demands that others might put in front of us.
That is why it is so important to use the “I” statements instead of accusing and invoking others. Of course, that comes after you collected all the facts and solid arguments that go in your favor.
Also, always try to anticipate the behavior of other people and prepare yourself to react to it.
In the end, here is the list of some goals you should set as milestones in your journey to the world of assertive behavior. The world where you thrive!
- Reduction of passive and aggressive behavior in favor of assertive
- Understanding and accepting your rights
- Removing distorted beliefs and roles that obstruct or prevent an assertive behavior
- Strengthening tolerance for inconvenience or injustice
- Strengthening self-confidence in relationships with other people
- Strengthening self-responsibility
- Developing greater sensitivity and understanding for other people
- Developing communication and social skills