What is assertiveness?
Assertiveness is the quality of being self-assured and confident without being inappropriately aggressive or passive. There is a thin line between assertiveness and aggression, and a sometimes-hidden line between assertiveness and passive behaviour.
Behaving in an assertive way means being forthright about your wants and needs while still considering the rights, needs and wants of others. It’s therefore important, along with valuing the rights of others, to value yourself and your rights and to believe you deserve to be treated with respect and dignity.
Acting assertively means acting fairly and with empathy. The power you can use comes from your self-assurance and not from intimidation or bullying concepts.
To perform to your full potential, you need to develop your communication skills so that you can behave in an assertive way most of the time. No one is assertive all the time but recognising non-assertive behaviour as soon as possible, both in yourself and others, will help. Find ways to get your needs met without sacrificing other’s needs in the process.
Acknowledge that people are responsible for their own behaviour. You cannot control other people, but you are in control of yourself. As long as you are not violating someone else’s needs, then you have the right to say what you want.
Allow yourself to be angry but respectful. Do say what’s on your mind, but do not do so in a way that does not consider the other person’s feelings. Stand up for yourself and confront people who challenge you. Allow yourself to make mistakes and ask for help. Accept feedback positively. It’s OK to say you don’t agree but don’t get defensive. Know your limits and what will cause you to feel taken advantage of. Know that you can’t please everyone all of the time.
Assertiveness is a social skill that relies heavily on effective communication while simultaneously respecting the thoughts and wishes of others.
Different ways of being assertive – or not
Aggression can be defensive, where you try to overcome insecurities by putting other people down. It can make you come across as a bully, and although it may seem like a good way to get what you want, it undercuts trust and respect, and can ultimately lead to people avoiding you or opposing you.
Do you know people who are Bossy, arrogant, overbearing, intolerant, opinionated, get out of my way, how dare you? These are the aggressors in your life.
Passivity is the flipside of being aggressive is being passive. It also stems from insecurity but involves you putting yourself down – so you avoid expressing your feelings and needs, and you provide an open season for other people to disregard them, too. Passivity can involve lying and making excuses. It can help you avoid conflict in the short term, but because it doesn’t get you what you want, you can end up with a swirling mass of stress, resentment, anger and the like which can certainly lead to so-called comfort eating.
Do you know people who are moaning, apologetic, indecisive, submissive – nothing goes right for me, whatever you want, it’s fine, I’m really sorry, it’s my fault?
Passive aggression also often involves you saying yes when you really want to say no, and it’s likely to happen when you want something but feel helpless about getting it. The aggression comes in what follows the lies or excuses – you might end up being sarcastic or complaining behind peoples backs, stirring up trouble on the sly; you may try to make the other person feel guilty. Eventually, this behaviour damages mutual respect.
Do you know people who are sarcastic, deceiving, ambiguous, insinuating, guilt-tripping – can’t you take a joke…don’t worry I can manage
Assertiveness is a healthier way of communicating – being honest, direct, clear and respectful. It means finding the voice to say no, enough, no more, to whatever is holding you back. Not only can it help stop people from walking all over you, but it can also help prevent you from trampling all over other people – which ultimately makes you feel good about yourself, so it’ a win-win
Expressing your personal power in this helpful, assertive way builds your self-esteem, self-respect, confidence, and self-awareness; it can earn you respect from others; it can help you make better decisions and create more honest relationships
Examples include direct, accepting, honest, open, responsible – ‘I won’t have any cake but thank you for asking.’
Your group work with your Mentor will provide many opportunities to witness the interactions between your fellow members, and ultimately to have the opportunity to get feedback from them.
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