What Is Assertiveness?
Assertiveness is the ability to express one’s feelings and assert one’s rights while respecting the feelings and rights of others.
How Does Assertiveness Compare to Other Behavior?
- Aggressiveness: Individuals behaving aggressively will tend to employ tactics that are disrespectful, manipulative, demeaning, or abusive. They make negative assumptions about the motives of others and think in retaliatory terms, or they don’t think of the other person’s point of view at all.
They win at the expense of others and create unnecessary conflict.
- Passiveness: Passive individuals don’t know how to express their feelings and needs to others. They tend to fear conflict so much that they let their needs go unmet and keep their feelings secret in order to ‘keep the peace’.
They let others win while they lose out.
- Assertiveness: Individuals behaving assertively will express themselves in ways that respect the other person. They assume the best about people, respect themselves, and think “win-win” and try to compromise.
What Does Assertiveness Look Like?
Scenario A: Someone cuts in front of you at the supermarket.
- An aggressive response: “Hey, jackass, no cuts!”
- A passive response would be to just let the person stay in front of you.
- An assertive response: “Excuse me, but I was in line.”
Scenario B: Your friend, who can be quite verbose, calls to vent about her bad day. Unfortunately, you have a lot of work to do and don’t have time to talk.
- An aggressive response: “Oh, get over it! I have my own problems!”
- A passive response would be to let her talk for as long as she needs.
- An assertive response would be to listen for a minute or two, then compassionately say,
“Wow, it sounds like you’re having a tough day! I’d love to talk to you about it, but I don’t have the time right now. Can we talk later tonight?”
What Are the Benefits of Assertiveness?
- They have fewer conflicts in dealing with others and less stress in their lives.
- They get their needs met and help others get their needs met, too.
- Having stronger, more supportive relationships.
How Assertive Are You?
Answer the following questions to get an idea of how comfortable you are being assertive.
- Do you ask for help when you need it?
- Do you express anger and annoyance appropriately?
- Do you ask questions when you’re confused?
- Do you volunteer your opinions when you think or feel differently from others?
- Are you able to say “no” when you don’t want to do something?
- Do you generally speak in a confident manner?
- Do you look at people when you’re talking to them?
If you answered yes to several of these, you may benefit from learning assertiveness skills.