It’s time to start being assertive

Please look over the following questions:

  • Are you able to refuse unreasonable requests from friends or colleagues?
  • If your meal in a restaurant is unsatisfactory, do you tell the waitress or just make the best of it?
  • Are you likely to express your opinion if it differs from that of the people you are talking with?
  • Are you quick to apologize even when you’re not at fault?
  • If someone is disturbing you during a quiet time, do you ask them to stop or do you just manage instead?
  • Is it hard to maintain eye contact when you are talking to people?
  • Do people take advantage of you?

If you find yourself feeling a twinge of guilt at any point while working through the above list, then it’s time to start being assertive.

Being assertive means you have courage in your convictions and stand up for what you believe in, while being respectful of others. Assertive people communicate their opinions without apology and in turn allow others their say. They are not pushovers as they recognize the limits to which they can bend.

Assertive people are extremely lucrative to companies because they can express themselves freely, get things done, don’t take no for an answer (which is useful when dealing with clients) while at the same time appear polite, professional and fair.

When you are assertive, you operate from a position of equality and respect. You respect your own rights, values and beliefs while respecting the rights, values and beliefs of others. Treating everybody, including yourself, as equal gives you better appreciation of the way in which the world actually operates.

Aggressive people feel that everybody should serve them and passive people feel that they should serve everyone else. Assertive people understand that we can work together for the mutual benefit of everyone involved.

Being assertive is a frequently misunderstood concept as there are many of us who confuse assertiveness with being aggressive and domineering.

Assertiveness is a core communication skill. So to understand it better, let’s go through the kinds of communication styles regularly used. They have four distinct patterns as follows:

Passive: A passive communicator goes out of their way to avoid conflict and tend to put their needs last. They apologize a lot and often are taken advantage of. They tend to think of themselves as a peacekeeper but in reality send out a message that their feelings and opinions are not as important as those of others.

Aggressive: An aggressive communicator comes across as a self-righteous bully, dismissive of others opinions and feelings. They use criticism, intimidation, and humiliation to dominate others.

Passive-Aggressive: This is a style of communication often seen in corporate situations, when one feels powerless. The behavior exhibits a mixture of agreement and resistance where you are easygoing and cooperative on the outside and resenting the authority on the inside. Uncomfortable with conflict or confrontation of any sort, people exhibiting this behavior often resort to manipulation, sarcasm and playing games with others to exert power or subvert authority.

Assertive: Assertiveness is said to be a balance between passive and aggressive. Being assertive is communicating your perspective and opinions, while being respectful of others. Assertive people are respected and feel secure in their actions. They know how to say ‘no’ and aren’t afraid to stand by their decisions.

Have you identified which style you tend to lean to? The healthiest communications style everyone aspires for and generally the most underused is assertiveness.

If we look around in our environment, there are those who are overlooked and viewed as uncertain, indecisive and weak because of their ‘passive behaviour’. Then, there are also those who trying to be assertive accidentally veer off into “aggressive” territory who are overlooked as not being a team player.

If you’re not assertive, you need not worry because assertiveness, like any other skill, is learnable. And when this skill is acquired, it can help you both personally and professionally.

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