How is it that some people seem to get exactly what they want, whereas others just don’t?

The answer is simple – assertiveness.

Assertiveness is a subtle art, which some people seem to master naturally. The rest of us muddle our way through, acting in unassertive ways for much of the time. Sometimes things go our way, but that is somewhat due to chance.

The great news is that assertiveness skills and can be learned and enhanced.

What is assertiveness?

Assertiveness is the quality of being self-assured and confident without being aggressive.

It means standing up for our personal rights: expressing our thoughts, feelings and beliefs in direct, honest & appropriate ways.

Assertiveness also strives to respect the thoughts, feelings & beliefs of other people.

However, it’s often misunderstood and confused with other communication responses i.e. aggression, passiveness and passive aggression.

Assertiveness versus other interactive styles

Aggression

Aggression

Aggression is typically directed towards someone else. Their rights and self-esteem are undermined in the process.

Passiveness

This is responding in a passive or non-assertive way, for example simply complying with the wishes of others. It can undermine individual rights & self-confidence.

Passive–aggression

This is characterised by a pattern of indirect resistance to the demands or requests of others and an avoidance of direct confrontation.

Assertiveness

Standing up for our personal rights – expressing thoughts, feelings & beliefs in direct, honest & appropriate ways. It also strives to respect the thoughts, feelings & beliefs of other people.

Importance of assertiveness

There are many reasons why being assertive can be beneficial.

Assertiveness can improve our own self-awareness, helping to understand our strengths and weakness, but also what we are looking to achieve from a given situation. It helps to ensure our needs are understood and improves the chance of having them met. It can improve our understanding of other people, enabling better communication and often also improving relationships as a result.

Further benefits are that assertiveness can increase our self-confidence and reduce stress.

When acting assertively, we feel confident, empowered, energised, self-assured, in control, respected and heard.

What can affect how assertively we behave?

Factors affecting our assertiveness can be summarised into 3 main areas: ourselves, other people and situational factors.

How we influence our own assertiveness

Clarity over our desired outcomes is critical. So too are beliefs that we hold about ourselves, the situation and the others concerned.

The time available, previous experiences and immediate goings on, can also play a part.

We shouldn’t underestimate how our health, feelings, emotions, energy and stress levels can affect how assertively we behave.

Other people’s impact on our assertiveness

As assertiveness is a communication response, there is always someone or something (a person, a group or an organisation) involved. Our previous interactions with them could also affect us.

Factors include who we’re dealing with, how well we know them, what we know about them and potentially what we don’t know about them!

How the other person acts or behaves, their state (mood, health, emotions) and other triggers.  Their agenda, responsibilities, duties and the options available to them may also be of importance.

Finally, there could be other people outside of the immediate situation that can provide validation and support. Make sure that these are trusted sources rather than listening to people who could negatively impact our assertiveness.

Situational impacts on our assertiveness

Our assertive levels may also depend on the situation itself. What the situation is, how important it is to you and others, what the consequences may be and who else is impacted.

Timing could also be important, including what’s come before and how much time we have available. The time of day could also be a factor.

Clarity around the situation and any facts, as well as clarity of the outcome you seek. Any issues of judgement could also impact our confidence and ultimately our assertiveness.

10 ways to enhance your assertiveness

10 ways to enhance your assertiveness skills

Many of us could do with boosting our assertiveness in different situations. Try these ideas:

  1. Firstly, we need to take responsibility for our communication responses
  2. Identify and model others who act assertively
  3. Build our personal self-awareness
  4. Know what we want and set clear outcomes
  5. Look at the situation to understand different perspectives
  6. Set our environment to give us the best chance of success
  7. Be clear and concise
  8. Rehearse conversations
  9. Stay calm
  10. Remain respectful

 

Wrap-up

Assertiveness is the quality of being self-assured and confident without being aggressive.

It ensures our needs are understood and improves the chance of having them met. It can improve our understanding of others, enable better communication and can improve relationships as a result.

The great news is that assertiveness is a muscle that can be strengthened.

I know what I’m planning to do. What steps will you take to improve yours?

 

Thanks for reading. Check out other Blue Diamond articles to help you take control of your work and life.