Being Assertive Is A Skill
January 23, 2022
My mother is one of the most assertive persons I know. She is unafraid to express her feelings, stands up for what she believes is right, is comfortable saying no to someone, is willing to do what is in her family’s best interest or the common good. No one can take advantage of her, and if they try doing it, she will let them know in no uncertain terms, often to their embarrassment.
Through observing her, I have learned to be assertive and stand up for what is important for me.
Why talk about the idea of assertiveness today?
I am currently reading a book, Your Perfect Right, that speaks to the topic of assertiveness. As I read this book and relate to the stories the author shares, I could not help avoid drawing parallels with how my mother stands up to her values and beliefs.
There are many situations where we struggle to stand up to our self-interest in our day-to-day existence.
- You want to say no to someone’s request for a favor.
- You have a colleague who dominates all the conversations, and you don’t like it.
- Your kid is getting aggressive with you
- You feel a co-worker is putting you down in front of your workgroup, and you struggle to respond.
- Someone cuts a queue you are, and you want to pull him up.
In this book, the author Dr. Robert Alberti describes healthy assertiveness thus.
Assertive self-expression is direct, firm, positive- and, when necessary, persistent action intended to promote equality in person-to-person relationships. Assertiveness enables us to act in our own best interests, to stand up for ourselves without undue anxiety, to exercise personal rights, without denying the rights of others, and to express our feelings and needs (affection, love, friendship, disappointment, annoyance, anger, regret, sorrow) honestly and comfortably.
If assertiveness is a behavior trait, what are the other types of behaviors we tend to operate with, in contrast?
In general, we all tend to display one of three types of behaviors:
Non Assertive Or Passive: Here, we operate in a self-denying, inhibited, and dishonest manner. We allow others to dominate unwilling to take control, more worried about the other person’s feelings.
Aggressive: This behavior is the polar opposite of passive, where it is self-enhancing at the expense of others. It is driven by ego, wanting to be right always, and seeking to control others.
Assertive: This is the middle ground where we act directly, honestly, and respectfully while standing up for our self-interest.
There is a lot of material in the book about assertive behavior. But broadly, it all comes down to a few simple factors.
It Is Ok To Say No
We often have this uncertainty-what if the other person takes it badly, particularly when they are higher in the power hierarchy. Most people appreciate it if someone has the confidence to say no because there is no ambiguity.
Assertiveness follows confidence. When you are prepared, you are naturally confident, and this confidence enables you to stand your ground in when challenged in conversations.
Avoid Getting Emotional
We end up reacting aggressively when we are emotional. You can be assertive when you are detached and neutral. This is something my mother taught me in practice. Whenever I wanted something, I would whine, throw tantrums, etc. She would be stoic and Icy calm, and I would fall in line immediately.
In the highly interconnected world we live in today, being assertive is an essential skill that everyone needs to be effective at anything. Only when you can stand for your own self-interest can you go beyond to create a broader impact in the world.