Assertiveness is the ability to honestly express your opinions, feelings, attitudes, and rights, without undue anxiety, in a way that doesn’t infringe on the rights of others. It’s not being aggressive, but it’s a middle ground between being a bully and a doormat. It’s dependent on a feeling of self-efficacy, a sense that if you behave in a certain way, something predictable will occur.
Many of us are taught that we should always please and/or defer to others, or that it is not nice to consider our own needs above those of others, or that we shouldn’t “make waves”, or even that if someone says or does something that we don’t like, we should just be quiet and try to stay away from that person in the future. None of these count as assertive behavior of course but what does the term “assertive” really mean?
We hear the word assertive used all the time, but do we share a common understanding of what it means to be assertive? In practice assertiveness is both a philosophy, or way of thinking and/or being in our interactions with others, as well as a type, or way of communicating with others. That is, assertiveness can be demonstrated by the words that we use as well as the attitude we project. Recognizing assertiveness, or lack of it, therefore requires depth of perception, mainly because interactions between people are often subtle, filled with nuance and unvoiced meaning. There are often several levels of interpretation to many interactions that are heavily influenced by the motivations of the parties involved. Sometimes manipulation can be used to attain personal goals. Many people may wish to be more assertive at times. However it is important to realize that this goal involves taking a deeper look at interactions with others and more at what we are doing avoid being more assertive.
The “Assertiveness style assessment” -see link below, (which suggests that people use four distinct assertiveness styles of “Aggressively controlling”, “Passively observing”, “Warmly proposing” and “Firmly asserting”) gives individuals the opportunity to carry out a self-assessment in terms of the assertiveness style they most often adopt, their secondary style and even their tertiary style (plotting the results on a four-quadrant grid for maximum visual impact). Individuals end up with a personalized report of results which also then shows where efforts to improve their efforts to be more assertive may be focused in the future, including specific steps to “flex” their style to better deal with the many different situations they are likely to encounter. The $15 spent on this assessment is therefore well-worth the investment in taking it.