Assertiveness is the quality of being self-assured and confident without being aggressive. In the field of psychology and psychotherapy, it is a learnable skill and mode of communication. ~ Wikipedia
Please reread the above definition, but this time try to list as many of the keywords or phrases that you find. Write them down.
Got it? Okay, so here they are:
– ‘Quality’ – in this respect, a personality trait.
– ‘Self-assured and confident’ – understanding your worth and portraying a poised attitude.
– ‘Without being aggressive’ – assertiveness is not aggressiveness – it is relaxed and thoughtful; not forceful or brash.
– ‘A learnable skill’ – Assertiveness is a trait that can be developed.
– ‘Mode of communication’ – Assertiveness is evident through both verbal and non-verbal means of communicating.
Why Being Assertive Is Crucial
Now that we have a contextual understanding of assertiveness, let’s talk about its role in our lives.
We’ll all concede that the world is full of problems. Should you feel the need to convince yourself, flip on the local news and watch for five minutes! It helps to have a disposition of assertiveness when things get hairy.
We all experience good, bad, and neutral relationships. Many have had someone (many times, a trusted someone) betray, harm, or unjustly oppose them.
The relationship dynamic of human beings has been illustrated using a summarized version of ‘The Parable of the Sheep,’ which involves three characters:
– The Wolves: Default mode is aggression and violence; they prey on the sheep. They act without a conscience.
– Sheep: Innocent and loving; yet at times meek and passive. They are targets of the wolves.
– Sheepdogs: Also benevolent and loving, yet have the capacity for swift action. Sheepdogs protect themselves, the sheep, and stand up to the wolves.
What differentiates sheepdogs from wolves is their concern for the welfare and safety of others; acting with a purpose and with intelligence, and having a healthy mindset. Should the need arise, the sheepdog will act swiftly and definitively, though it is neither their default or preferred state of being.
In this story, the sheepdog is an ideal example of assertive behavior.
“That’s great,” you may think, “but how does this apply to me?” Well, although this article focuses on assertiveness and relationships, it is relevant to many areas of your life, including:
– Work: doing what needs to be done.
– Home life: taking care of family, friends, and responsibilities.
– Self-discipline: being persistent and not acting whimsically.
– Goal achievement: having a purpose and a plan for life.
Relationships and Assertiveness
Relationship-wise, assertiveness is acting in a manner appropriate for the person and situation. In relationships, the assertive person:
– is respectful at all times
– communicates directly, honestly and openly
– tactfully says what needs to be said
– humbly explains what they need or want
– acts in an honorable, virtuous manner
As stated, assertiveness is a learned trait.
In the context of relationships, here are eight things assertive people do differently:
1. They know their intention
Before you initiate a discussion or raise an issue, your intention should be well understood. When you engage in a semi-serious talk without having a plan (the requisite knowledge, how to present ideas, etc.), you risk losing the attention of the person on the other end. A lack of intention is a lack of assertiveness.