How to be Assertive
Probably the most often asked question we are asked as trainers and coach is, how can I be more assertive?
Some people confuse being aggressive with assertion and even to some extent when we are submissively aggressive.
So, before we can become more assertive we need to be clear and have agreement to what it is.
We hope you are going to enjoy and find useful a number of ideas, techniques and tools associated with assertion as we continue this theme in subsequent blogs.
We’ll start looking at
• What assertion is
• How assertion or the lack of it has developed in us
• And the benefits of behaving assertively.
Submissive or non-assertive behaviour is when we
fail to stand up for our rights or do so in such a way that other people
can easily disregard them
express our thoughts, feelings and beliefs in apologetic, cautious or
fail to express our views or feelings altogether
Submission is based on the belief that our own needs and wants will be seen by others to be less important than their own. Typical of submissive behaviour are long, justifying explanations often putting ourselves down whilst attempting to accommodate the needs and views of others.
Aggressive behaviour is when we
stand up for our own rights in such a way that we violate the rights of
express our thoughts, feelings and beliefs in unsuitable and inappropriate ways, even though we may honestly believe those views to be right
Aggression enhances us at the expense of others and can put another person down. It is based on the belief that our opinions are more important than other people’s. It is characterised by blaming other people or outside factors, by showing contempt and being hostile, attacking or patronising.
Assertive behaviour is when we
stand up for our own rights in a way that does not violate another person’s rights
It leads to an honest, open and direct expression of our point of view which, at the same time, shows that we understand the other person’s position.
Suppose a public holiday is approaching and you are asked to take on some extra duties because of the rush. You are already fully committed and feeling stretched and over-worked. Here are three answers you might give in reply to the request:
A submissive answer:
“Well, I don’t really have any spare time at the moment, but I suppose I could fit it all in. I’ll manage to rearrange something, I expect, er……………OK, I don’t mind.”
An aggressive answer:
“You must be joking! Just before the holiday? I’m up to my ears already here. There’s no way I’ll manage that as well. You’ll have to find somebody else.”
An assertive answer:
“I appreciate that you need these jobs done, but I don’t see how I can fit them in at the moment. I would like to help so can we look at some alternative ways of tackling them?
WHY PEOPLE BEHAVE AGGRESSIVELY OR NON ASSERTIVELY
No one behaves assertively, aggressively or submissively all the time. People vary their behaviour between all three and are more likely to react aggressively or submissively (rather than assertively) in a conflict situation. This is to do with the level of their self-esteem.
Self-esteem is the evaluation we make and hold about ourselves. It is the high or low level at which we believe ourselves to be competent, likeable and successful.
If our self-esteem is low, then we feel anxious when a conflict arises. We feel insecure and threatened by the situation and the people in it. It is a basic instinct when we feel threatened either to hit out (aggression) or turn to the defensive (submissive). This can be seen in animals as well as in people.
Another reason why aggressive and submissive behaviour occur is that they appear to have some advantages, e.g. aggressive behaviour is often successful in getting us what we want. It can give us a sense of power over others and help us to release bad feelings such as anger and frustration, i.e. to let off steam.
Submissive behaviour can defuse a conflict very quickly by avoiding it. It helps us escape the anxiety of a confrontation. It also helps us to avoid feeling guilty about letting someone down or upsetting them.
Because there are these advantages to aggressive and submissive behaviour there is little incentive to change. There are however many more benefits to assertion.
ADVANTAGES OF ASSERTIVE BEHAVIOUR
Close working relationships; assertion tends to breed assertion, so people work more happily with us than against us. We are then with their help more likely to achieve our objectives in a conflict.
Greater confidence in you: we develop a strong regard for ourselves and a high level of self-esteem, reducing the chance of boastfulness (aggression) and hopelessness (submission).
Greater confidence in others: We have a healthy recognition of the capabilities and limitations of others as opposed to seeing them as inferior (aggression) or superior (submission).
Increased self-responsibility” We take responsibility for ourselves our wants, opinions, needs, rather than blaming others or excusing ourselves.
Increased self-control: we can channel our thoughts and feelings to produce the behaviour we want, rather than being controlled by outside events or people, or inner emotions.
Savings in time and energy: we can take decisions more swiftly based on their individual merit and save time when handling disputes. A lot of time and energy is wasted or worrying and scheming. If we are not worried about upsetting people or scheming how not to miss out then we can save ourselves a lot of stress.
An increased chance that improbable as it sometimes everyone can win. Assertiveness increases the likelihood that all parties will see their needs met, their ideas and opinions heard and considered and their abilities put to good use.
If you are assertive these are some of the things you do:
1 Value yourself.
2. Give yourself credit – don’t always depend upon others for it.
3. Can say “I don’t understand”, or “I don’t know”.
4. Have opinions and accept others.
5. Make mistakes – be responsible for them and learn from them.
6. Can criticise in a constructive way.
7. Can accept criticism.
8. Change your mind.
9. Refuse when you have the right to and need to.
10. Judge your own behaviour, thoughts and emotions and take responsibility for their initiation and consequences upon yourself.
11. And here is a chance to add your own………
These views are our experience based on the work we have been doing across the globe working with people at all levels and from all walks of life……but…..what is your view …..we’d love to know?
If you want to know more without waiting for further blogs you can purchase our new book, Assertiveness – how to be strong in every situation or enrol on one of our Communication and Assertiveness training courses that we run throughout West Sussex.
If you want to speak with us direct we have amazing big listening ears and you’ll find us at the end of a phone wanting you to call. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com or telephone +44 (0)1903 778977