Assertive communication skills: What does being assertive mean?

Being assertive is a communication skill that sits halfway between passivity and aggressiveness. It is often confused (when it shouldn’t) with the latter, since assertiveness implies defending our position firmly and persistently. And yet, assertiveness means much more than expressing our viewpoint. It is definitely a communication skill we must develop.

When we interact with others on a regular basis, we tend to adopt aggressive or passive stances. Expressing oneself inappropriately is often the result of lack of self-confidence. Assertiveness, however, is not considered passive or aggressive, but rather a balanced behavior. Being assertive means expressing one’s thoughts and feelings in an honest, straightforward and correct way. It implies respecting the thoughts and beliefs of others, while we defend our own.

Adequately expressing feelings and desires requires important personal and interpersonal skills. In our interactions with other people, whether at home, at work, or with clients or colleagues, assertiveness can help us express ourselves clearly, openly and reasonably, with no need to disregard others in the process.

Passive behavior / assertive behavior

Identifying a passive or non-assertive behavior is simple: people who behave in this way are continually looking to please and fulfill the wishes of others. They have a strong need to be valued, and so their actions are solely focused towards pleasing others, taking the risk of undermining individual rights and self-confidence. This type of behavior is characterized by leaving responsibility in somebody else’s hands and accepting leadership and decision-making in their stead.

For example, in this video of Lippy the lion and Hardy Har Har, who do you think is letting someone else make decisions for him?

The best way to correct these behaviors is to learn how to say “no”, if we are at some point tasked with a job for which we do not have the time or from which we cannot get any benefit.

Aggressive behavior / assertive behavior

When a person acts aggressively, they ignore the feelings of others and almost never show appreciation towards them. Such attitudes can result in undesirable consequences for those who are communicating, as aggressiveness often hinders the taking of positive steps forward. An aggressive response favors in turn a non-assertive answer (either passively or aggressively).

You may be intererested: The Importance of Communication Skills [Top 10 Studies]

Assertiveness – How to be assertive?

  • Do not let other people impose orders on you if these go against your principles or desires. Avoid getting manipulated.
  • Assertiveness involves communicating your viewpoint without anyone walking all over you, while respecting others.
  • Do not let anyone offend or threaten you. This way, you will avoid situations which cause you stress or anxiety. Assertiveness acts as a shield against refusal and humiliation; it is an attitude towards success.
  • Being assertive means being open to expressing thoughts, desires and feelings. Encourage others to do the same.
  • To be an assertive person you should listen to the opinions and advice of others. If the advice is good for your life, take it. If not, reject it gently and no one will be offended.

Behaviors that reinforce this skill:

  • Take responsibilities and delegate.
  • Compliment others regularly on their achievements. Admit your mistakes and apologize when you are wrong.
  • Don’t be a conformist; look for new experiences and alternatives to improve your professional and personal life. That’s what you need to reach happiness.

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