People shy away from being assertive because they associate it with brash and aggressive behaviour. However assertiveness is not about being brash, aggressive or unpleasant. Assertive behaviour involves standing up for your rights in a way that does not violate another person’s rights.
- Expressing our needs, wants, opinions and feelings in a direct and honest manner.
- Saying “Yes” only when we mean “Yes”.
- Saying “No” when we want to say “No”.
- Understanding that other people have rights.
- Defending your position.
- Having a positive, optimistic outlook.
- Listening attentively.
- Communicating clearly.
- Standing up for yourself.
- Being decisive.
Being assertive has benefits:
1) Better prospect of your needs being met.
Assertive people communicate their opinions, feelings and needs in a clear manner. If nobody knows what you want because you don’t speak out, you will get what you are given, not what you want or need. If people know what you want, you are more likely to get it, than if you keep your needs to yourself.
2) Ownership/ Responsibility for your life
When we are assertive we do not let others impose their ideas and values on us. We communicate our needs and opinions, we also defend our position.
When we are assertive our “No” is “No”, and our “Yes” is “Yes”. We also know that we have a right to change our mind, should we wish to do so.
When we are passive (not assertive) we say “Yes” when we really want to say “No”. Subsequently we find ourselves doing things we don’t want to do, and in situations we would rather not be in. We hand control of our lives to others. We lose ownership of our own life. When we are assertive we take ownership and responsibility for our lives.
3) Increased confidence in yourself
Speaking up for yourself, being able to say “No” and being able to say “Yes” only when you mean “Yes”, will give you a confidence boost.
Even if you do not get what you want (nobody gets what they want all the time) you will have the sense of satisfaction that comes from speaking up and standing up for yourself.
4) Promotes well-being
Passive people get angry with themselves for not having their needs met. They worry that they will appear selfish if they make requests. They are stressed out for taking on more than they can handle. They are anxious that they may find themselves in awkward work or personal situations.
With studies indicating suppressing negative emotions such as anger, anxiety, and depression are important risk factors for coronary heart disease, being constantly passive is not recommended.
Assertive people are not bothered that they will not be liked, if they do not go out of their way to be helpful. . Their freedom to speak up in a direct and honest manner means that they are not bottling up their true feelings. Consequently they are lowering their risk of coronary heart disease.
5) Earns you the respect of others
When we are assertive we are honest and direct about our feeling, needs and opinions, thus people know what we stand for. The win-win approach to resolving issues which assertive people adopt signifies to others that they are fair-minded. Standing up for ourselves whilst recognising and respecting the rights of others further earns us the respect of others.
“Once you have a major success with assertiveness, you learn that it’s a much healthier path than being a doormat to the insensitive folks. You gain respect for yourself, have more time for your priorities, and develop authentic and healthier relationships.” – Doreen Virtue
The writer is the founder of I_Adjomah; a soft-skills training company. She supports individuals and teams to develop interpersonal and relationship-building skills that enable them to communicate and collaborate effectively.
She also runs Bolton Institute; a WASSCE remedial school in Accra and is the founder of the personal development website; www.alessordinarylife.com.