Assertiveness is one of my favorite topics because it offers a very concrete set of tools, which I will explain in this and other articles. The exciting part about assertiveness is that once you truly master it, it will improve your communication with your friends, family, children, and business associates. The assertive response can reduce your stress tremendously.
To break up the big wall of text in this article, I have interspersed some carefully selected books from Amazon on assertiveness. Some of these are available in Kindle or Audible format. Since people tend to learn in different ways, it would probably help to purchase a text or audio to help you on your journey to becoming more assertive. (As a disclaimer, the links when you click on the photos are my affiliate links. There is no extra cost to you, but I earn a small commission if you decide to make a purchase. That’s how I make the small bucks.) Here are some free resource on assertiveness also to help you on your journey.
What is assertiveness?
Many people don’t really understand what assertiveness is. What is assertive behavior? Well, let’s begin by looking at what it is NOT. Assertiveness is NOT aggression. It is not passivity. And it is not passive-aggression.
An Example of the Assertive Response
Let’s imagine that someone asks you to do something you don’t want to do. For example, suppose you always take out the garbage and you are sick of it! And someone asks you to take out the garbage. You want to say no, but you don’t want a fight — ah, you don’t want a fight…Assertiveness is about expressing your needs while respecting the other person. Click To Tweet
Let me take a moment for a time out here. Some people are extremely confrontational and it is a problem for them because they get angry or violent and they get in trouble. Assertiveness is for them. Other people, however, AVOID confrontation, HATE confrontation, and will do ANYTHING to not have a confrontation. Interestingly, assertiveness is ALSO for them! This is why I love assertiveness. Assertiveness is about expressing your needs while respecting the other person. But, back to our example…
So, you’ve been asked to take out the garbage and you don’t want to do it. Here are the possible responses:
Aggressive: “I am not taking out the stinking garbage! I always do it and you can do it yourself!”
Passive: “Ok. I’ll take out the garbage.”
Passive-Aggressive: Either saying you will take it out and then not doing it OR saying you will take it out and then adding a sarcastic, “Is there anything else I can do for you while I am at it?”
How does assertiveness help?You may not always get what you want by being assertive, but you stand up for yourself in a way… Click To Tweet
Notice how in the assertive response you don’t get angry. You don’t put anyone down. Instead, you simply state the facts and what you want. You may not always GET what you want by being assertive, but you stand up for yourself in a way that is kind and straightforward. There are many specific techniques to being assertive and we will discuss these in detail, but that is an example of assertive behavior to help you understand the assertive response.
More examples of the assertive response:
I will provide two more examples of assertiveness used well, one from my own life, and one from a good friend of mine:
Example 1: Riding the bus…
When I was younger, I used to take the bus. Often, because I am sometimes forgetful, I would forget to purchase my bus pass prior to the first day of the month. The bus driver recognized me and knew I was going to buy a bus pass, but he really liked to spend this one day “shaming” me about why I had not purchased the bus pass and he really made me feel very small and stupid.
You would think that I would decide never to forget to purchase my pass on time again. But, alas. However, what I did decide was never to be bullied by him again. The next time I forgot to purchase a bus pass on time, I said to him, “I am afraid I forgot to purchase my bus pass on time. I apologize. Would you like me to pay the ticket price today?”
He started to say something and then realized that he could not say anything mean. I had already admitted my error and offered to pay full price (and meant it). He looked utterly defeated and said, “No. I guess not. Just get on the bus.” That was the day I learned the power of assertiveness — it is NOT being mean. If anything, it is the opposite of being mean. However, it is not allowing yourself to be pushed around.
Example 2: Getting mugged?
The second story is about my friend. He was walking home from the bar with his girlfriend and a couple of friends when some thugs stopped them and tried to pick a fight. His friends were starting to get into it with the thugs and his girlfriend had removed her stiletto heel to use as a weapon. But my friend stayed calm. He looked the “thug” in the eye and said, “Hey, man. We were just at the bar and now we are walking back home. That’s our plan. You want to beat me up? That’s up to you.” The “thug” thought about it for a few moments and then smiled and said, “No, man. You’re cool,” and let them go.
Now, I don’t guarantee that you can talk yourself out of any situation that way, but the assertive response is a powerful technique. Assertiveness is really a set of powerful techniques and it takes practice to master them. The main point is showing respect (but not fear) for the other person and his/her point of view, but also standing up for your own point of view.
Sometimes just stating the situation can help, “You seem really upset. I don’t feel I have done anything wrong, but I am sorry to see you so upset. Is there anything I can do?” Being direct can be surprisingly effective.
However, it takes a lot of work and effort to learn assertiveness. Start small with people you can trust.
Here is some more information on assertiveness to get you started on your journey. As I mentioned, I will be also writing more detailed articles in the coming days and weeks.