What is Assertiveness
Assertiveness is a core social skill that can help relieve feelings of depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, overwhelm and improve relationships, improve mental and physical health and help you be happier. The reason why assertiveness is healing is because it can help you grow your emotional intelligence, help you be more authentic and vulnerable, and help build healthy friendships and relationships – all of which are extremely valuable to your health and happiness. We know that social isolation and loneliness are very bad for your health. Assertiveness skills have a lot to offer in helping you build the social connections and relationships that will help you be well loved and happy, which is the point of my blog and YouTube videos.
So exactly what is assertiveness? We can’t base our definition of assertiveness on some dictionary definitions because some of them clearly get it wrong. Assertiveness is NOT being confidently aggressive or aggressive or forceful. That is not what assertiveness means in any way. Let’s look at the components of assertiveness as a way to define it:
- Communication between people where you are expressing your wants, needs, feelings or thoughts while being respectful of the rights of others.
- Respect for others- this is an integral ingredient of assertiveness.
- Sets boundaries
- It is not passive nor is it aggressive
Represented on a continuum, assertiveness would look like this:
On a continuum you can see that both passive behaviors and passive-aggressive behaviors are at either ends of the continuum and represent opposite ends. Passive behaviors would include being emotionally dishonest, being indirect, denying your own needs, and self-inhibited. This is not healthy behavior. Passive-aggressive behavior is not healthy either and because it is so common, I have included in this post behaviors that often indicate someone is being passive-aggressive as well as the negative impacts passive-aggressive behavior can have on your life and wellbeing.
This is a skill set that we are not usually born with. Depending on the level of dysfunction in your family growing up, you may have more or less trouble learning to be assertive. The research indicates that between 70-96% of Americans have grown up or are growing up in dysfunctional families, which often leaves people feeling wounded and unhappy. And all of which means that it is time for healing and self-compassion. And while you are on this journey to healing and having a happy life, I hope you will enter my giveaway for free prizes going on until July 2021.
My Personal Journey into Assertiveness
My Mom gave me the “Your Perfect Right” assertiveness book by Robert Alberti and Michael Emmons when I was in high school! What a blessing that was. I mean I can’t even put into words how that changed my life – how I looked at life, how I felt about myself, and how it changed the way I looked at life. It was a pure gift. It was a defining moment in my life and at such a young age. It was helpful with my friends, some teachers, my clubs and activities and at work – all as a high school student. While I can’t go back and say how my life would have gone without this skill, yet it is clear to me how I grew because of it. It changed some of the decisions I made before graduation because I knew that I had value and worth and my feelings mattered. Thank you, Mom!
Assertiveness is a skill set that anyone can learn, practice and grow over time. To make the most out of assertiveness skills it really is extremely helpful to understand some basic psychology concepts like projecting, gaslighting, denial, passive-aggressive behaviors and cognitive dissonance because that will help you better make sense of life and what is happening when your assertiveness skills don’t seem to be enough, which is why I recommend that in the steps to becoming assertive section.
There are so many actions that you can take, which will help you become more assertive. For me, I found becoming assertive to be very freeing. I am such a fan that I believe that this should be required in grade school because we have too many adults who can’t be assertive.
One Assertiveness Technique
While there are several different assertiveness techniques, for the sake of simplicity I will share one that I find easy and direct: “I – Statements”. With “I – Statements” you are stating your own thoughts, feelings, needs, wants and desires in first person. By owning your thoughts, feelings, needs and wants you remove the blaming others and take responsibility for yourself.
- “I understand that you have several critical jobs to do and you are very busy, however I need your help with this particular project. When can you meet with me?”
- “When you don’t invite me to lunch with the guys, I feel excluded and unimportant.”
- “I know you are busy with life, and I want you to know that I understand that. I would like you to try to keep to the schedule we established or give me more notice if you have to break your commitment.”
- “When you do X or say Y at our office meetings, I feel that my contributions to the team are less important than other team members. When is a good time for us to sit down and talk about this?”
- “When I have to keep asking you to do the same thing repeatedly, it makes me feel that you don’t respect me or value our relationship.”
- “I feel dismissed and demeaned when you do X, Y or Z, and that doesn’t feel good. Let’s talk about what is going on that you are doing that.”
- “I love it when the girls all get together. Could you please include me the next time you are going out because I have been feeling a little left out?”
Suicide Warning/Mental Health Waiver
If you have any thoughts of suicide or harming yourself or others please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or call 911 immediately. Please call someone, tell someone or post it on social media and ask for help right now! We have more people suffering from depression, anxiety, and negative emotions than ever before, which means that you are in good company. I am asking that you take a specific action if you are feeling suicidal or that harming yourself because your life matters more than you realize and because there is help available to you. I am not a licensed mental health professional or in the field of medicine. You should get your medical advice from a licensed medical professional. Although my posts are research and experience based, they do not constitute medical advice since I am not a medical professional in any capacity.
Roadblocks to Being Assertive
- Low self-esteem
- Lack of knowledge or skills
- Not believing that you matter
- Fears: ridicule, rejections, failure, retaliation, etc.
- Looking for or wanting love and acceptance
- Uncertainty-you are unclear about what you want
- High stress
- Personal insecurities
- People pleaser: overly sensitive or considerate of the needs of others
- Lack of emotional skills
- Lack of communication skills
- Not wanting to be viewed as selfish
- Worried about hurting the feelings of another person
- Misguided beliefs about assertiveness
- Bad past experiences with being assertive
- Abuse or maltreatment in childhood
- Passive personality: let other people decide for you
- Lack of clarity of purpose, desires or boundaries
Benefits to Being Assertive
- Raises self-esteem
- Increases self-confidence
- Helps facilitate better communication
- Improves your relationships
- Better for your mental health
- Better for your physical health
- Provides for an authentic life
- Helps grow your emotional intelligence and abilities
- Improves outcomes of different situations
- It feels better
- Helps reduce depression and anxiety
Negative Impacts of Passive-Aggressive Behavior
- Divorce, friendships ending family estrangements
- Increased stress in relationships and social connections
- Poor credibility at work
- Increased frustration
- Communication issues
- Poor personal or professional reputation or both
- Lack of connectedness to people
- Physical health problems
- Emotional problems
- Feelings of isolation
- Higher stress levels in general
- More unhappiness
- Anxiety disorders
Possible Signs of Passive-Aggressive Behavior
These are possible or likely signs that passive-aggressive anger could be in play.
- Negative gossip
- Hostile joking
- Repetitive teasing
- Negative criticism
- Sullen behaviors
- The silent treatment
- Social exclusion
- Two-faced behaviors
- Intentional button pushing
- Breaking agreements
- Deliberate failure
- Negative orientation
Steps to Becoming Assertive
- Growth and Development: Becoming awake and aware of what you are thinking, how you feel, how you are perceived by others and understanding how other people feel is extremely valuable. Everything under the broad umbrella of growth and development will help you have a rich and happy life.
- Read up or watch YouTube videos: The book titled “Your Perfect Right” by Robert Alberti and Michael Emmons, first published in 1970, is a classic resource on this subject. There is plenty of free material online to help you grow your assertiveness skills.
- Take on Self-Care like it matters: Self-care is one of the foundations for a happy and healthy life and it is going to help you feel better in life. The better you feel about yourself the easier it will be to be assertive since low self-esteem is one reason why some people find it challenging to express themselves. While self-care includes several components, getting enough quality sleep is one significant part of it. It is critical and you can find ways to make it both fun and enjoyable. I highly recommend making your life fun and enjoyable as much as you can!
- Growing your self-compassion: Taming your inner critic will go a long way to helping you to appreciate yourself and your good qualities, which is very helpful in becoming assertive particularly in people who are hard on themselves – a very pervasive condition in society.
- Be Well Loved: Feeling well loved is not only amazing, but it will also help you feel good enough about yourself to understand that your opinions, feelings, thoughts and desires matter, which is one of the things often missing when people don’t feel like they can be assertive. You want to have being well loved on your list of life goals.
- Have really great friends: Having great friends who love and support you will go a long way to not only help you feel like you matter but also to helping learn assertiveness skills. Friends are really important to human health because they can help reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation and really bring joy to your life. Most people I talk to will admit that they don’t have enough good friends and making friends is hard. Making friends is actually a life skill worth learning, so I have several YouTube videos on making friends (a whole playlist). Everyone needs friends – and no bad people, shady people, backstabbers, or the like. You want people who have character and integrity.
- Practice difficult conversations: Being able to be assertive is a skill set. Being able to have difficult conversations and have them go well is also a set of skills. I strongly suggest that you practice any conversations that might be difficult because that will increase the likelihood that the outcome will be positive or at the very least better than if you didn’t practice at all.
- Ask for help: There is no reason to be ashamed or embarrassed if you need help in life. We are meant to help our fellow human beings. If you are feeling ashamed or embarrassed that you need help, then it is definitely time for growth and development for you (see #1 above). You are not expected to be perfect. Everyone needs help now and then. Just ask for the help that you need!
- Don’t let fear stop you: Fear is one of those emotions that stops people in life. It grips people and they don’t know what to do. This is a powerful emotion to master and it can be mastered as a skill set – dealing with fear.
- Grow your emotional abilities: Growing your emotional abilities will help you in every single area of your life. It will help you feel better, do better professionally, make more money, and provide life satisfaction. It will definitely help you become assertive. One particular emotion that would be helpful to grow and develop is your anger skills. We are not very good as a culture or society with anger, yet anger can be healing in nature.
- Learn a few basic psychology concepts: Understanding a few basic psychology concepts, especially the self-fulfilling prophecy and passive-aggressive anger will help you in every area of life and will be extremely helpful when you are learning to become assertive.
- Don’t give up: You might get discouraged if things don’t go as well as you expected when you try being assertive. Don’t give up! This is an extremely valuable skill that you want to have in your life. You want to have this skill in your life. It will help you in every single area of your life. If your first few attempts at being assertive don’t go your way, keep trying. Practice. Just don’t quit!
Call to Action
How assertive are you in your life? Is this an area that you can see would be helpful? I sure hope so! Being assertive has so many benefits! You want to be able to share your feelings, your thoughts, your desires, wants and needs in a positive, respective manner that doesn’t diminish or demean other people. This will help you in so many ways! What are you willing to commit to today to get going on the road to assertiveness? What help do you need? How can I help you? Please leave me a comment with what you need! And, don’t forget to share this with the people you know who could benefit from this content! And please subscribe to my blog for future posts on how to be happy even when life is really, really hard!