Excerpt from the Cultivate Life! eBook Assertiveness
The dictionary defines assertiveness as, "confidently self assured" a fairly good description of what most of us hope to be, confident and self assured. The question always becomes am I assertive? Am I too assertive? Am I assertive to the point of being aggressive? No one wants to be known as aggressive just as they do not want to be known as a push over. The goal is to find that fine line in between too much and too little assertiveness. Balance if you will, so that you know when to let go or when to give a little bit.
The study of assertiveness has a lot to do with how you establish personal boundaries for yourself and for others around you. Most people fall into three categories the first being passive where they let people overcome their personal boundaries. If you are one of these people you probably find yourself saying yes to things you do not want to do or letting others take credit for your work. Most of the time you fall into these traps because you are afraid to speak up for yourself. This sort of behavior leaves you feeling manipulated and abused. If you see yourself as the victim in many scenarios then you might be too passive.
The second type of person falls in that confidently self assured category. You are unlikely to let yourself be manipulated. However, you are also willing to take on extra work when necessary and let others have their way when it is appropriate. This type of person generally feels good about their decisions and in control of their own destiny.
A third type of person is assertive to the point of aggression. If you are unwilling to compromise or let another persons voice be heard you are likely viewed by others as aggressive. You might have a "my way or the highway" perspective on life. It is quite likely that your social circle consists of a few close friends who view you as the big dog and you like it that way. The problem with this personality is that no one person is right all the time. You probably take advantage of and manipulate others without realizing it.
The goal of falling into the middle of the assertiveness scale is that you will be more successful in life and have better personal and work relationships. Being assertive simply means that you know how to express your feelings and how to assert your own rights while still being respectful of another persons rights. If you do this you will not have as much conflict with other people in your life. Both passive and aggressive people tend to live in a world that is filled with discord and drama. This is due to their inability to talk about their feelings and desires in a constructive way.
Some of the problems that come into play when we try to be more or less assertive have to do with social norms in our culture. Assertive woman are often thought to be overbearing or unpleasant while some men who are assertive to the point of aggressive are merely considered go getter's. Both of these depictions are damaging and difficult to overcome. Because these sort of opinions are so prevalent a female might be scared of becoming more assertive or as a male you might fear losing respect or status if you give in to the will of another.
The transition to an assertive person might be painful or scary. But, you will probably find that if you learn how to communicate your feelings properly people will be more receptive then you expected. For passive persons you might be surprised at how happy your spouse is when you decide which movie to see or where to go for dinner because it has taken the pressure off of them. Aggressive people will happily find that more people want to talk to them and share ideas because they are no longer scared of being disrespected for their opinions.
Both parties will find that they feel better because there is less conflict in their lives. Conflict leads to stress. Stress leads to a multitude of issues physically and mentally.
Your blood pressure and heart rate are affected when there is a lot of stress in your life. You might overeat or drink too much as a way to quell the conflicting emotions you experience. Many of these issues are solved by simply owning your feelings and learning how to communicate them to others.
We say simply, but we all know that communication is a difficult skill to perfect. The thing to remember is that communication is a two way street. You get to say what you want and how you feel and you must allow others to do the same. Even in disagreements, proper communication can allow both parties to leave the conversation feeling successful.
How Assertive Are You?
10 Questions To Find Out
- Do you say yes even when you do not want to do something? For example, are you the mom who always volunteers even when you know you do not have time to make three dozen cupcakes? Do you then stay up all night even though you are bone tired making said cupcakes all the while feeling resentful of the other moms who said no and cursing them under your frosting laden breath?
- Are you indecisive? Do you get to the point where weighing the pros and cons of a particular situation goes overboard and you just give up? When you make decisions do you find yourself considering every possible option and how it will effect everyone except you?
- Do you feel guilty when you ask others for help? Alternately do you expect others to just do things for you that you could easily do yourself and get angry with them if they refuse?
- When you are shopping do you find yourself getting sucked in to a sales pitch to the point where you feel guilty walking away without making a purchase? Even if you can not afford or do not want a particular item do you buy it just so the salesman will leave you alone?
- What is your reaction if someone cuts you off in traffic or in front of you in line? Do you blow up and yell, curse, or make rude gestures to them? Do you back off and turn your anger at them inward instead?
- If someone disagrees with you do you make fun of them? Do you assume that they are crazy or uneducated because their opinion is different from yours?
- When you make mistakes do you admit them? If you do not admit them is it because you are embarrassed or because you refuse to admit that you were wrong about something?
- In your social circle are you the always the one who make plans or are you always following along whether the group is doing something you enjoy or not?
- When you must talk to people in authority positions do you feel nervous or anxious?
- When you receive a compliment does it make you feel proud or embarrassed?
- How do you feel about giving someone a compliment?
The way that you answered the questions above have probably helped you to understand a little bit more about your assertiveness personality. You might have realized that you are passive in most situations and would like to change that behavior. Being assertive means getting the things that you want or doing the things that you want to do, with in reason, over the will of others.
Just the fact that you are taking the time to read about how to become more assertive is a step in the right direction. Being willing to help yourself become more assertive, and happier in turn, is a big step. Being comfortable and confident in the way you vocalize your opinions and desires can help you in each facet of your life. Whether you are looking to improve your communication skills at work, home, or with friends a little assertiveness goes a long way.