Take Charge of Your Life Through Assertiveness

Reviewed Oct 19, 2015

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Summary

  • express thoughts, opinions and wants in a direct way
  • treat others fairly and with respect

You are at a very nice (and expensive) restaurant with that special person. Your food arrives late, overcooked and with a large helping of “attitude” from your waiter. After dessert, Mr. Attitude delivers the check, a condescending smirk and robotically asks, “How was everything”? You are thinking, other than the food and the service, everything was just dandy. Do you tell him what you really think? Do you ask to see the manager? Or do you bite your tongue, fork over your credit card and communicate your displeasure via your tip?

Your neighbor calls you with her bi-weekly crisis and frantically asks if you will watch her children—“just for a half hour or so”—because she has an important errand to run. Like always, she shows up 60 minutes late with that exasperated tone, explaining that this or that happened, and that you are “such a dear” for helping her out. “I owe you a big one,” she says, as she bustles the children out the door. She never offers to watch your children, not that you would let her, but nevertheless you are feeling used and abused once again.

You and your sweetie have been standing in the ticket line at the movie theater for 15 minutes. It is cold and the movie is about to start. Just ahead of you, a young couple invites 6 of their late arriving friends to join them in the front of the line. You are livid. A quiet murmur among the patrons quickly swells into shouts and accusations. The fur is about to fly.

Know when and how to assert yourself

How do you cope with situations like the ones described above? A little assertiveness may help.

Assertiveness has been described as a personality trait and social competency. Simply stated, it is expressing one's thoughts, opinions and wants in a direct way. Being assertive also means treating others fairly and with respect—while respecting yourself. Knowing when and how to assert yourself can be a wonderful asset in the work and social environment.

Assertiveness exists on a continuum between passivity and aggressiveness. Being too passive often leads to bottled-up resentments that eventually spill out on unsuspecting others. Being aggressive can lead to guilt and remorse and even violence. People who continually assert their needs often are perceived as pushy, dominating and self-centered, especially by unassertive people. Balance is the key.

Are you assertive? If not, take heart in knowing that assertiveness is a skill that can be acquired through learning and practice.

Make it your choice

Assertiveness is also connected to self-esteem, communication style and values. It should be noted that putting the needs of others ahead of your own does not make one unassertive: Our world could use a lot more genuine charity, but charity is a choice to sacrifice your convenience, comfort or resources for the sake of someone else or the common good.

Many joyfully give to friends or even strangers in need, and at the same time have no problem hanging up on telephone solicitors who try to extort money by manipulating their emotions. These people are assertive and charitable.

Use offensive and defensive skills

As in most sports, assertiveness involves offensive and defensive skills. On the offensive side, assertiveness is a skill used to communicate our needs, wants and desires to others. Asking to use someone’s cell phone because your battery died and you have to call the office is an example. Politely requesting that your spouse quit wearing aftershave that smells like lime Kool-Aid is another. It is often just asking a favor from someone you would not normally ask. The worst thing that can happen is that they can say no, which does not really matter because being assertive focuses on effective communication, not on the outcome.

On the defensive side, assertiveness protects and maintains our position, rights, comforts and boundaries. Asking the neighbor kid to turn down the volume on his car stereo or confronting that snooty waiter are common examples. We cannot make people change their attitudes or selfish behavior, but we can make them aware of the effects their choices have on us. Assertiveness often is a call to a standard of fair play and good manners.

Tips

  • Stay in the present situation as much as possible. “It is not fair to me or to the others who have been waiting in line to cut in at the front.”
  • Stay with the facts. “We waited 35 minutes for our food and when it arrived it was cold and you did not come back to check with us.”
  • When appropriate, state your feeling or how you have been affected. “I am hurt that you forgot our lunch date once again.” Or, “Please slow down. Your driving is scaring me.”
  • Say what you want. Get to the point. “I want my money back” or “Please do not ever call here again.”
  • Do not assume to know someone’s motives. Just because someone is acting badly does not necessarily make him a bad person. Stick to the facts at hand.
  • Do not get hung up on the outcome. You can only deliver the message. How it is received is up to the other person.

Remember, assertiveness is about your integrity, not the integrity of others.

By Drew Edwards, MS

Summary

  • express thoughts, opinions and wants in a direct way
  • treat others fairly and with respect

You are at a very nice (and expensive) restaurant with that special person. Your food arrives late, overcooked and with a large helping of “attitude” from your waiter. After dessert, Mr. Attitude delivers the check, a condescending smirk and robotically asks, “How was everything”? You are thinking, other than the food and the service, everything was just dandy. Do you tell him what you really think? Do you ask to see the manager? Or do you bite your tongue, fork over your credit card and communicate your displeasure via your tip?

Your neighbor calls you with her bi-weekly crisis and frantically asks if you will watch her children—“just for a half hour or so”—because she has an important errand to run. Like always, she shows up 60 minutes late with that exasperated tone, explaining that this or that happened, and that you are “such a dear” for helping her out. “I owe you a big one,” she says, as she bustles the children out the door. She never offers to watch your children, not that you would let her, but nevertheless you are feeling used and abused once again.

You and your sweetie have been standing in the ticket line at the movie theater for 15 minutes. It is cold and the movie is about to start. Just ahead of you, a young couple invites 6 of their late arriving friends to join them in the front of the line. You are livid. A quiet murmur among the patrons quickly swells into shouts and accusations. The fur is about to fly.

Know when and how to assert yourself

How do you cope with situations like the ones described above? A little assertiveness may help.

Assertiveness has been described as a personality trait and social competency. Simply stated, it is expressing one's thoughts, opinions and wants in a direct way. Being assertive also means treating others fairly and with respect—while respecting yourself. Knowing when and how to assert yourself can be a wonderful asset in the work and social environment.

Assertiveness exists on a continuum between passivity and aggressiveness. Being too passive often leads to bottled-up resentments that eventually spill out on unsuspecting others. Being aggressive can lead to guilt and remorse and even violence. People who continually assert their needs often are perceived as pushy, dominating and self-centered, especially by unassertive people. Balance is the key.

Are you assertive? If not, take heart in knowing that assertiveness is a skill that can be acquired through learning and practice.

Make it your choice

Assertiveness is also connected to self-esteem, communication style and values. It should be noted that putting the needs of others ahead of your own does not make one unassertive: Our world could use a lot more genuine charity, but charity is a choice to sacrifice your convenience, comfort or resources for the sake of someone else or the common good.

Many joyfully give to friends or even strangers in need, and at the same time have no problem hanging up on telephone solicitors who try to extort money by manipulating their emotions. These people are assertive and charitable.

Use offensive and defensive skills

As in most sports, assertiveness involves offensive and defensive skills. On the offensive side, assertiveness is a skill used to communicate our needs, wants and desires to others. Asking to use someone’s cell phone because your battery died and you have to call the office is an example. Politely requesting that your spouse quit wearing aftershave that smells like lime Kool-Aid is another. It is often just asking a favor from someone you would not normally ask. The worst thing that can happen is that they can say no, which does not really matter because being assertive focuses on effective communication, not on the outcome.

On the defensive side, assertiveness protects and maintains our position, rights, comforts and boundaries. Asking the neighbor kid to turn down the volume on his car stereo or confronting that snooty waiter are common examples. We cannot make people change their attitudes or selfish behavior, but we can make them aware of the effects their choices have on us. Assertiveness often is a call to a standard of fair play and good manners.

Tips

  • Stay in the present situation as much as possible. “It is not fair to me or to the others who have been waiting in line to cut in at the front.”
  • Stay with the facts. “We waited 35 minutes for our food and when it arrived it was cold and you did not come back to check with us.”
  • When appropriate, state your feeling or how you have been affected. “I am hurt that you forgot our lunch date once again.” Or, “Please slow down. Your driving is scaring me.”
  • Say what you want. Get to the point. “I want my money back” or “Please do not ever call here again.”
  • Do not assume to know someone’s motives. Just because someone is acting badly does not necessarily make him a bad person. Stick to the facts at hand.
  • Do not get hung up on the outcome. You can only deliver the message. How it is received is up to the other person.

Remember, assertiveness is about your integrity, not the integrity of others.

By Drew Edwards, MS

Summary

  • express thoughts, opinions and wants in a direct way
  • treat others fairly and with respect

You are at a very nice (and expensive) restaurant with that special person. Your food arrives late, overcooked and with a large helping of “attitude” from your waiter. After dessert, Mr. Attitude delivers the check, a condescending smirk and robotically asks, “How was everything”? You are thinking, other than the food and the service, everything was just dandy. Do you tell him what you really think? Do you ask to see the manager? Or do you bite your tongue, fork over your credit card and communicate your displeasure via your tip?

Your neighbor calls you with her bi-weekly crisis and frantically asks if you will watch her children—“just for a half hour or so”—because she has an important errand to run. Like always, she shows up 60 minutes late with that exasperated tone, explaining that this or that happened, and that you are “such a dear” for helping her out. “I owe you a big one,” she says, as she bustles the children out the door. She never offers to watch your children, not that you would let her, but nevertheless you are feeling used and abused once again.

You and your sweetie have been standing in the ticket line at the movie theater for 15 minutes. It is cold and the movie is about to start. Just ahead of you, a young couple invites 6 of their late arriving friends to join them in the front of the line. You are livid. A quiet murmur among the patrons quickly swells into shouts and accusations. The fur is about to fly.

Know when and how to assert yourself

How do you cope with situations like the ones described above? A little assertiveness may help.

Assertiveness has been described as a personality trait and social competency. Simply stated, it is expressing one's thoughts, opinions and wants in a direct way. Being assertive also means treating others fairly and with respect—while respecting yourself. Knowing when and how to assert yourself can be a wonderful asset in the work and social environment.

Assertiveness exists on a continuum between passivity and aggressiveness. Being too passive often leads to bottled-up resentments that eventually spill out on unsuspecting others. Being aggressive can lead to guilt and remorse and even violence. People who continually assert their needs often are perceived as pushy, dominating and self-centered, especially by unassertive people. Balance is the key.

Are you assertive? If not, take heart in knowing that assertiveness is a skill that can be acquired through learning and practice.

Make it your choice

Assertiveness is also connected to self-esteem, communication style and values. It should be noted that putting the needs of others ahead of your own does not make one unassertive: Our world could use a lot more genuine charity, but charity is a choice to sacrifice your convenience, comfort or resources for the sake of someone else or the common good.

Many joyfully give to friends or even strangers in need, and at the same time have no problem hanging up on telephone solicitors who try to extort money by manipulating their emotions. These people are assertive and charitable.

Use offensive and defensive skills

As in most sports, assertiveness involves offensive and defensive skills. On the offensive side, assertiveness is a skill used to communicate our needs, wants and desires to others. Asking to use someone’s cell phone because your battery died and you have to call the office is an example. Politely requesting that your spouse quit wearing aftershave that smells like lime Kool-Aid is another. It is often just asking a favor from someone you would not normally ask. The worst thing that can happen is that they can say no, which does not really matter because being assertive focuses on effective communication, not on the outcome.

On the defensive side, assertiveness protects and maintains our position, rights, comforts and boundaries. Asking the neighbor kid to turn down the volume on his car stereo or confronting that snooty waiter are common examples. We cannot make people change their attitudes or selfish behavior, but we can make them aware of the effects their choices have on us. Assertiveness often is a call to a standard of fair play and good manners.

Tips

  • Stay in the present situation as much as possible. “It is not fair to me or to the others who have been waiting in line to cut in at the front.”
  • Stay with the facts. “We waited 35 minutes for our food and when it arrived it was cold and you did not come back to check with us.”
  • When appropriate, state your feeling or how you have been affected. “I am hurt that you forgot our lunch date once again.” Or, “Please slow down. Your driving is scaring me.”
  • Say what you want. Get to the point. “I want my money back” or “Please do not ever call here again.”
  • Do not assume to know someone’s motives. Just because someone is acting badly does not necessarily make him a bad person. Stick to the facts at hand.
  • Do not get hung up on the outcome. You can only deliver the message. How it is received is up to the other person.

Remember, assertiveness is about your integrity, not the integrity of others.

By Drew Edwards, MS

The information provided on the Achieve Solutions site, including, but not limited to, articles, quizzes and other general information, is for informational purposes only and should not be treated as behavioral health care or management advice. Please direct questions regarding the operation of the Achieve Solutions site to Web Feedback. If you have questions related to workplace issues, please consider contacting your human resources department. ©2017 Beacon Health Options, Inc.

 

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