There is a lack of clarity about the meaning of ‘assertive behaviour’ and ‘assertiveness’ – assertion is sometimes equated with ‘aggression’. One explanation for this as a response to a woman’s assertive stance is that, to some, often men, a woman expressing herself is regarded as being unacceptable i.e. aggressive! All the more reason for learning and practising assertion skills. Because, for sure, that is NOT what it is.
‘Being assertive is essentially about respecting yourself and others. It is about having a basic belief that your opinions, ideas, feelings thoughts and beliefs are as important as anybody else’s – and that goes for other people too’; quote from ‘Assertion Training: How to be Who You Really Are’ by Shan Rees and Roderick Graham, published by Routledge in 1991.
The aim of assertive behaviour is to create a situation where all concerned feel respected and that they have gained something from the communication.
Some Tips for Assertive behaviour:
1. SELF-AWARENESS. Start with this. Aim to become aware of your thoughts, needs, attributes, opinions, feelings, beliefs, qualities, talents – all of it. Know thyself. And accept yourself – please. If you don’t, why should anyone else do so? In order to live fully in the world as who you really are, it is important you acknowledge all of yourself. And accept it. Yes, I’ve said that twice. You may want to fine-tune some aspects, but that can only happen if you accept who you are now first. Being assertive towards yourself is the first step.
2. LOVE YOURSELF. Yes, it’s similar to 1. And it involves an active commitment to being who you are and living authentically. A good way of making decisions is to ask yourself ‘If I was really loving myself, what would I do or who would I be now?’ And following through on the answer. It means making sure you have enough enjoyment in your life; that you live your values; give yourself treats, tell yourself the truth about your emotional state and about your needs; express yourself, sound your note in the world. In a nutshell, it’s about giving yourself the best opportunity to be your best self.
SAYING YES AND SAYING NO. Sometimes, you need to say ‘no’ to others in order to say ‘yes’ to yourself. It’s important to know what is acceptable to you in terms of how you spend your time and energy; and what is in alignment with your purpose. Creating boundaries is an assertive act, and is a part of teaching others how you want to be treated. Usually, there is a gut instinct which tells you whether you want to say yes or no to another’s request; and the skill is trusting and respecting that. Rather than giving attention to or worrying about the other party’s response to your ‘no.’ When you are true to yourself, the world benefits.
TAKING RESPONSIBILITY. In Assertion Training courses, I often ask ‘What percentage responsibility do you think you have for your own life?’ If someone gives less than 100% as an answer, I ask who they think is responsible for the rest—A common answer is ‘circumstances.’ Um. Who is responsible for the response to the circumstances? YOU! It is very pleasing and satisfying to take responsibility for all you do and be. There is a wonderful clarity and feeling of empowerment and confidence about making clear choices from a place deep inside yourself. If your choice does not bring the circumstances you hoped for – no problem; simply adjust for the future. No-one to waste energy on blaming. Just you doing your best. Who can deny that feels good? In which area(s) of your life could you have fun with taking more responsibility?
5. EVERYBODY WINS. In an Assertive communication, the plan is that each person gains. Whatever the subject matter, the other person is always treated with respected and the person initiating the conversation is mindful of speaking in such a way that they feel this. Not barging in with a request, comment or whatever regardless of where the other is at or what they are doing; rather choosing the moment with care.
I am planning online Assertion Courses – and am also available for face-to-face groups. You can contact me through my website www.livingexcellently.co.uk