What is assertiveness?

Being assertive means having the ability to express your needs and feelings clearly and firmly without disrespecting or undermining others. Assertiveness is a healthy behavior that enables you to communicate in a prosocial manner.
Being assertive means having the ability to express your needs and feelings clearly and firmly without disrespecting or undermining others. Assertiveness is a healthy behavior that enables you to communicate in a prosocial manner.

Being assertive means having the ability to express your needs and feelings clearly and firmly without disrespecting or undermining others. Assertiveness is a healthy behavior that enables you to communicate in a prosocial manner. Assertive people express themselves in a firm, direct and positive manner. They are persistent in communicating their thoughts whenever necessary with the intention of promoting equality in interpersonal relationships. The virtue of equality is the key to assertiveness. An assertive person does not demand undue favors. Rather, they emphasize saying and doing what is fair. Assertive people do well in life because they know their needs and priorities and they have the ability to respectfully communicate them. They are go-getters because they do not passively go with the flow. Assertiveness may be a natural trait, but for many, it is achieved with practice. Most people are either passive (they would agree with whatever others say) or aggressive (they will forcefully thrust their opinions on others). An assertive person has the following main qualities:

  • They can express what they feel.
  • They confidently share their opinion.
  • They can say no without feeling guilty.
  • They unapologetically say what is fair even when it is in someone else’s favor.
  • They can disagree with people respectfully.
  • They offer suggestions and ideas comfortably with people.
  • They exude self-confidence without unnecessary pride or anger.

What is the difference between assertiveness and aggression?

Being assertive helps you express yourself in the best possible way. Assertiveness can, however, be confused for aggression.

Table. Difference between assertiveness and aggression

Assertiveness          Aggression     
It means expressing your thoughts and needs clearly and confidently without disrespecting other people. It means forcing or thrusting your opinion on others without respecting them.
Assertive people are self-confident. Aggressive people are overly confident and boastful.
Assertiveness makes you express what is right and fair. Aggression makes you focus on achieving your needs without any concern about what is fair.
Assertive people are resilient (they can deal gracefully with criticism, setbacks and rejections). Aggressive individuals cannot accept criticism, setbacks and rejections. They often have a loud and sometimes violent reaction to unfavorable situations.
Assertive behavior involves respecting and empathizing with other people’s rights and needs. Aggression involves overlooking and undermining others’ needs and feelings.
Assertive people are great listeners as well. Aggressive people have poor listening skills.

How can I become assertive?

Assertiveness is a great virtue because it:

  • Helps you meet your needs better.
  • Helps control anger and resentment.
  • Helps you achieve respectful and positive personal and professional relationships.
  • Minimizes arguments and conflicts.
  • Makes you feel content.

You can practice becoming assertive by following these tips:

  • Be aware of what you feel, need and think.
  • Listen to other’s opinions without being overly influenced. Speak, but also let others express themselves.
  • Express your opinion when asked. For example, if you are asked what you liked about a presentation or a person, speak what you think rather than saying you are not sure.
  • Practice asking for things that you need. You may begin it by asking your friends and family. For example, you can ask your friend to save you a seat at the theater.
  • Disagree with people without being disrespectful. For example, if you dislike or do not agree with what someone said, you can express yourself by saying “In my opinion…” or “According to me…” instead of “That is completely wrong…” or “That is such a nonsense…”
  • Look at the face of your listeners when you speak. Your confident statements will be valued with confident body language. Do not try escaping gazes or looking at the floor while communicating.
  • Do not use words that sound exaggerated, such as “always” and “never.” For example, if someone comes late, do not say “You are never on time,” or “You are always late.” Instead say that “This is the third time you are 15 minutes late.”
  • Keep practicing assertiveness and be kind to yourself and others. Praise yourself for even the small improvements you make.
  • Maintain a journal and note the changes you may like to make in your life and the best way to convey it to those concerned.

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Medically Reviewed on 3/8/2021
References
Medscape Medical Reference

The Peak Counseling Group


Mind for Life