Tuesday, July 14, 2009

I'm Sorry, I Thought That Was Assertive

Recently I have been involved in researching what assertiveness truly means. My experience has been that aggressiveness and selfishness are often confused with assertiveness. You see someone in line at the cafe barking an order that they said non-fat not 2% milk- NOT assertiveness. A co-worker asking you to cover their shift while walking out the door- NOT assertive. On the flip side, not saying anything about the 2% milk when you truly wanted non-fat. Also, not confronting the co-worker who assumes you will just cover their shift. These are also NOT assertive, or good for both parties.


Assertiveness is a form of communication in which needs or wishes are stated clearly with respect for oneself and the other person in the interaction. Assertive communication is distinguished from passive communication (in which needs or wishes go unstated) and aggressive communication (in which needs or wishes are stated in a hostile or demanding manner).
Kristalyn Salters-Pedneault, PhD, About.comCreated: February 19, 2009 Reviewed by the Medical Review Board

Dictionary definition:
Assertive; Adjective; confident and direct in dealing with others; assertively adv assertiveness n Collins Essential English Dictionary 2nd Edition 2006 © HarperCollins Publishers 2004, 2006


It seems that there is a balance to assertiveness- sorta like a continuum. As anything learned (trust me, we aren't born "assertive") these things are journeys- we don't always get things right the first or second time.

What I LOVE about assertiveness is that the basis of it is meeting the needs of both parties. Not violating the rights/respect of one for the other. Also, I am really on an authenticity kick right now and assertiveness is directly tied to being authentic to yourself. If this assertiveness thing could happen just a little more in our lives, it could possibly lead to more harmony!?! Maybe that is my forever optimist speaking...

Assertiveness reduces stress??

I do know for a fact that Assertiveness Training is prescribed to some for stress management. This is something that I truly believe works to reduce stress and get your needs met- wherever you happen to be at the moment. From personal experience- using assertiveness techniques can be a freeing experience. It makes sticky situations more clean and simple feeling. It has given me a tool to stop wasting energy. I can't tell you how cool it is.

I own this book called The Relaxation & Stress Reduction Workbook by Martha Davis, Ph.D., Elizabeth Robbins Eshelman, LCSW, and Matthew McKay, Ph.D. In this book are a bizillion tricks to being less stressed (I HIGHLY suggest this book it is AWESOME). Maybe I'll do a few reviews on my fav parts. Anyway, one of the techniques in this book is Assertiveness Training, the professionals suggest it for Anxiety in your personal relationships (spouse, parents, children, etc.)Depression, hopelessness, powerlessness, poor self esteem and Job Stress. Wow... sounds depressing. But there is hope! Cue Assertiveness!


The LiveStrong website has a post about assertiveness that is GREAT. There is a quiz, research and suggestions for development. All excellent. The author is James J Messina, PhD, is a licensed psychologist with more than 35 years of experience.

Part of the post explores myths about assertiveness. I really think our culture (or the expectations we have about our culture) can inspire non-assertiveness. Here are the myths that really struck me:

Myth 2, Modesty: The inability to acknowledge or say positive things about and to accept them from others. Some people fear that positive self-statements seem egocentric. They fail to discriminate between the accurate representation of accomplishments and over exaggeration.

"Myth 3, Good Friend: This myth assumes that others can read my mind based upon our past relationship, e.g.: "She should have known how I felt" or "My husband should have known how hard I have been working and given me Saturday morning free." One must remember that individuals don't always respond in the same manner to the same situation."

Myth 4, Obligation: This myth indicates that some people disregard their personal needs and rights due to a belief in personal obligations to others. They are often unable to make requests of others they project that others feel the obligation to meet their needs, too. This myth, along with the others, facilitates neither self-respect nor the development of open, healthy relationships.

It can't work ALL the time...
I am a pretty optimistic person- but I am also realistic. I realize that being assertive doesn't always feel great or right, sometimes it doesn't lead us to our preferred outcome. Sometimes it even makes others uncomfortable. However, it is a process and a learning experience. We know now that being assertive DOES lead to a better outcome more often than not. It also helps us move forward with our relationships, our self esteem and our rights.

So. Where does this leave us? My suggestion: Google assertiveness or read the article about it from the LiveStrong website and decide what is best for you. Is this an issue for you? Most likely, there are areas in all of our lives that we could be more assertive. Use assertiveness to the advantage of yourself and others.

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