How Can Assertiveness Be Easily Explained?
Let’s explore how can assertiveness be easily explained. It may often be confused with aggressiveness and it is important to understand that they are not the same. When you function assertively, you are better positioned to achieve a win-win position in communication. That should be your ultimate goal.
Of course, no one is able to be assertive 100% of the time. The key is being aware of your behaviour, what your cause and effect are and how you allow the behaviours of others to impact you.
Have you ever heard that saying?
It is very true when it comes to assertiveness. This is why knowing yourself is the key. You want to do your best to avoid people and situations that negatively impact your behaviour and cause you to move from assertiveness to unnecessary passive or aggressive actions.
Both can be very destructive.
1. What Passive Behaviour Looks Like
Before we get into assertive behaviour, let me share some insights about the other types of behaviours. This will help you to relate better with yourself and make the changes necessary to achieve effective communication. That is the goal of assertive behaviour.
Passive behaviour is played out as quietness, procrastination, exclusion, grumpiness, back talk and refusal to participate. There is usually very little expression or verbal communication but rather loud and intimidating body language. You may find yourself having to pry and prod to get any verbal feedback at all. When you do, it may well be caked in sarcasm.
The point to note here is that passive behaviour may not be verbally expressive but there is a lot being communicated. Depending on the research you read, 70-90% of behaviour is non-verbal. So, for you to get the messages that are being sent through passive behaviour, you have to be more attentive.
That means you have to listen and observe more and with focused intent.
2. Aggressive Behaviour Violates Others
When someone is behaving aggressively, more often than not, they are violating the rights of others. There is a tendency to be exaggerated with one’s actions, words and emotions. This is a different kind of intimidation. The kind that feels as though it is hitting out at you for no reason or with destructive intent.
If someone is behaving aggressively they may be described as having a “short fuse” and seem to be somewhat impulsive with their interactions. This behaviour negates the value of someone else’s contributions and dismisses them altogether sometimes.
It is also one of the most unhealthy behaviours to try to have any engagement with. Having to build yourself up to receive this manner of behaviour frequently can eat away at you and eventually hit your very core. Even the most assertively behaving individuals can break with continuous aggressive behaviour being thrown at them.
Aggressive behaviour is selfish behaviour that is concerned only with dominating and overpowering others.
3. How The Pendulum Swings
Perhaps the most harmful and destructive of the behaviours is what is termed passive-aggressive behaviour. It may be very hard to detect this behaviour and that makes it more difficult to manage and address. It can be deceptive and make you feel as though you are trying to hit a moving target.
On the surface, passive-aggressive behaviour appears to be calm and reserved. However, under the surface, there is a very different scene being played out. There is incongruency. What is being said is not what is being felt or done. This behaviour is conflicted.
When the passive-aggressive behaviour is eventually brought to bear, it is expressed as anger, hurt, deep sarcasm, loudness and exaggerated physical actions that become threatening. when in this state of behaviour, it is hard to control and find a path back to balance and containment.
ESTHER PEREL ANSWERS THIS CRITICAL QUESTION –
“How can I be assertive and confident, without being aggressive and arrogant?“
4. Assertiveness Responds To The Situation
Now that you have a good handle on what assertiveness is NOT, let’s explore what it looks like.
I describe assertive behaviour as being appropriate for the situation at hand. Note that I did not say it is equally responsive behaviour but rather that it is appropriate and situational. This is a very important point to remember.
Let’s say that someone gets you angry and you choose to say nothing about it but rather hold your anger in until you meet again to express your thoughts and feelings. Now, let’s say that the second encounter is during a family get-together and your behaviour towards him/her – for no apparent reason – is curt, sarcastic and confusing to everyone.
You would be behaving inappropriately in the situation.
What you have done is leave one situation open and carry forward your feelings and actions into a new situation that was not connected to the first.
In other words, you did not assert yourself and behave with your thoughts, feelings and behaviours aligned. To function assertively, you must be congruent.
5. Boundaries Support Assertive Behaviour
Being an introvert, setting boundaries with others always came easy to me. Actually, at times, setting boundaries became too extreme for me and I had to learn how to manage it better. My boundaries were much too off-putting to others and it resulted in me being perceived as being aloof and distant.
As I learned how my behaviour impacted others, I took a concerted effort to become more aware of the feelings and intentions of others. This led me to the realisation that many people were just like me, cautious introverts whose boundaries were preventing them from asserting themselves.
Changing how I set boundaries made a big difference to my communication and relationships.
Instead of putting up thick walls, I set different boundaries for different people in my circles and for different situations.
I started by sharing a little more about myself and my intentions before engaging in difficult conversations and discussions. Instead of confronting people unexpectedly, I now share a little of the issue beforehand and ask for a mutually convenient time and place to work it through.
Those are different boundaries that welcome inclusiveness and invite respect. Over the years, as my approach has matured, my experience is that others gravitate towards me for support, guidance and assistance with their own behavioural issues.
6. Know Your Role
This is one of the most beneficial things that you can do for yourself, your communication and your relationships. Role Analysis helps you to understand the many facets of your human functioning and how your behaviour directly affects your outcome in each area.
Ordinarily, you would not think about your behaviour this way but practically, it is what I consider to be your behavioural engine-room. Getting a handle on this one life theory can positively impact your assertiveness in a major way.
You may be a human being but your roles will vary constantly. Here are some of the many roles that you may function in on a daily basis:
- Business Owner
Each one of those roles requires different behaviours in different situations. More often than not, roles will overlap demanding that you quickly adapt your behaviours to what is required. There is no defined line and time does not always allow you to be ready.
You may be in the role of Manager, having a difficult performance conversation with one of your Direct Reports when one of your children calls you because they need help with an urgent situation. Telling them to call you back because you are having a conversation at work will not be behaving assertively.
In addition, your firm tone and manner may well require a change to assure your child that you are empathetic and understanding of the urgency of the situation. Attention has to be paid to making the necessary adjustments as you move from managing one situation to managing the other.
Many persons, carry over their behaviours from one situation to another and do not function with an awareness of the need to change because they are in different roles.
It is the downfall and destruction of many relationships over time.
Closing Thoughts . . .
Assertiveness is often confused with being aggressive but they are very different. When you behave assertively, you are congruent and your thoughts, actions and behaviour are aligned. There are no mixed messages and understanding the intent of your messages is much easier.
It also does not mean that you have to be loud, forceful or demanding. When you function assertively, you encourage inclusion and healthy communication. There is allowance for everyone to have a voice, be heard and participate.
Being assertive requires you to be aware of your behaviour, the situation(s) you are in and the outcomes you desire. It is helpful as well to know how your behaviour impacts others and to adapt according to the results you want to achieve.
As with anything else worthwhile, it requires concerted effort and a lot of practice.