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What does it mean to be assertive?


What does it mean to be assertive?

Graham Smith

Whenever I write, or talk about being assertive, especially when to a mainly female audience, I find myself first starting by explaining the difference between being assertive and being aggressive.

The reason?

Probably because far too often, women who behave in an assertive way are called aggressive by others. I am not intending to fill this post with examples of how women are treated differently in the workplace when it comes to certain attributes, (you know, the sorts of situations where a man would be called a natural leader, yet the women behaving the same would be described as bossy?).

Let's put that aside for another time and just understand why it can be much more helpful when communicating with others, personally or professionally, to recognise what these terms mean and how to best use them.

Assertiveness is NOT about being loud and aggressive and always getting your own way. That IS aggression.

Similarly, keeping quiet and going along with everyone else, letting them get their way, regardless of the impact on you, isn't always the best way to behave. That's being passive.

Passive-aggressive is another quite common term and usually involves manipulation of other people, and avoiding responsibility for having your own needs met.

Most of us have a tendency towards one or other type of behaviour, although it is very common to be able to shift along the continuum from aggressive to passive, depending on the particular situation.  

So now we have outlined what assertiveness isn't - what then is it?

It is about letting others know what it is you want, in a direct, calm and confident way. Crucially it involves being honest about your feelings and opinions, whilst at the same time listening to the other person's point of view. It is a brilliant skill to use when dealing with conflict or difficult situations and, most importantly, it is a skill that can be learned.

Now whilst I do full day workshops on assertiveness, if you read my previous blog post, you will know that I think holiday time is really in need of some honest communication. (No, I don't mean telling the kids that Santa is not real) - oops I hope I haven't spoiled things for too many of you adults out there.

So whether your family arguments are about who has taken the best chocolates from the tin - if all the purple ones are missing, that will be me - where you are going to go on the big day (Usually the most contentious) or which film you watch (again), maybe encouraging everyone to be honest and open rather than sulk or shout, could be a recipe for calmer, more pleasant times together.

Staring on Saturday 13th December, I will be posting a tip a day in the '12 days of assertiveness' on this blog as well as on our Facebook page and groups.

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Successful Women page - please like and share if you want to continue to get tips and advice

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