There’s a common misconception that being assertive means being loud, brash, and aggressive. In other words, the type of person who blows through a room like a hurricane and leaves a trail of destruction behind.
In reality, that’s not what assertiveness is at all. Assertive behaviour isn’t about being aggressive or overbearing. Nor is it about trampling over other people and dismissing their needs.
Assertive behaviour is characterized by awareness; it balances self-awareness with an awareness of others. When you have that awareness and you combine it with appropriate actions and healthy responses, it leads to better, stronger relationships.
Listed below are five healthy, assertive behaviours. You might find yourself feeling a bit awkward when you first put these behaviours into practice. But if you work on things gradually and stick with it, you’ll appreciate the impact as you witness your relationships start to improve.
1. Show respect when communicating with others.
Respect for other people is one of the key distinguishing features between assertive and aggressive behaviour. When you're being assertive, you’re not trying to overpower or dominate someone else. Instead, you’re operating from the premise that all parties, yourself and others, deserve to be treated in a decent, respectful way.
How do you demonstrate respect when communicating with others? A good starting place is being a good listener. Give the person speaking your full attention. Refrain from interrupting. Strive to understand the meaning, concerns, and needs being communicated through the words.
2. Communicate clearly and directly.
Clear and direct communication doesn’t mean you need to impulsively express every thought that pops into your head. There’s value in exercising discretion and discernment to determine what needs to be said, and when it should be said.
However, once you’ve determined that you need to say something, aim to be clear and direct in how you say it. Don’t beat around the bush and expect others to figure things out. Don’t be vague and expect others to read your mind. Don’t drop hints and expect others to “just know” what you want. Whatever is going on in your head may seem obvious to you, but that doesn’t mean it’s obvious to others.
3. Look for ways to achieve a compromise.
Being assertive doesn’t mean you insist on getting your own way all the time. When you put in the work to reach a mutually agreeable compromise with someone else, you demonstrate consideration towards the other person without neglecting your own needs and priorities. This is a healthy, mature way to manage relationships.
Demanding that everyone cater to you all the time isn’t reasonable. On the flip side, ignoring your own needs while you constantly cater to the needs of others isn’t reasonable either. Both approaches create distance in a relationship. Over time, it’s highly likely the individual who is capitulating will become resentful.
4. Admit when you’re wrong.
Assertive behaviour goes hand in hand with self-confidence and personal responsibility. That includes the confidence to admit when you’re wrong and the willingness take responsibility for your mistakes.
This kind of truthfulness and openness demonstrates humility. You’re letting people know that integrity matters more to you than maintaining the illusion of a perfect, flawless image. This contributes to relatability and trust, both of which help to deepen and strengthen relationships.
5. Manage your emotions.
While assertive behaviour encompasses the ability to express yourself, that doesn’t mean giving free rein to your emotions. Self-control and the ability to manage your emotions is paramount.
Flying off the handle or over-reacting in the heat of the moment causes you to say and do things you might regret later. In the vast majority of day-to-day situations, a deliberately chosen, considered response is far more beneficial than an emotion-fuelled, knee-jerk reaction.
Conclusion: if you have a negative view of assertive behaviour and you’re afraid it might be detrimental to your relationships, it’s time for a rethink. The assertive behaviours listed above are healthy and constructive, both for you as an individual and for your relationships.
Image Credits: Wladynosz from Pixabay
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