Being assertive involves being clear about your own needs, capacity and rights and standing up for them. This is expressed in direct, honest and appropriate ways. Assertiveness means being open, flexible and genuinely concerned with the rights of others. Assertiveness is neither aggressive (where you consider yourself before the rights of others) nor passive (where you are unable to stand up for your own rights) but midway between the two. Being assertive involves saying “no” when you need to, asking for help when necessary, and asking questions when a task or role is not clear to you.
Most people are passive in some situations, assertive in others and aggressive in others. But we all make stressful situations for ourselves when we behave in a passive or aggressive way.
Being Assertive is…
Expressing positive feelings:
- expressing affection
- giving compliments
- receiving compliments
- making requests and ask for help
- initiating conversation
- expressing appreciation
Expressing negative feelings:
- expressing justified annoyance
- expressing feelings of hurt
Standing up for your rights
- making complaints
- refusing requests
- expressing personal opinions and refusing to be put down
Why are we not assertive?
- Fear that our request will be turned down
- Anxiety about embarrassing someone who does not wish to do what we would like them to do
- Being brought up to be “polite”
- By doing what others want us to do we expect to be praised or liked
- Schools usually reward quiet and obedient children
- Often we don’t realise that there is an alternative to the extremes of non-assertiveness and aggressiveness
- Some cultures strongly discourage assertiveness e.g. the advice is to “turn the other cheek”.
- We may not be sure about what rights we have.
The Assertiveness Loop
By being assertive you will be more confident, less punishing of others, less anxious, less frustrated and less tense. Being more confident can, in turn, help us to be more assertive. Being more assertive can also help to improve relationships with those around us.
How therapy can help
At Therapy Central we can support you to find ways to improve your assertiveness in various areas of your life. We will work with you to explore the obstacles you face in being more assertive and find ways to address these. It may be that you wish to receive therapy primarily to help you to become more assertive. Or possibly you wish to receive therapy to focus primarily on emotional difficulties, such as anxiety, depression and/or low self-esteem, and associated with these emotional difficulties you struggle to be assertive which is something you would also like help to address.