Understanding assertiveness

Your guide to assertiveness

At its simplest, assertiveness is a human quality which means being self-assured and confident about yourself. The ability to assert oneself does not necessarily imply being domineering in any way. In fact, many people agree that assertiveness is a form of confident self-expression without being aggressive. Although it is tied up with a number of human behaviours, including body language, assertiveness is often most associated with the ability to communicate clearly and precisely without caveats or doubts. As such, it is often linked to other areas of self-confidence, such as the esteem people hold themselves in. In short, more assertive people tend to be more confident, better grounded and have a good level of self-esteem. Various self-help books are available to assist people who want to become more assertive.

What is assertiveness in psychology? 

According to nearly every psychologist and psychotherapist, being assertive is a human trait that can be learned. As opposed to an innate behaviour, assertiveness is acquired just like any other skill. As such, being assertive is often seen as something that mirrors the ability to communicate well. In other words, when unassertive people are taught techniques for expressing themselves more clearly and with greater confidence, they will start to be able to assert themselves better. Unassertive people will have often suffered setbacks in their self-confidence which, once rebuilt by undergoing certain therapies, means they become more assertive down the line.

Can assertiveness be bad?

Few people have a problem with others behaving in a self-confident, assertive manner. However, some of the communication techniques used in being more assertive - for example, repeating the same thing again and again - can turn individuals off. Indeed, when assertiveness goes too far, it is often seen as being pig-headed or even overbearing. Arrogant people are often seen as being too assertive. As such, there is a balance to be had between being too assertive and not assertive enough.

What is meant by assertiveness training?

People who feel they are not assertive enough can train themselves by using several self-help techniques. Of course, these are sometimes taught in training sessions, too. Victims of crime can find that assertiveness training will be offered to help them recover, for example. Techniques involved include ideas like 'fogging' which means being able to find common ground with another person who is asserting themselves but maintaining the ability to disagree in parts.

How can you develop greater assertiveness?

Becoming more assertive is a skill that can be learned, but it usually means building it up rather than simply turning it back on. Any techniques that build self-confidence are useful, such as being able to speak up in front of others in a non-judgemental environment. Finding new ways of expressing emotions can also help. Finally, a sound understanding of one's legal rights in any situation is beneficial for greater assertiveness.

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