Understanding Assertiveness

What it means to be assertive

People can often confuse being assertive with being over confident or even being somewhat aggressive, but this is not the case.  Being assertive simply means that you are able to express yourself and make it clearly understood what you want and what your boundaries are in a confident, nonaggressive and respectful manner.   

The ability to assert yourself is a useful social skill to have, as not being able to communicate your opinions, thoughts or needs can cause you problems at work, in relationships and friendships, as well as in daily life and all manner of social settings.

People who are assertive are more likely to stand up for themselves and are less likely to be the victim of bullies or suffer with stress, anxiety or depression.  They are also able to take constructive or negative criticism as easily as they can accept a compliment, without getting angry or resentful.  The ability to be assertive is often associated with having a good sense of self-worth, confidence and self-esteem.

The negative effects of not being assertive

When you struggle to assert yourself it can leave you feeling stressed, anxious and frustrated.  If you’re unable to make people listen to your thoughts and opinions, it can have a negative effect on your confidence and feelings of self-worth.  This is because in effect the message your sending to people is that your opinion doesn’t count.  It can also lead people to believe that you will just agree to do whatever they want, and they can start to take advantage of this for their own ends.  This can result in relationships and friendships feeling one sided causing feelings of resentment and anger that you feel unable to release.  Being unable to express your opinions or boundaries can also make you more likely to be the victim of bullies who may see you as an easy target.

How to become more assertive

Learning to be more assertive is about finding the right balance between being passive, in other words not being assertive enough, and being aggressive or coming across as arrogant.

Whilst it isn’t going to happen straight away, you can learn to recognise your wants and needs, and how to express these verbally in a positive way. Learning to say no to people will help, as will commenting in a positive manner saying I disagree rather than saying no that’s wrong.

How to get help

There is information available on line, to help you discover ways you can teach yourself how to improve your feelings of self-esteem and confidence, whilst also improving your ability to assert yourself more.  If you struggle to assert yourself, and this has had a negative effect on you, leaving you feeling anxious or depressed, then you should contact your doctor who can help you to manage these conditions, whilst you work on being more assertive. 

They could also refer you for talking therapies like, counselling, psychotherapy and CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) all of which can help you to achieve your goals.  Written by Jan, Jeana and Wendy at Barnsley Hypnosis and Counselling (UK).  For more free information click above link.