It is Healthy to be Assertive

It is Healthy to be Assertive

Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D

No, assertive people are not rude, insensitive or aggressive. They are not disrespectful, nor are they disregarding the feelings of others. On the contrary, assertive people are positive, accommodating, considerate, sensitive, and respectful to others at all times.

Assertive people are equally nice to themselves. It's like they follow a modified version of the Golden Rule, "Do unto yourself, as you would like to do unto others." They extend the same respect, consideration and kindness towards themselves as they do to others. Being assertive is to value yourself as much as you value others.

A lot of people build up a lot of resentment and frustration with themselves because they didn't say or do something at the right place and the right time. As a result, they blow their top in the wrong place, in a wrong way, and often at the wrong person. Such inappropriate outbursts often have negative repercussions. The individual feeling guilty and remorseful vows to keep his or her "mouth shut. "

Truly assertive people are not given to emotional outbursts because they give constructive and timely feedback to others and have the necessary skills to appropriately express their feelings.

Some mistakenly fear that if they tell people exactly how they feel and what they think of the other person, they would be hurting other people's feelings. Assertive people don't do that. To tell someone, "You are boring and I have more interesting and exciting things to do than to sit here and listen to you" is cruel and certainly not assertive. An assertive person would perhaps say, "I've got things to do. I don't have time for small talk just now."

Don't equate assertiveness with selfishness. For example, say you are a partner in a project. You feel that your partners are not considering your interests. If you were to ask, "Hey guys, what about me? Everybody seems to get something from this, but, what's in it for me?," you are not being selfish.

Setting limits to what you are willing to do for others or saying "No" to a request that would be unfair or even harmful to you, is not "selfishness"; it is self-protection. In situations, where just a "No" may not be sufficient, an apology and a brief explanation for the same might help the other person understand your refusal.

When you stand up for yourself, you reduce your stress and raise your self-esteem. We have the right to be on this planet just as anyone else. Likewise, we have the right to feel good, rest, relax, recreate, and enjoy the world as long as we don't hurt anyone in the process.

To be aggressive is not assertive. Assertive people respect the rights of others and protect their own. Everybody has the right to be treated with dignity and respect, including you.

An assertive person is honest, candid, direct and firm. When negotiating, assertive people are not interested in winning at the expense of the other party. They follow the "win-win' approach and try to find ways for both parties to come out winners. They are good advocates for themselves as well as others.

Assertive people are not shy of expressing their affection and admiration. They praise enthusiastically, make a special effort to discern and highlight the positive qualities of others and give credit to others when it's due. Such behaviors on their part make it easier for them to express their criticism and dissatisfaction where due.

When they criticize another person, they try to be objective and balanced in their criticism. They criticize specific behavior of the person, but not the person.

Assertive people look at the person they're talking with and avoid turning or looking away. They maintain good, open and erect posture while standing or walking or talking with another person. They are open and warm. They smile frequently and use a good voice tone.

A person who speaks loudly, fast or non-stop is not necessarily an assertive person. An assertive person tries to speak clearly and in an audible tone. However, it is erroneous to think that an assertive person is always calm and in control of his or her emotions. In some situations, even the best person will experience tension and uneasiness.

Even when your voice is shaky, palms are sweaty and you're feeling nervous, you can still state your position, express your feelings and assert your rights. Such outward expression of unease is unlikely to lower your status in the eyes of the other person. On the contrary, you're likely to win the respect and admiration of others for sticking up for yourself.

Sometime, you may have to pay the price for being assertive. But, the price for not being assertive may be even higher.

Sometimes, you may choose not to react to something right away and wait for a more appropriate time to express strong feelings you may have.

Assertiveness is good for everybody. It helps the non-assertive person to speak up and the aggressive person to tone down.

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Copyright 2001, Mind Publications 


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