This is exactly the type of skills that assertiveness training provides. By enhancing an individual’s communication skills, assertiveness training can increase the feeling of self-efficacy – the belief an individual has that they can reach their goal. In other words, learning to assert yourself can help self-belief and self-confidence. What is assertive behaviour? If you asked people how they would define the word ‘assertive’, what would they say? ‘Getting what you want’ would more often than not come up as a response. There is little doubt that those who are assertive are more likely to get their needs met.
The following is a definition of assertiveness which is much more suitable: Being assertive means clear, honest and direct communication of positive and negative thoughts, feelings and opinions while, at the same time, respecting the rights, opinions and feelings of the other person. The seven fundamentals of assertive behaviour 1. Communicating when it is important to you/exercising choice The definition we are using here is the emphasis on communication with others. Behaving assertively does not mean that we have to tell others endlessly how we feel or what we think. Sometimes this would be inappropriate or insensitive.
Clearly people who are good communicators are able to judge when is the best and most appropriate way to let others know their feelings. 2. Being direct (but not blunt or rude) It is very common for people to drop hints or hope others ‘get the message’ rather than being open and direct. As we shall see below, often this indirect approach is adopted because people do not have the confidence in their ability to communicate openly with others without giving offence. The problem with this indirect strategy is that other people often do not take the hint or end up receiving mixed messages.
Being assertive means being open and honest and not leaving clear communication to chance. 3. Being honest Sometimes people question the relevance of the word ‘honest’ in the definition of assertiveness. ‘Surely it is simply about clear communication? ’ they will say, thus making questions of honesty, or morality, irrelevant. This means that behaving assertively can give us a strong sense of personal integrity and hence improve the way we feel about ourselves. However, to really benefit from the sense of personal integrity and self-worth that assertive behaviour can bring, it is important to treat others with respect and dignity.
4. Treating others with equality and respect The definition of assertiveness we are using encourages us to see the rights and feelings of individuals as equal – as something to be addressed, considered and catered for. In modern parlance, behaving assertively does not mean puffing oneself up and berating other people. 5. Taking responsibility for your thoughts and actions No-one can make me feel inferior without my consent. Eleanor Roosevelt At some point in our lives most of us will have blamed other people for how we feel. We will complain but, as the quote from Eleanor Roosevelt suggests, we are responsible for how we feel.
Becoming more assertive is partly about taking more responsibility for how we act and think. It is about owning our feelings rather than attributing their origins to someone else. When we take responsibility for how we feel and what we do, we feel more powerful and in control of our lives. In short, it builds our confidence. 6. Being positive as well as negative It is common for people to equate assertive behaviour with negative or self-serving behaviour. For example, it is easy to see assertive behaviour as voicing criticism of others, saying ‘no’ or generally asserting what we want by asking for help.
Being able to say ‘no’ assertively is an important assertiveness skill, as is giving criticism well, but this is not the full story 7. Being open and responsive to others The essence of our assertiveness definition is communication of thoughts, feelings and opinions. However, it is also about being responsive to the impact that this has on other people. Behaving assertively thus requires that we are good listeners and are empathetic enough to pick up the impact that our behaviour has on others. Summary Summary of assertiveness behaviour • Communicating when it is important to you.
• Being direct (but not blunt or rude). • Being honest. • Treating others with equality and respect. • Taking responsibility for your thoughts and actions. • Being more positive than negative. • Being open and responsive to others. Advantages to self • Gives a sense of personal integrity. • Builds your self-confidence. • You feel in charge of your behaviour and your life. Impact on relationships/others • People know where they stand with you. • Others respect you, although they may often want you to act in ways which suit them better. • Helps to build good, solid relationships based on trust and respect.