What is Assertiveness?

The word ‘assertiveness’ is used to describe behaviour, which helps us to communicate clearly our wants, needs and feelings to other people. It is the ability to be able to stand up for ourselves and to say how we feel when we feel we need to. Being assertive includes the ability to:

  • Express your own opinion and feelings
  • Say “no” without feeling guilty
  • Communicate our needs more openly and honestly
  • Set your own priorities (for example, choosing how you spend your time)
  • Ask for what you want
  • Be aware of our strengths and weaknesses without being afraid of taking risks
  • Choosing not to assert yourself at times when you feel it would be better not to say anything
  • Be able to view mistakes positively, seeing them as an opportunity to learn
  • Identify when we are being treated unjustly or being exploited, thus being able to deal with the situation effectively 

It is not about ‘winning’ or ‘getting what you want’ all the time, but rather about being able to express yourself freely and to stand up for your rights, without violating the rights of others. It is about negotiation and compromise.

If we are unassertive, we risk:

  • being exploited and thus treated as a ‘pushover’
  • not getting the respect that you deserve
  • resenting people who ask you to do things when you agree unwillingly, resulting in spending time on other people’s priorities and responsibilities rather than your own
  • personal exhaustion and despair at being unable to succeed at being ‘all things to all people’
  • suffering with depression, as the backlog of resentment gets turned inwards on yourself
  • the loss of our identity

However, there are few people who manage to be assertive in all areas of their lives. Some of us may be assertive at work but experience difficulties with our personal relationships; others may cope well within their personal relationships but lack assertive skills within their work situation. Assertiveness skills affect all areas of our lives, personal, social and work, from communicating with friends or partners, to returning faulty goods to shops or asking your employer for a pay increase.

The way in which we behave and communicate with others is an important factor in the development of stress. Poor communication often leads to unhealthy relationships, which may subsequently result in increased levels of stress.

Assertiveness skills form the foundation of good interpersonal communication whereas poor assertiveness skills can lead to the development of a variety of problems. If we are unable to say ‘no’ to other people, we run the risk of being overwhelmed by their demands. If we fail to speak up for ourselves, or feel unable to express personal feelings or thoughts, then we are unlikely to feel comfortable or fulfilled with who we are. Alternatively, if we are only able to communicate in an aggressive or manipulative way we may fail to develop healthy or trusting relationships.

How Talking to Siobhan Can Help

Siobhan will help you improve the effectiveness of your communication skills through

  • Understanding the underlying principles of assertiveness.
  • Recognizing the different styles of communication.
  • Identifying specific situations in which you would like to become more assertive.
  • Preparing, rehearsing or role-playing a different, more assertive response.
  • Transferring that behaviour into ‘real life’ situations.