Assertiveness

by Andrew Lawless, John Quinn, Sue Wilcox

Common questions

  1. What is assertive behaviour?
  2. What is the difference between assertive / aggressive / submissive behaviour?
  3. Why can’t I do it? What are the barriers or obstacles to being assertive?
  4. How do I stand up to X?

 

1. What is assertive behaviour?

It’s about respecting the rights (personal boundaries) and feelings of others and expecting others to respect your rights and feelings too. Assertive behaviour is about a balanced approach. If someone doesn’t respect your rights and feelings, you communicate it to them. It isn’t about scoring points or getting even by lashing out at them (aggressive) or feeling hurt and not talking about it so as to not embarrass or upset the other person (passive/submissive). Assertiveness is about respect – for self and others.

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2. What is the difference between assertive/aggressive/passive behaviour?

  • Assertiveness

I clearly express that we both have rights and needs.

  • Aggressiveness

I boldly insist that my rights and needs prevail.

  • Passivity

Others’ rights and needs take precedence over mine.

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3. Why can’t I do it? What are the barriers or obstacles to being assertive?

Some people simply don’t know what to do in order to be assertive. They have never had good role models, so the barrier is simply a matter of knowledge.

The other main barrier is fear or anxiety over what might happen if they do behave assertively.

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4. How do I stand up to X?

People often start thinking about assertiveness because they are having difficulty with a specific person. There are so many possible causes of this type of difficulty that there is no one simple answer. Assertiveness, however, will often be part of the solution.

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