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Behavioural Therapy Blog Archive

Be Assertive

Date Posted: 11th January, 2016

Being assertive doesn't mean winning the argument. It doesn't mean getting all your own way, either. And it certainly doesn't mean speaking your mind without regard to the consequences. Those can be the rapid road to being a pain in the neck as an "emotionally unintelligent" self-seeker - which is fine if that's the goal!

Assertiveness is all about knowing you have options, alternatives and choice in dealing with the demands, requirements, agendas and just plain oddities of other people that you find yourself interacting with. Assertiveness is also about being able to take reasonable, rational and level-headed risks when one is faced with them. It's a "state of mind" rather than a way of saying "no" or "please don't talk to me like that" or "I wish to...". And above all else, assertiveness is all about the parties leaving an encounter with the opportunity to keep their pride reasonably intact (unless they're intent on making themselves look silly - in which case they're best left to do so!). 

In the assertive encounter, it's fundamental to "decide" on which of a few options you'd like to exercise. Sometimes, it may be that you consider giving someone a "piece of your mind" is worthwhile all round; at others, you might decide to "keep your powder dry" and watch for further events. There are no "rights and wrongs" about "being assertive" - other than it being largely "right" that you give yourself permission to have choice and exercise it in how you handle others. 

Psychologists agree that a basic behavioural component of assertiveness is being able to listen carefully to what other parties are saying - and how they're saying it. 15% of what we say is in the words; 25% is in the tone and delivery; and 60% is body language.  So being observant as well as listening is key to "getting" what others are trying to say in tricky encounters. And that, in itself, can be fun - almost like being a detective - and, in turn, can have a calming effect because it leads to a sense of control in a situation that might otherwise become chaotic. 

It is possible to learn the "art" of assertiveness - the "mind set"; the listening skills; and even the words to use once you've taken a decision on which way you'd like to handle the encounter. Just a few basic steps can produce a significant improvement in self-esteem - well worth the small amount of effort involved.