Assertiveness is an extremely important and useful interpersonal skill to have. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that social and communication skills trainings frequently cover this topic.
Being assertive refers to expressing ones’ opinions, feelings and convictions in a direct, honest and socially adequate way, while respecting the rights of others. Individuals with this skill have the power to get their point across without upsetting anyone in the process. It’s important to make a distinction between assertiveness and aggression (by not considering other person’s perspective) or being passive (by completely avoiding a confrontation and just agreeing with whatever the other person says), both being dysfunctional behaviours that often result in one or both sides not expressing their actual thoughts, feelings and needs.
Assertion means a person respects other people’s opinions and beliefs without necessarily implying that he/she agrees with them. Through assertive behavior, a person is able to keep his/her boundaries and dignity, especially facing a situation where there is a possibility that he/she could become a victim of manipulation.
So, how to be more assertive?
Assertive behavior involves following characteristics:
- Active listening
- Respect for the other person
- Specific and concise expression of thoughts, feelings and needs
- Acceptance of the responsibility for own words and actions
- Willingness to apologize as well as to praise others
- Criticism that is directed to other person’s behavior, and not to his/her personality
- Tolerance for the unpleasant situations (discomfort-tolerance)
- Appropriate tone of voice, eye contact, facial expression, gestures and body language
Lange, A. J. and Jakubowski, P. (1976). Responsible Assertive Behavior: Cognitive/ Behavioral Procedures for Trainers.
Nataša Nikolić is a student from Serbia, currently completing her Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology at the University of Novi Sad. Her main goal would be to combine two of her major passions – psychology and art/design. She is participating in a summer internship programme at Willingness.com.mt.