Assertiveness

Assertiveness is a mode of communication characterized by a self-confident, self-assured tone of voice and demeanor that affirm the legitimacy of the speaker's point of view. Assertiveness is a middle course between aggressiveness and submissiveness.

An aggressive person is so firmly entrenched in a personal way of thinking that he or she minimizes the worth of people with different opinions. That person may also threaten listeners or bystanders with verbal or nonverbal signals. As a whole, aggressive behavior is not respected by family and colleagues.

A submissive person meekly submits to the viewpoints and demands of others, even if they contradict his or her own rights and wants. At home and work, a submissive person will shoulder additional jobs even if they are beyond that individual's realm of duties. Submissive people are often hurt by others and cannot achieve their goals because they allow themselves to be manipulated by the people around them.

Using assertive behaviors, people are able to express their wishes and feelings honestly, without undue feelings of guilt or anxiety. They are comfortable expressing their own opinions and do not allow themselves blindly to follow a course of action designed by someone else. Assertive behavior helps equalize relationships by empowering an individual to assert his or her own rights without negating the rights of others. Assertiveness is often associated with self-esteem.

Assertive people are comfortable talking about themselves and relating their accomplishments, are at ease joining in social conversations, can express their opinions and are composed when greeting people.

Many people consider assertiveness an essential aspect of relationships and, therefore, assertiveness is a behavioral skill that has been increasingly taught by personal development experts, cognitive behavioral therapists and behavior therapists.

Different segments of society require emphasis on variant types of assertive behaviors. Females have a tendency towards submissiveness since they may believe that society considers aggressiveness a male trait, inappropriate for women. In contrast, some males have a propensity towards aggressiveness since they believe that aggressive behavior is an acceptable means of accomplishing their goals.

Assertiveness has different connotations in various cultures. Though minorities may require assertiveness skills in order to find jobs, relate with their boss and co-workers and utilize resources, they also need to model behavior appropriate to their own culture. Their assertiveness strategies must conform to their cultural norms.

During assertiveness training, a person must first learn to replace certain beliefs with new thoughts emphasizing the value of assertiveness. People must identify and accept their personal rights and those of the people around them. The person must practice assertive behaviors and will then be able to implement these techniques in daily relationships and communication. Assertiveness training is often accomplished in a group setting, with participants discussing and modeling an assertive response to a particular situation. For instance, participants might discuss an appropriate remark to someone who cut in front of them in line.

One component of assertive behavior is the ability to respond objectively to a put-down. This involves the identification of a put-down and an appropriate response that will not threaten the speaker but will also shield the listener from the insult's harmful implications. Assertive behavior includes the ability to look actively at someone else, make eye contact when appropriate and not shy away when looked at by someone else.

An assertive person will be able to initiate a conversation with someone else in a social situation. He or she will also be able to accept a compliment without brushing it aside and will feel comfortable doling out compliments and validating the accomplishments of others. An assertive person will feel comfortable asking for help if necessary, from an employer, co-workers or members of the family. Without feeling guilty, that individual will be able to say "no" politely and confidently to a project that he or she cannot accomplish. An assertive person will also be able to negotiate to protect his or her rights. For instance, using assertive behavior, a person will be able to point out weakness in a purchased product and request a refund and will be able to negotiate an appropriate raise in salary.

Assertiveness includes appropriate body language. An assertive person will eliminate nonassertive body language such as rapid blinking, looking away from another person's face, squinting eyes, tense and wrinkled forehead, repeated swallowing and tinkering with jewelry or adjusting clothes. An assertive person also understands the symbolic significance of clothes and makes sure to dress appropriately in each setting.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Asserting Yourself: A Practical Guide for Positive Change
Gordon H. Bower; Sharon Anthony Bower.
Perseus Books, 1991 (Updated edition)
Psychological Interventions: A Guide to Strategies
Mary Ballou.
Praeger, 1995
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 9 "Assertiveness Training"
Significant Variables Associated with Assertiveness among Hispanic College Women
Rodriquez, Geraldine; Johnson, Steve W.; Combs, Don C.
Journal of Instructional Psychology, Vol. 28, No. 3, September 2001
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Women Professors' Assertive-Empathic and Non-Assertive Communication in Sexual Harassment Situations
Krolokke, Charlotte.
Women's Studies in Communication, Vol. 21, No. 1, Spring 1998
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Social Skills Training for Young Adolescents: Cognitive and Performance Components
Thompson, Kathryn L.; Bundy, Kaarre A.; Wolfe, Wende R.
Adolescence, Vol. 31, No. 123, Fall 1996
Communication in Nursing
Julia Balzer Riley.
Mosby, 2000 (4th edition)
Librarian’s tip: Discussion of assertiveness begins on p. 264
Strategies for Classroom Discipline
Meryl E. Englander.
Praeger, 1987
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 11 "Assertiveness: Insisting on the Right to Teach"
Fathers and Families: Paternal Factors in Child Development
Henry B. Biller.
Auburn House, 1993
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 8 "Assertiveness and Independence"
Assertive Biblical Women
William E. Phipps.
Greenwood Press, 1992
Improving Teamwork in Organizations: Applications of Resource Management Training
Eduardo Salas; Clint A. Bowers; Eleana Edens.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2001
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