How many times have you been told “you should be more assertive”? But does the person giving you this ‘advice’ actually know what it means to be assertive? One definition of assertiveness is ‘confident and forceful behaviour’, and while this isn’t totally incorrect, this definition in itself has negative connotations, evoking thoughts of aggression and heavy handedness. So is there a positive spin to assertiveness?
Assertiveness can be seen as a communication tool - a way of clearly stating your position in a situation. It has none of the aggression of arrogance, as assertiveness doesn’t assume that your position is the right and only way, but it does let others know where you stand. The necessary element of confidence can make assertiveness an effective communication and leadership style.
So what’s holding you back from being assertive? Many people shy away from behaviours that they think might result in other people disliking them, or that comes across as rude, or that behaviours that don't show empathy or compassion for other people. The mistake people can make is confusing assertiveness with arrogance. An assertive person can be just as open and compassionate as a more passive person, and probably more so as they are not silencing their thoughts to stick to the status quo. By being more open through assertiveness, it can be possible to experience fewer anxious thoughts, even when under stress. Therefore if you’re not being assertive when you should be, you may need to reframe your mindset about what it means to be assertive.
What is an assertive mindset?
At its core, being assertive is really about knowing what you want and what boundaries you need to set. This allows you to work towards maintaining self-control. By acknowledging and stating your boundaries, you are less likely to find yourself in situations that are beyond your control. These of out-of-control situations can lead to feelings of anger and resentment, resulting in an unpleasant environment for everyone and additional stress for you. By framing assertiveness as a positive mind shift to acknowledge and practice, you not only improve the setting for yourself, but also everyone around you.
Assertive confidence mean you value yourself and your rights.