On Assertiveness

I've been looking for resources on assertiveness. Assertiveness is about communicating positive and negative ideas and feelings "openly, honestly and directly". What I particularly liked about this article was the emphasis of choice that we have between four modes of communication which were outlined:

  • direct aggression: bossy, arrogant, bulldozing, intolerant, opinionated, and overbearing

  • indirect aggression: sarcastic, deceiving, ambiguous, insinuating, manipulative, and guilt-inducing

  • submissive: wailing, moaning, helpless, passive, indecisive, and apologetic

  • assertive: direct, honest, accepting, responsible, and spontaneous

Among these four identifiable modes of communication, the assertive is clearly the most effective.

The article also gives a few tips to improve our assertiveness. Quite a lot of it is about body language: having good body posture, even tone. Interestingly, it seems it is necessary to talk about oneself; to start statements with 'I'. I clearly have ownership over statements I make about myself. Factual statements are also secure.
This University of Iowa information sheet lays out three parts of an assertive communication:
  1. empathy/validation: Try to say something that shows your understanding of the other person's feelings. This shows them that you're not trying to pick a fight, and it takes the wind out of their sails. From the above example, "I know that you get anxious when you're all ready to go and I'm not … ."
  2. statement of problem: This piece describes your difficulty/dissatisfaction, tells why you need something to change. For example, "… but when you do that, I get all flustered and take even more time. By the time we get in the car, we're mad at each other and not much in the mood to have a good time."

  3. statement of what you want: This is a specific request for a specific change in the other person's behavior. For example, "From now on, let's be sure we know what time we want to leave, and if you're ready before I am, will you please just go to another room and read the paper or watch TV?
Summarization is a key part of being assertive. We will often need to repeat what we say as well. Assertiveness appears also to be fundamentally about being specific. Rather than asking for general thing; we pick a time and date and place for an important meeting, for example.
Interestingly, compromise appears to be an important part of assertiveness, although not over things that are a matter of one's self worth or self respect.

Further Reading
  1. Essortment: Ten tips for being a more assertive person
  2. Ezine: Assertive Communication - Twenty helpful tips
  3. University of Iowa: Assertive Communication

What am I called? Preliminary thoughts

OK, so I have to decide on what I am called. "But surely your parents decide that?" I hear you say?
But the thing is; they only give you a suggestion. It's one's own choice what to tell people, and how to sign off. The decision arises because of the collision of two worlds: the 'friend' world of "Steve" and the 'family and work' world of "Stephen"... The two worlds move closer together with an "activist" world having elements of both.

The decision becomes necessary for consistency purposes and consistency is of course a large part of professionalism. The specific decision needed is what to sign off at the end of emails.
There are two options:
  • Steve; or
  • Stephen
I need to be consistent. A person with ideas about global problems should at least be able to decide on what he is called.

The problem is, that 'Steve' is not really a shortening of 'Stephen'. The correct shortening would be 'Stephe', pronounced 'Steve', as one or two of my friends have noted... Except that Steph is not pronounced 'Steve' at all but 'Stef'. So I can't really consistently be both Stephen and Steve; I can only be one or the other for official purposes.

Now, it's easier to go for the more informal of the two. There are more friends around than family and easy informality is a part of business as well as friendliness. For a while, my housemate was called 'Stephen' and so 'Steve' was easier.

But there are considerations for 'Stephen' too. I generally prefer it; it seems a more beautiful and generally higher class name than 'Steve', and 'Stephen' is actually slightly easier to say that 'Steve'. When combined with my surname, 'Stephen' has a better ring to it than 'Steve'.

Of course people can call me what they like. If people know me as 'Steve' then the definition of my name 'Stephen' is not going to change anything between us. It will just be how I sign emails and introduce myself.

So that is where I am. If people have any comments, please say so in the next few days. I will then post my final decision.