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


Andrew said...

Nice information. It's interesting though that the uni writer didn't recognize that the last bit in the example is telling the partner what to do. I think it would be much more effective to ask the partner if they'd be willing to look at doing the interaction differently, and if so, what do they think would work. That way the partner has ownership of the solution and is much more likely to back off if he/she is the one who has suggested the different behavior.

TheClimatePhilosopher said...

Good point; thank you!