Assertiveness is the ability to stand up for ourselves and to say how we feel when we feel we need to. It includes:
If you are missing out on any of these it is possible that you have difficulty asserting yourself. This sheet explains more about the problems and gives some suggestions on how to be more assertive.
THE PROBLEM OF LACK OF ASSERTIVENESS
Here are a few typical problems caused by lack of assertiveness.
People who do not assert themselves not only fail to get what is due them and also tend to feel bad about themselves. They may go over a situation in their mind time and time again thinking, "Why didn't I say that?" or "If only I'd done this". This can lead to feelings of blame, depression and anxiety.
COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT BEING ASSERTIVE
The main reason for unassertive behaviour is a fear of what might happen if you are assertive. What do you fear might happen if you did stand up for your rights? You may fear that you would feel extremely guilty or anxious after asserting yourself. These fears are usually based on false beliefs about assertiveness. Let's have a look at some of these myths.
I'll be being selfish if I say what I want
All we are doing by being assertive is putting our own needs on an equal level with the needs of other people. It is important for our own well being to do this. This is helpful for other people as well. We are not doing anyone a favour by letting them take us for granted or get whatever they want from us.
Here is another example of how it can help other people. Supposing you were watching a film in a cinema and the person behind you was talking all the time. By politely saying something like: "excuse me, would you mind not talking while the film is on", you would be helping both yourself and the people around you.
Note that this is quite different from an aggressive comment like "Why don't you shut up!" which is only likely to lead to an argument.
If I stand up for myself the other person will become upset and angry
This assumes that other people are always unreasonable. Remember, you are only asking to be treated as an equal and not making big demands. Most people will recognise this and accept your point of view. In fact, you may be surprised how easily they agree with you.
People won't like me if I say what I want
Think of the people you know who are assertive. Do you think any less of them for that? The chances are you respect them more for being assertive. People are likely to think more of you if you assert yourself as it means they know where they stand with you.
I feel too anxious to start being assertive
This is something of a vicious circle. Being assertive for the first time is always hard but it becomes easier after that.