What is assertiveness?
I have mentioned assertiveness quite a few times in recent articles. What is it and why 0do you even need it?
Assertiveness is one of those things everyone has likely heard about but no-one can easily define. We are often told to be more assertive but what exactly does this mean? What are we supposed to do more of? How assertive are we right now? What are other people doing about it? It matters so let’s define it.
Your level of assertiveness and comfort when being assertive can have a big effect on your overall management and leadership style. This stuff is important. It can affect the whole of your life if your assertiveness is too low.
There are many on-line self-evaluation questionnaires available. If you want to find out your current level of assertiveness or your preferred interpersonal or influencing style then feel free to try them out. As with most things in life, there can be good or bad and free or paid for; take your pick.
The influencing styles
There are four main classifications of influencing style of which assertiveness is but one:
- Manipulative-aggressive (aka passive-aggressive)
Passive is a type characterised by an “I must lose and you must win” attitude.
Hostile aggressive is an influencing style characterised by an “I must win and you must lose” mentality.
The last influencing style listed is termed manipulative-aggressive or passive-aggressive. This type is characterised by an “I must lose so you must lose” mindset.
Assertiveness is ideally defined as an I win and you win scenario. At a minimum it is an I win and I do it with no detriment to anyone else.
All of these styles are on a continuum. This means we all exhibit the different traits in different degrees at various times in our lives. Categories are useful but in the real world people are not so easily defined. Over the long-term it is likely we will favour one style over the others. If you are not sure, ask your trusted colleagues. They will then be able to tell you what style they think you prefer and exhibit most. It may shock you.
What do we normally do?
By and large, most of us choose to adopt the passive stance whenever possible, especially at work. You know the old “anything for a quiet life” and “why rock the boat” approach. Does the saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” sound familiar?
If you are going to be a better manager then you need to be as assertive as possible. You need to know what assertiveness is so I’ll start by defining it.
Assertiveness means completely clarity. It means openness about how one feels and what one needs. The assertive know how to achieve things fairly. This definition is agreeable for our purposes. Assertiveness also requires assertive communication skills, assertive body language and confidence. It requires the ability to communicate calmly without attacking or yielding unnecessarily to another person.
Assertive people know they have rights. Because of this, assertive people expect certain things. They expect fair things in their work. These rights and expectations come with a caveat. They come with a responsibility to accord other people the same rights and expectations. So this idea of assertiveness adheres to a win-win approach to life. Adopting an “I get what I want and you get what you want” approach then means everyone is happy.
Sounds simple so why are we not all doing more of it?
So what can you do about it?
Well, you certainly should be doing something about it.
Learning to be more assertive will help you:
- Express your thoughts and feelings freely
- Speak up and defend yourself
- Know and stand up for your rights
- Negotiate reasonably & effectively
- Control your emotions effectively during interpersonal conflict
It also applies when we have to manage difficult people. Assertively managing difficult personality types at work can be something of a nightmare for many line managers and supervisors. Some managers seem to have the amazing knack of effectively and confidently with the difficult personality types they encounter. If they can do it why can’t you?
Get more assertiveness into your life
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