Assertiveness is a form of intelligent, conscious, congruent, clear, direct and balanced expression, whose end is to communicate ideas and feelings or defend legitimate rights and reality without hurting or harm, acting from an interior self-trust state, instead of the typical limiting emotionality of anxiety, guilt or rage, unmistakable of the aggression. There are three basic styles of communication differences by the attitude towards the speaker: passive, assertive and aggressive (Aguilar, 1987).
As a communication strategy and style, assertiveness is different and locates itself in an intermediate point between the other two polar activities: aggressiveness and passiveness (or non-assertiveness). It’s usually defined as a mature communicative behavior in which the person does not harm or submits to the will of other people, but states its convictions and defends its rights.
Passiveness or non-assertiveness: Is the characteristic communication style of people who avoid showing their feelings or thoughts in fear of being rejected or misunderstood, or, to offend other people, diminish their own opinions and needs giving superior value to other people’s needs and decisions.
Aggressiveness: This communication style is located in an opposite plane from passiveness, being noticed by the overrating of personal feelings or opinions, avoiding or even spurning the others’, and, in some cases driving to wrath, anger, shouting and even recurring to violence.
Assertiveness: It’s the communication style that is open to other people’s opinions, giving them the same importance as own opinions. Part of respect to other and one-self, bringing up with security and confidence what a person wants, accepting that other people’s posture does not have to be equal to one’s own opinion and avoiding conflicts in a straight, open and honest way. Assertiveness is a characteristic of people with high self-esteem and self-confidence (Argyle, 1969).
Quite often a fourth communicative style is stated – the passive-aggressive. It is about avoiding conflict by discretion, avoiding uncomfortable situation or facing other people with excuses, false oversights or delays, among others. This way, the person does not assume the need to make his own rights valid, although it does not show receptive to the other part as well.
Assertiveness approves to say what you think, allows acting accordingly, making what is considered more appropriate from a person, defending its own rights, interests or needs without the need to hurt or offend anyone, or allowing being hurt or offended by someone else, and avoiding anxious situations.
It’s and intermediate attitude between a passive or inhibitor attitude, and another aggressive attitude in front of other people, which, as well as reflecting in spoken language, manifests itself in non-verbal language: body posture, gestures, facial expression, and voice. An assertive person is usually tolerant, accepts mistakes, proposes feasible solutions without getting angry, is self-assured and peacefully thwarts people who attack him verbally. Assertiveness prevents people to be manipulated by other in any way, and is a decisive factor in the conservation and increase of self-esteem, as it also values and respects other people mutually (Castanyer, 1996).
Formation in assertiveness teaches, in an intelligent way, to show feelings, thoughts and desires, and to defend its legitimate rights without thwarting other peoples rights. It is also a skill that can be acquired, It is not a personality trait with which people are born with and some don’t. Like aggressiveness and passiveness, assertiveness is a learned social behavior.
Formation in assertiveness can differentiate the social situations when you will be able to respond assertively instead of being passive or aggressive. Learning to be assertive does not mean that you must be assertive all the time.
There are times in life where it is totally appropriate for a person to respond aggressively, for example, when its life or properties are seriously threatened.
There are also times where people can be passive, for example, when a judge is reproaching him. Learning to be an assertive person means that you can choose when or where to stand firm, for which assertive rights exist, which every people should know. Those are mentioned at the end of this article.
In the first stages of life there is a set of beliefs that is learned which help in our social conduct. These beliefs are basically a set of norms about “good” or “bad“ behavior, which are handed out by our parents, who will later be the examples to follow. Although these norms helped people to get along with their fellow men, they’re not holy and they’re all not completely rational, since these beliefs were influenced by culture and nothing will happen if we act in a different way.
The assertive expression does not leave communication to chance. An assertive affirmation has three parts: The situation perspective, the feelings about the situation and the needs about the situation. When you listen in a assertive manner, the attention is focused exclusively in the other person, with out interrupting him, in such a way that feelings, opinions and desires are grasped. Fannin, cited by Castanyer (1996) states that assertive listening has three big steps: Preparation, listening and acknowledgement. Here are the assertive rights:
- To change and modify
- To be wrong, make mistakes and be responsible for them
- To decide to take over or not about other people’s problems
- To take time to calm down
- To not be perfect
- To feel and express pain
- To ignore advices
- To choose to be assertive to have a socially skillful behavior
- To not foresee other people’s needs and desires
- To be treated with respect and dignity
- To ask for information and be able to be informed
- To get what I’ve paid for
- To not give explanation about my behavior
- To be independent
- To decide if I choose to answer or not
- To take decisions about my priorities and my body
- To not infringe other people’s rights
- To be successful, have fun and enjoy
- To be my own judge
- To change mind, idea or action plan
- To overcome myself even thought I overcome other
- To have and express my own values, feelings and opinions
- To judge and recognize my own needs, establish my priorities
- To ponder and take my own decisions
- To say “NO”, reject requests without feeling guilt
- To ask for what I want and accept that it could be denied
- To realize that the rest of the people have the same rights
- Aguilar, E. (1987). Assertiveness, be yourself free of guilts. Mexico, Pax Editorial
- Argyle, M. (1969). Social interaction. London. Metheun Editorial
- Castanyer, O. (1996). Assertiveness: expression of a healthy self-esteem. Spain. Bilbao Editorial.