Assertiveness – a choice for an effective way of life

Assertiveness is a choice. However, not everyone knows the exact meaning of assertiveness, as it is often misunderstood with aggression. So  here’s a peek into assertiveness.

Assertiveness is the quality of being self-assured and confident without being aggressive. It is the ability to stand up for oneself and one’s needs, without disregarding the needs of others. It is the ability to respect oneself and others. As you go through this article, you will discover the characteristics of assertiveness, its benefits and tips to get started.

Characteristics of Aggressive v/s Submissive v/s Assertive behaviours:

Here are some of the basic differences between aggressive, submissive and assertive behaviours.

Aggressive Submissive Assertive
Interrupts and ‘talks over’ others Is afraid to speak up Speaks openly
Speaks loudly Speaks softly Uses a conversational tone
Glares and stares at others Avoids looking at people Makes good eye contact
Intimidates others with expressions Shows little or no expression Shows expressions that match the message
Only considers own feelings Always agrees with others Communicates his view
Controls groups Isolates self from groups Participates in groups
Values self more than others Values self less than others Values self equal to others

Benefits of Assertive behaviour

The biggest motivation to change is knowing what’s in it for me! Here’s what in store for you if you choose the path of assertiveness:

  • You become more effective
  • You are able to stand up for yourself
  • Increased confidence
  • Decreased anxiety and stress
  • Enhanced relationships
  • Better self image (your view of yourself)

Barriers to assertiveness:

While there are several benefits of being assertive, it is not always easy to behave assertively. Some of the barriers that come in the way of assertiveness are:

Social pressures – Society does not appreciate people who openly communicate their views, opinions and needs.

Parental and family pressures – Parents and family members expect the rules and traditions to be followed, and assertiveness is often perceived by them as rebellion.

Self-induced pressures – Our need for acceptance by others, need to be loved and approved often is the greatest barrier to assertiveness. We often do not voice our thoughts openly because of the fear of rejection by someone, and the need for being in their good books always. The moment we are able to bring a shift in our thought process, we will be able to embark on our journey to being assertive.

Tips to practise assertive behaviour:

  • Start with less intense situations

Being able to confront colleagues and superiors in the conference room or discuss infidelity related issues with spouse may be a rather huge jump in practising assertiveness. Since we may not be equipped with the poise and experience, we might not be able to handle such intense situations assertively. As a consequence, we might end up messing the situation furthermore. Therefore, it makes better sense to start with situations such as requesting a table change at a restaurant, exchanging clothes at a mall, etc. By taking smaller steps, we will be gain confidence to behave assertively, and we can then move towards more intense situations.

  • Begin saying ‘No’

 One of the greatest misconceptions is that saying a no means that we are being selfish. IT really is not the case. We are saying no only because we may have other priorities at that point of time. Mind you, even relaxation might be a priority after a tiring day at work. Therefore, the next time you wish to say no to a friend who is insisting that you meet up for coffee, go right ahead and say so, guilt free.

  • Learn to accept a ‘No’

It is as important to accept a ‘No’ from others as it is to say a no, when the situation so demands. Just like us, even others have the right to decide their priorities, and equating a ‘No’ with our rejection is an exaggeration that only affects us negatively. Understand and accept that the ‘No’ could be the need of the hour, and for the request that you have made. That is about it.

  • Remind yourself every day that you choose to be assertive, for your sake

While it would be an ideal scenario to be able to be assertive at all times, let’s face it, it may not be possible. One of the main reasons is our behavioural pattern. We are usually so accustomed to behaving in a particular way that a change is often challenging. Therefore, it is important that we remind ourselves, several times during the day that we choose to be assertive, because that is good for us. And we choose to focus on the greater good, than merely pleasing people.

  • Access resources on assertiveness

There is a plethora of books, articles, videos, blogs and other material on assertiveness available on the internet, libraries etc. Keep accessing these regularly, so that you stay tuned until such time that assertiveness becomes a way of life for you.

Assertiveness is a sure-shot way to a more effective way of living. However, it is a challenging path, and requires constant awareness and motivation to stay on track. As a Success Coach, I will be happy to be your ally and accountability path, and walk with you on your path towards assertiveness, ensuring that you celebrate little milestones achieved and do not get bogged down by temporary let-downs. If you wish to sign up with me for assertiveness coaching, just drop me a mail on I will be happy to hear from you!

3 thoughts on “Blog

  1. Emily says:

    This was an excellent and well-explained article on ‘Assertiveness’, Sushma. It actually makes one realise how we (women especially) keep away from being assertive, just to keep everyone around us happy n contented and to avoid unpleasantness and in the bargain, losing out on our own individual identities. Moreover, not so much your generation as much as our generation, has been brought up by our mothers drilling it into our heads, that it’s the woman who is always supposed to compromise n sacrifice (specially her career) n submit n never be assertive. Am truly ENLIGHTENED.

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