Assert Yourself. Have you ever heard yourself say, “I’m a nice person? I’m a polite person. I’d never intentionally do anything to hurt anybody. So why don’t people give me the respect I deserve?” The problem could well be due to your lack of assertiveness. Maybe you aren’t showing your nice, polite, and respectful qualities to other people. Unless they can see who you truly are, underneath it all, other people might not know how you expect to be treated. And this can lead to some unhappy experiences. At the heart of assertiveness is your ability to know who you are and what you stand for – and then to express these qualities effectively in everyday interactions with other people.
Expressing yourself effectively involves maintaining respect for the rights and feelings of others. Assertiveness is not aggression. People who are assertive know that they can deal with the world much more effectively if they do not resort to violence or other aggressive responses. In many ways, assertiveness is the exact opposite of aggression – assertion enhances constructive communication and cooperation between people, while aggression shuts it down. Assertiveness is not manipulation. Most people are aware, at some level, when they are being manipulated – it can lead to distrust and a lack of respect, for both parties. Manipulation involves hiding behind a mask. Assertiveness means tearing off the mask and happily announcing to the world who you truly are. Assertiveness is reality-tested freedom. At the heart of assertiveness is your ability to know who you are and what you stand for. Expressing yourself effectively involves maintaining respect for the rights and feelings of others.
We see instances of nonassertive behavior around us everyday. Most people who lack an assertive style are simply those who want to keep the peace. For the most part, they want goodness and cooperation between people. However, they often pay a high price for this in terms of functioning effectively in the world.
There are many negative consequences associated with the nonassertive style. For example, those who are not assertive allow their feelings and boundaries to be violated by others. They believe that they do not have the right to their own feelings, beliefs or opinions – and even if they do, they have difficulty expressing them in a self-affirming way. They may feel that asserting their thoughts will lead to rejection or even being attacked. They frequently feel that it is better to withhold their ideas rather than cause a conflict. Nonassertive individuals may feel guilty when they have to say “No.” They often allow others to make decisions for them and may assume that others will care for their needs. They may place the needs of others above their own. Nonassertive people are easily victimized by others.
The consequences of choosing to be nonassertive are costly. People feel hurt and mistreated when their needs are not met – yet those who are nonassertive do little to meet these needs themselves. They may store up negative feelings and then harbor anger. Their sense of efficacy in the world is diminished, and then they complain about how unfair the world is to them. This approach toward the world may lead to depression, poor self-esteem, anxiety, isolation, and anger. There are better alternatives.