What is assertiveness?
Assertiveness is about communicating your feelings, thoughts and beliefs in an open and honest way, while being respectful of your own and other people’s rights. It is an alternative to being aggressive (and not respecting other people’s needs) and passive (not respecting your own needs). Being assertive means that you are able to say “no” to requests of others and make reasonable requests and express your opinion without feeling guilty.
When people are not assertive, they might believe that it is rude and selfish to say what they want, or that if they communicate in an assertive way, they will upset other people and ruin the relationship. Behaving in an assertive way and standing up for yourself, will contribute to a higher self-esteem. Expressing yourself assertively doesn’t mean that you always get what you want, but it is important to say what you think, listen to the other people, and then find a compromise in which all are respected.
Assertive behaviour has verbal and non-verbal aspects. It is important what you say and which type of language you use, and also about what your body language is like (body movements, eye contact, facial expression and voice).
Assertiveness can help to develop more self-confidence. Changing your beliefs and behaviour is effective in overcoming symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress.
What is involved in assertiveness training?
In assertiveness training you will learn that we are all equal and that we all have the same basic rights, and that you can stand up for your own rights without violating the rights of others. Examples of our rights are: the right to express your feelings and opinions, the right to be listened to and taken seriously, and to change your mind.
People who cannot say “no”, often feel resentful and frustrated in relationships. They think they cannot say no because they think other people won’t like them, or will feel rejected and hurt. When you behave in an assertive way, you will respect yourself and other people. Saying “no” means you are refusing a request, not the person. In assertiveness training you will learn how to say “no” in an assertive way. Another assertive skill is about how to express anger instead of being “too nice”. It is also important to learn how to cope with and how to give constructive feedback. Some people will agree with the criticism straight way, which will add to feelings of low self-worth. Others might experience criticism as a personal attack and will not listen to the feedback. Assertive people can learn from criticism, they might accept when there is truth in it – we all make mistakes and have flaws. When criticism is destructive, there are ways to deal with this too without getting upset and angry.