Being assertive is the ability to express your feelings honestly and to communicate the things that you need and want. It’s creating and maintaining healthy boundaries in your life. It’s being respectful to others during the process and saying yes and no when necessary. Along with being assertive, there are another three patterns which include: passive, aggressive and passive-aggressive. In a nutshell, passive can look like repressing feelings, the tendency to people please and being unable to set boundaries. Then we have aggressive, which can look like gaining control through shame, authority, power, lashing out both verbally or physically. The final being passive-aggressive which can look like having a passive frontier but below the surface can be aggressive—using indirect, hidden and devious means to get back at another person. Which behaviour pattern could you identify with? Identifying these behaviours can be helpful in moving forward with the intention to empower and not pass judgment.
If you would like to develop assertiveness, there are some things that you can start today. A starting point could be to ask yourself, what do you want? So often we can go through life managing our responsibilities or having our time filled with other activities, and we don’t take the time to stop and ask ourselves this question and then answer it. If we don’t have a goal or vision for our lives, we tend to drift becoming unanchored. After establishing what we want, we can come up with a plan to get us there; this gives us purpose and direction. Determining what we want and where we are heading can position us to create boundaries, be open and honest about our feelings, express how we think and feel about what matters to us, ask questions, address challenges in the open, put a stop to people-pleasing and saying yes and no when necessary. We can ask ourselves what happens if we are not assertive? What are the pros, and what are the cons? Another way to learn new behaviours is to observe others and learn from them, read books and commit yourself to growth rather than perfection. If you want to develop this area of your life further, you may consider working with a registered counsellor who can come alongside you on the journey. On a finishing, note take each opportunity to learn about yourself and be intentional about the things that matter most to you. It takes courage to be assertive and being assertive takes practice.