How to Develop Assertive Behavior

It’s hard to go for even a week without facing some sort of confrontation with other people. While some people totally lose their cool and explode to express their feelings, others simply cave in and don’t say a word to avoid confrontation. Both behaviors are extremes and are not healthy.

It’s important passive and aggressive people learn how to become more assertive. While passive people need to learn how to express their true needs, aggressive people should also convey their feelings, but without losing their tempers.

The Difference Between Assertiveness and Aggression

People often confuse being assertive with aggression when these words actually have different meanings. Although being assertive is the opposite of wimpy, it’s differs from aggressive behavior. While someone who is assertive expresses his expresses needs, ideas and wishes to other people, an aggressive individual is a person who has feelings of anxiety and anger. This person easily becomes defencive and upset while trying to stand up for his beliefs and wishes.
Benefits of Being Assertiveness and Risks from Aggressive Behavior

Assertive people show others they respect themselves because they take the time to stand up for their own feelings and interests. Assertive people also convey that they’re aware of the rights of others and that they want to work out a solution for everyone concerned. This behavior can create a situation where both parties are satisfied, as well as create honest relationships. People who act assertively improve their skills in making decisions and can gain more job satisfaction.

However, when either a passive or aggressive method for conflict is used, the message is ineffective because the other person is too involved in trying to react to a passive or aggressive delivery. As a result both parties become emotional, rather than trying to work out a reasonable solution to a problem. Passive or aggressive behaviors can have negative consequences including stress, seething anger, resentment, victimization feelings and even health problems. All these feelings can lead to the offended person seeking revenge.

Overcoming Passivity and Developing Assertiveness

Passive people need to practice healthy self-talk. One way passive and aggressive people can do this is by looking into a mirror and studying their body language while speaking. The passive person should note clues from his body language that suggests inferiority and then correct them. For example, his eyes may look downward rather than straight ahead. This can tell the other person that “my opinion isn’t as important as yours.” Also, covering the mouth with one’s hands can indicate a lack of confidence that says, “What I have to say really isn’t that important” or “I’m not sure about this”.

On the other hand, aggressive behavior also has certain body language such as pointing a finger at someone or not giving an opponent enough body space. This was seen in a George Bush vs. Al Gore debate where Gore approached Bush too closely while debating.

The Importance of Using “I” Statements

Often people who are aggressive fail to use “I” statements. Instead, they attack others’ character by using “You” statements. A more effective way of communication that is assertive rather than aggressive is by using “I” statements.

This style of communication is often used by parents in a technique as “The PET (Parent Effectiveness Training) Theory”. For example, rather than say, “You’re lazy” say, “Your behavior makes me feel unappreciated”.

Finally, it’s important to practice assertiveness on a daily basis. Expecting a passive or aggressive person to suddenly become totally assertive overnight results may not be practical, but progress should be measured one step at a time. Each time a passive or aggressive person exercises assertiveness, it become easier.
Originally published on Suite 101.

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