What word best describes the week you’ve just had? For me it’s assertive. Why? Firstly I delivered a workshop around it to a group of year nine boys, in a school, in North London. What was noticeable about this session was the boys were adamant that assertive behaviour can only be successful when performed between adults.
This was also the thinking from a group of 16-year-old girls when I delivered a similar workshop on the same theme two weeks ago.
This is something I want to explore further with young people in the future. But I did try to reinforce the message: you can't control the behaviour of others but you can control what you do.
But back to this week and assertive behaviour, I had two issues of my own, one with a neighbour and another with a business partner. At the time I felt that I had dealt with both assertively in different ways to suit the contrasting situations but on reflection I found myself realising that there is assertive behaviour but that this can be sometimes confused with aggressive behaviour and that there is a fine line between the two and it is common for this to occur in people.
In my case even though I thought I was using firm but gentle speech, I was using loud or menacing speech.
Finally, assertiveness has been coming up with one or two of my clients and the struggle to be truthful to people.
Assertive behaviour has many aspects but one observation I see often is when people are not assertive because they don’t want to hurt someone feelings and so suffers from guilty feelings of their own.
The simple way to deal with guilty feelings is to let go of guilty thoughts, here's how:
1. Spend time thinking about what you are going to feel like and the effect on your life from not being assertive.
2. Visualise yourself telling the person what is it you have to say. See yourself assuming positive body stances and speaking clearly and calmly whilst holding eye contact.
3. Remind yourself why you have to be assertive with this person and how you are going to feel by being assertive and how the situation is going to better because of your assertive behaviour.
4. If you have guilty thoughts and feelings, check in with yourself and see what actual words you are saying to yourself. Write these words down and then change the sentence to what you would rather say. say this sentence whenever you catch yourself feeling guilty.
Being assertive isn’t easy and takes practice but keep going. The feelings of guilt eventually subside.
Benefits of assertive behaviour
There are many proven benefits of assertive behaviour (e.g., Bishop, 2013; Pipas & Jaradat, 2010). Here are 10:
1. greater self-awareness
2. a more positive self-image
3. an increased likelihood of finding positive solutions
4. greater self-confidence
5. higher self-esteem
6. more respect for others’ opinions and viewpoints
7. greater self-control
8. more effective communication skills
9. higher self-respect
10. increased ability to avoid interpersonal conflicts
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