Last night, we discussed how to be assertive. Now I know what you’re thinking: Assertiveness training is the last thing that I need. But what I discovered is that my level of assertiveness varies according to the situation and the people involved. It also helps to know what assertiveness is and what it is not.
Let’s define the terms.
- To be passive, one tries to pacify others and avoid conflict. This person is often treated as a door-mat by aggressive individuals.
- An aggressive person directly communicates in a one-sided manner with the aim to win the situation no matter the cost. The aggressive person typically won’t compromise, and the feelings of the other person do not matter.
- The passive-aggressive person is indirect and attempts to manipulate, deceive, and often sabotages others to get what she or he wants.
- An assertive person is direct, honest, respects others by listening and attempting to resolve a problem to the satisfaction of both parties. The positive benefits of being assertive is that one develops healthy self-esteem, can handle difficult situations and learns to connect and form new relationships with other.
We spent the rest of the class working on ways to be properly assertive. One technique we explored was the use of the “I” statement. This technique helps the individual clarify a situation by describing it in objective terms, identify the emotions brought up by the situation, the reason for those feelings, and how to articulate the needs and desires that will resolve the situation in a positive way. We were instructed to try this technique during the coming week.
Our final activity was to engage in a role play with another person in the class. I was given a card that instructed me not to give in to the request of the other person no matter what she said. The other person was given a card that instructed her to make a specific request and to be persistent on the matter and not take no for an answer. I did very well, according to the facilitator, in standing my ground, yet still being kind and compassionate to the person making the request; however, when we reversed the roles, I found myself using guilt and manipulation to try to get the person to do what I wanted. That was an eye-opener for me. I never saw myself as the passive-aggressive type.
As I explained to the group in our discussion, I couldn’t classify myself into one distinct style of communicating. In some situations and with certain people, I may be properly assertive and in other cases and with different people, I may interact in one of the other manners. This is not good because I realize that in the cases where I am being passive or passive-aggressive I will eventually get fed up and over-react in an aggressive manner. This is typically with those people in my life who are themselves aggressive and walk all over me.
Not only did I learn about my own ways of communicating, I also learned how to recognize these modes of communication in other people. Already today I noticed that an individual was trying to maneuver me into doing something for her without her having to ask me directly. Very passive-aggressive. I will be on the lookout for more of this manipulation in the future.
I have much to explore and think about in terms of my own communication style and need more practice at being properly assertive in all situations and with all people.