What is assertiveness?
Assertiveness is putting your foot down; it is knowing to ask for what you want, desire and need while considering the wants, desires and needs of others at the same time.
Assertiveness requires from you to be:
- And, also empathic.
People who don’t know how to be assertive are like a feather carried by the wind and pulled on the ground only by gravity, and their universe is gravitating all the time around other people instead of gravitating around themselves.
Why is assertiveness a must have interpersonal skill?
Because wherever you go, whatever you want to accomplish, if you want to succeed in life, for all of these there is one thing that puts everything in motion, and this something is Assertiveness. There is no other way!
Most people struggle with the idea of being assertive out of fear. People don’t want to be perceived as being aggressive, and people often confuse being assertive with being aggressive.
My parents, like so many other parents, didn’t know how to be assertive and for this fact my siblings, and I paid a heavy price, and we had many struggles in life.
When people don’t know how to be assertive, everybody is unhappy. The parents are unhappy, and the children are unhappy as well. The boss is unhappy, and the employees are unhappy. The teachers are unhappy, and the students are unhappy. The husband or wife is unhappy, and their partners are unhappy as well.
There is so much to lose if you don’t know how to be assertive. And it is not just that you’re losing something you didn’t have in the first place, but you’re confronted with difficult feeling to live with every single day.
Feelings such as anxiety, feeling inadequate, feeling like a doormat, feeling frustrated, feeling weak, feeling powerless, feeling like your voice is never heard, feeling like your wants and needs are not accounted.
Let’s see now what is the foundation of being assertive. What are the most important stones you’re building on your assertiveness?
The foundation of being assertive
Stone #1. Temperate your sense of entitlement
Our sense of entitlement is making us sometimes vulnerable to be manipulated, to be victimized, to be taken advantage of.
A too stronger sense of entitlement usually doesn’t leave room for the question: “Isn’t [this] too good to be true?” and you are going, blindly pursuing what you think is rightfully yours, what you think you deserve and lose sight of potential downsides of what you’re pursuing.
Listen, you deserve many, many good things, you are entitled to many, many good things, and you should pursue these many, many good things, they are rightfully yours. That is not the question. The question is how many of those seemingly good things are, really good for you?
Temperate your sense of entitlement by leaving room for the question: “Is [this] thing good, or it’s just a trap?”
How is it your sense of entitlement related to assertiveness?
When you feel entitled to get something, you’re expecting that something to be given to you because… it is yours. It’s only just and fair for you to get it. Is it not?
Yes, in theory, it is true; in practice, though, people will expect you to ask even for those things that you are entitled.
The sense of entitlement takes away your willingness to ask for what’s yours, and because you don’t get it, you might get angry and annoyed. And these two things (getting angry and annoyed) are the end of your power to be assertive.
Therefore, even when you’re entitled to something, be assertive and ask for it; don’t expect to receive it just because you deserve it.
Stone #2. Don’t be afraid to own your feelings.
Owning your feelings makes you the cause of what is happening to you, therefore, it is in your hands to change things.
“You make me angry” compared to “I feel angry.” In the first statement, the “you” has all the power because in order for “me” to feel good again, “you” needs to change and “me” has no power over that.
Owning your feelings gives the other person the sense that you are in control.
Plus it is giving you many options. Options such as:
- How else can I react to [this] situation?
- What can I do to change things?
- What would be the best behavior to move the situation forward?
- What can I do right now to make sure I will not be in [this] situation again?
Do you know the expression “They know how to push my buttons?” What this means is that people will take advantage of the way you might choose to respond to some of their actions, you’re giving your power away. Is it not?
A few ways to own your feelings:
- Find out the things that can get to you (your buttons) and explore different ways of responding to them, other than giving your power to others.
- Make a pact with yourself to communicate your feelings in terms of “I feel” and not “you make me feel,” even when it comes hard to you.
- Don’t allow your feelings or to the situation to escalate until you can’t control it anymore. Deal with your feelings and situations on the spot.
- Accept your feelings without judgment toward self. Accept your feelings and give yourself options to deal with them.
- Stay in the present moment and deal with what is in front of you and not what it should be.
- Give yourself permission to live your feelings and to express them as they are, instead of expressing what you might think you should be feeling. (This doesn’t mean to act in anger, for example, acknowledge that you are angry and act with calm.)
- Say what you feel and not what you might think is expected of you to feel.
- Don’t settle out of fear of rejection. Yes, you will sometimes be rejected, however, ask for what you want directly and clear; don’t expect nor wait, for people to offer it to you.
Again, own your feelings and show people that you are in control, that you know what you want, that you know when you’re stepped on, that you have the power to deal with any situation you are confronted.
Stone #3. The Impostor syndrome
Did you know that 51% of women and 37% of men, for example, don’t ask for a promotion or a salary raise because they are suffering from the impostor syndrome?
These are highly skilled, high achieving people, and yet they don’t feel they deserve a better position, higher earnings, higher status.
People who are suffering from the impostor syndrome attribute their successes to all sorts of external interventions.
“It was only by chance.”
“It was the circumstance.”
“It was pure luck.”
“The people judging the accomplishment were very lenient.”
“Someone else did it much better.”
The impostor syndrome is the opposite of “it’s never my fault” and translates into “it’s never my merit.”
If you too feel like this sometimes, you are suffering from the impostor syndrome as well. No need to panic, though, the majority of us are suffering from it; yet, just by knowing about this syndrome you will be better prepared next time when you notice you have the tendency to downplay your merits and accomplishments.
Overcome the Impostor Syndrome by giving yourself credit for what you’re doing good, for your successes, for your accomplishments and accept the fact that no one is perfect; therefore, it’s only natural that you’re less successful and less good sometimes. Treat yourself with compassion.
How it’s affecting you Feeling like an impostor when it comes to assertiveness?
The reality is this: even if you’re not affected too deeply by the impostor syndrome, and you have only minor slip-ups, the most affected area of your life, it’s your power to assert yourself.
As I said, assertiveness is putting your foot down, and this means that you need to know and to feel that you deserve to put your foot down, that you are entitled to put your foot down.
If you’re not assertive when you need to be everybody is suffering for it.
You are suffering, and the people you should be assertive with are suffering as well. So, even if you don’t feel you deserve or that you are entitled to be assertive sometimes, do it anyway. Assertiveness is a responsibility you need to assume to ensure that you and the rest of the people around you, you are all happy and content at the end of it all.
There are many other things to say about how to be assertive, however, for now, I just want to remind you how important assertiveness is as part of your interpersonal skills.
Learn to be assertive and be assertive each time the situation is asking you to be.
Upgrade, improve and discover more about interpersonal skills by checking
The Core Interpersonal Skills
6. Assertiveness Skills