Assertiveness means standing up for ourselves in inter personally effective ways that exercise our personal rights while respecting the rights of others. Failure to be assertive may keep you from achieving your goals and may lower your self esteem. We can understand the specific qualities of assertive communication best if we contrast it with other ways of interacting when we believe our rights, feeling, or needs are in danger of being violated or ignored.
Contrasting Methods of Expressing Our Needs and Rights
When we believe our rights, feelings, or needs are being ignored or violated by others, we can choose to behave in one of three ways: passively, aggressively or assertively
People behave passively when they do not state their opinions, share feelings, or assume responsibility for their actions. They may behave
passively because they fear reprisal, are insecure about their knowledge, or for some other reason. Whatever their motivation, instead of attempting to influence others’ behavior, they submit to other people’s demands, even when doing so is-inconvenient, against their best interests, or violates their rights. For example~ hen Bill was ingratiating the new color television he purchased at a local department store, he noticed a scratch on. the left side of the cabinet. If Bill is upset about the scratch but keeps the set without trying to get the store to replace it, he is behaving passively.
As we have noted, behaving assertively means standing up for yourself in an inter personally effective way. The difference between assertive behavior and passive or aggressive behavior is not the original feeling
Distinguishing among Passive, Aggressive, and Assertive Responses
Because our interpersonal exchanges will often involve the need to assert ourselves, it is important to learn to distinguish among passive, aggressive, and assertive responses. To highlight the contrasts among the three response styles, let’s examine two situations in which the issue is the quality of interpersonal relations.
At work Tanisha works in an office that employs both men and women. Whenever the boss has an especially interesting and challenging job to be done, he assigns it to a male coworker whose desk is next to Tanisha’s. The boss has never said anything to Tanisha or to the male employee that would indicate he thinks Jess of Tanisha or her ability. Nevertheless, Tanisha is hurt by the boss’s behavior.
Passive: Tanisha says nothing to the boss. She is very hurt by what she feels is a slight but swallows her pride. Aggressive. Tanisha marches into her boss’s office and says, “Why the hell do you always give Tom the plums and leave me the garbage? I’m every bit as good a worker, and I’d like a little recognition” Assertive: Tanisha arranges a meeting with her boss. At the meeting, she says, “I don’t know whether you are aware of it, but during the last three weeks, every time you had a really interesting job to be done, you gave the job to Tom. To the best of my knowledge, you believe Tom and I are – equally competence you’ve never given me any evidence to suggest that you thought less of my work. But when you ‘reward’ Tom with jobs that I perceive as plums and continue to offer routine jobs, it hurts my , feelings. Do you understand Feelings about this?” In this statement, she has described her perception or the boss’s behavior and her which cf her responses wound be most likely to achieve her goal of getting better assignments Probably the assertive behavior. Which of her responses would be most likely to get her fired? Probably the aggressive behavior. And which of her responses would be least likely to “rock the boat”? Undoubtedly the passive behavior-but then she would continue to get the boring job assignments.
With a friend Dan is a doctor doing his residency at City Hospital. He live with two other residents in an·apartment they have rented. Carl, one of the other residents, is the social butterfly of the group. Whenever Carl has time off, it seems that he has a date. Like the others, Carl is 2 bit short of cash, but doesn’t feel a bit bashful about borrowing clothes or money from his roommates. One evening, Carl asks Dan if he can borrow his watch, a new, expensive watch Dan received as a present from his father only a few days before. Dan is aware that
Although assertiveness can be thought of as a basic human need, assertive behavior is primarily practiced in Western cultures. In Asian cultures, how one is seen is often felt to be more important than asserting one’s beliefs or rights, and a premium is often placed or, mountaineering a formally correct standard of interaction. For people from these cultures, maintaining “face” and politeness may be more important than achieving personal satisfaction. In rats, in T .Hispanic societies, men especially frequently taught to exercise a form of self expression that goes far beyond the guidelines presented he’h! for assertive behavior. In these societies, the concept of “machismo” guides male behavior. Thus the standard of assertiveness appropriate in our dominant culture can seem inappropriate to people whose cultural frame of reference leads them to perceive it as either aggressive or weak.
For this reason, with assertiveness-just as with any other skill-we need to be aware that no single standard of behavior ensures that we will achieve 0 goals. Although what is labeled appropriate behavior varies across cultures, the results of passive and aggressive behavior seem to be universal: Passive behavior can cause resentment, and aggressive behavior leads to fear and misunderstanding. When talking with people who e culture, background, or lifestyle differs from your own, you may need to observe their behavior and their responses to your statements before you can be sure of the kinds of behavior that are likely to communicate your intentions effectively
Carl does not always take the best care of what he borrows, and he is very concerned about the possibility of Carl’s damaging or losing the watch. Which of these responses might Dan make? Passive: “Sure.” Aggressive “Forget it You’ve got a lot of nerve ask g to borrow a brand new watch. You know I’d be damned lucky to get it back in one piece.” Assertive lent you several items with much ado, but this watch is special. I’ve had it only a few days, and I just don’t feel comfortable lending it. I hope you can understand how I feel.” What are likely to be the consequences of each of these behaviors? If he behaves passively’; Dan is likely worry the entire evening and harbor some ‘resentment of even if he gets the watch back undamaged. Moreover, Carl will continue to think that his roommates feel comfortable in lending him anything he wants. If Dan behaves aggressively, Carl is likely to be completely taken aback by his explosive behavior. No one has ever said anything to Carl before, so he has no reason to -believe that he can’t borrow whatever he’d like.
Moreover, the relationship between Dan and Carl might become strained. But if Dan behaves assertively, he puts the focus on his own feelings and on this particular object-the watch. His. response isn’t a denial of Carl’s right to borrow items, nor is it an attack on an explanation of why Dan does not want to lend this item at this time. For a review of the characteristics of assertive behavior,
your goals. The skills discussed in this book are designed to increase the probability of achieving interpersonal effectiveness. Just as with self-disclosure and describing feelings, however, there are risks involved in being assertive. For instance, some people will label any assertive behavior as “aggressive.” People who have difficulty asserting themselves often do not appreciate the fact that the potential benefits far outweigh the risks. Remember, our behavior teaches people how to treat us. When we are passive-when we have taught people that they can ignore our feelings-they will. When we are aggressive, we teach people to respond in kind. By contrast, when we are assertive, we can influence others to treat us as we would prefer to be treated. Here are some useful guidelines for practicing assertive behavior: (1) identify what you are thinking or feeling; (2) analyze the cause of these feelings; (3) choose the appropriate skills to communicate these feelings, as well as the outcome you desire, if any; and (4) communicate these feelings to the appropriate person., If you ~re having trouble taking the first step to being more assertive, begin with situations in which you are likely to have a high potential for success (Alberto & Lemons, 1995). In addition, try to incorporate the characteristics of assertive behavior outlined in
Although assertiveness can be thought of as a basic human need, assertive behavior is primarily practiced in Western cultures. In Asian cultures, how one is seen is often felt to be more important than asserting one’s beliefs or rights, and a premium is often placed or, mountaineering a formally correct standard of Siccing! interaction. For people from these cultures, maintaining “face” and politeness may be more important than achieving personal satisfaction. In Hispanic societies, men especially frequently taught to exercise a form of self-expression that goes far beyond the guidelines presented he’h! for assertive behavior. In these societies, the concept of “machismo” guides male behavior. Thus the standard of assertiveness appropriate in our dominant culture can seem inappropriate to people whose cultural frame of reference leads them to perceive it as either aggressive or weak. For this reason, with assertiveness-just as with any other skill we need to be aware that no single standard of behavior ensures that we will achieve 0 goals. Although what is labeled appropriate behavior varies across cultures, the results of passive and aggressive behavior seem to be universal: Passive behavior can cause resentment, and aggressive behavior leads to fear and misunderstanding. When talking with people whose culture, background, or lifestyle differs from your own, you may need to observe their behavior and their responses to your statements before you can be sure of the kinds of behavior that are likely to communicate your intentions effectively.
Conversation and Analysis
Use your Communicate CD-ROOM to access a video senator of the following conversation click on the Communicate. In Action feature and then click on. Trevor. Meg As you watch Trevor and Meg discuss the future of their relationship focus on how effectively they are communicating.
1. How do Trevor and Meg disclose their feelings?
2. Note how effective each is at owning feelings and opinions.
3. How well do Trevor and Meg use praise and constructive criticism?
4. Notice how each demonstrates the characteristics of assertive behavior.
5. What is really Meg’s fear?
We have provided a transcript of Trevor and Meg’s conversation. After you have viewed the conversation on your CD-ROM, read the transcript. In the
right hand column there is space for you to record your analysis. You can also complete your analysis electronically using the Conversational Analysis feature included in Communicate! In Action, From the Conversation Menu on your CD-ROM, click “Analysis” for Trevor and Meg. Type your answers to the questions above in the forms provided. When you are finished, click “Submit” to compare your response to the analysis provided by the authors.
Trevor and Meg have been going together for the last several months of their senior year at college. Now that graduation is approaching, they are trying to figure out what to do about their relationship. They sit and talk.
Meg: Yes, Trevor, but you need more than a job. You need to figure out what kind of job really turns you on. Or else, you risk waking up one day and regretting your life. And. I don’t want to be there when that happens. I watched my dad go through a midlife crisis, and he ended up walking out on us.
Trevor: I’m not your dad, Meg. I won’t leave you. And don’t worry about me, I’ll find a job
Meg: Really? You’ve known I was going to law school in the city for over a month, but you still haven’t even begun a job search. Trevor, right now is the time when people are hiring and you haven’t even done your resume. The longer you wait, the more difficult your search is going to be.
Trevor: Come on Meg, you’ve already said I’m irresistible. What company wouldn’t want me?
Meg: rm serious, Trevor. Look, I’ve got a scholarship to pay law school, but it’s only going to pay half of my expenses. I’ll be taking a loan to get enough money to pay the rest and to have money to live on. I won’t have the money 01 the time to be very sup portiere of you if haven’t found work. I need the security of knowing that you’ve got a job and that you are saving money .
Trevor: Well, they say that “two can live as cheaply as one.” I was thinking that once you got settled, I’d move in and that will save us a lot of money.
Meg: Whoa, Trevor. You know how I feel about that. I do love you, and I hope that we have a future together. But living together this year is not an option. I trunk we need at least a year of living on our own to get ourselves settled and make sure that we really are compatible. After all, we come from totally different back grounds.
I practically raised myself, and I’ve paid my own bills since I was 18, while you’ve been lucky enough to have parents who footed your bills. There have been several times whenever talked about important issues and the differences between us have been obvious, and they worry me.
Trevor: You mean when I was joking around about our different tastes in cars?
Meg: No, Trevino cars, that’s minor. But we also have greatly different feelings about money and family. You’ve told me that once you get married you want to start a family immediately. As see it, I’ve got a three-year commitment to law school, then seven to ten years ‘of hard work in order to make partner at a good firm. So I’m not sure when I want to start a family. But I know it won’t be at least for six years.
Trevor: So, what are you saying, Meg? Is it over? “Thanks for the good time, Trevor, but you’re not in my plans?”
Meg: Please don’t be sarcastic. I’m not trying to hurt you. It makes me happy to think that we’ll spend the rest of our lives together. But I’m worried about several things, so I’m j~St not ready to commit to that now. Let’s just take a year, get settled, and see what happens. I’ll love it if you do get a job near where I’m in school. That way we can have time to sort through some of the issues Between us
Trevor: You mean if you ‘can fit me into your schedule? Meg, if we love each other now, area’t we still going to love each her next year? If we wait until we have everything settled we might never get married; there’ll always be something. After all, we are two different people. We’re never going to agree on everything
Meg: Are you saying that with as unsettled that our lives are right now that we can shoulder the additional stress of planning for a marriage?
Trevor: No, what I’m saying is that we live together this year, see how it goes, then if it isn’t working we don’t have to get married.
Summary Self Disclosure and Feedback
Self disclosure statements reveal information about ourselves that is unknown to others. Several guidelines can help us decide when self disclosure is appropriate. Three ways to disclose our feelings are to withhold them, display them, or skillfully describe them .
.Instead of owning our own feelings and ideas, we often avoid disclosure by making generalized statements. The skill of making I statements can help us to more honestly assume ownership of our ideas and feelings. Assertiveness is the skill of stating our ideas and feelings openly in inter personally effective ways. Passive people are often unhappy as a result of not stating what they think and feel aggressive people get their ideas and feelings heard but may crease more problems for themselves because of their aggressiveness. And, as we migrant expect, appropriateness of assertiveness varies across cultures.
Some of the characteristics of behaving assertively are owning feelings, avoiding confrontational language, using specific statements directed to the saviors at hard, maintaining eye contact and firm body position, maintaining a firm hut pleasant tone of voice, and avoiding hemming and hawing .