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Being Assertive – When One’s Freedom Does Not Hinder Another’s!

Article novembre 2020

Assertiveness is frequently confused with freedom of expression. Under the pretext ofexpressing one’s opinion freely,we hurt or abuse someone else… Or, on the contrary,we feel misunderstood, victimized, or offended…

Being assertive does not mean claimingour rights or imposingour opinion… It is knowing how to express ourselves in a way that clearly indicates our needs while keeping communication openwith others in order to develop positive professional (or social) relations.

What does being assertive mean?  

Let’s begin by defining assertiveness as the ability to express our feelings, thoughts, opinions, convictions, and preferences freely, openly, and directly in an honest, appropriate and respectful (towards ourselves and each other) manner,despite environmental pressures.

Why is it important to be assertive?  

Assertiveness is an important aspect of professional behavior. It allows you to express yourself in different situations and to demonstrate your confidence and ability to deal with a situation while remaining respectful and building trust, credibility, and rapport.

The goal is to not generate anxiety and stress for ourselves and to avoid creating some for others while achieving results.

To assert ourselves is to take our rightful place; it is to know our rights, needs, and interests and toaffirm them. It also means being able to give voice to our feelings while knowing how to control them. Managing our emotions is an essential step towards defending our rights, and therefore towards asserting ourselves.

Assertiveness allows us to get what we need while respecting and recognizing the needs of others. As we build our interpersonal skills, we need to be able to assert our position and understand what we expect from interacting with others.

For example:

  • Are you able to talk to your supervisor about excessive workload?
  • Are you able to ask questions and make statements without fear of being judged?
  • Do you stay strong when others offer resistance or when a friend or colleague is rude or unreasonable?
  • Can you express your opinion clearly and unambiguously without generating distrust or anxiety?

People who assert themselves approach situations with confidence and maturity. In general, people whoassertthemselves:

  • Get win-win results more easily - they see the value of their interlocutor and their position and can quickly find common ground.
  • Are better at solving problems - they feel apt to do what it takes to find the best solution.
  • Are less stressed - they know they have personal power and do not feel threatened or victimized when things go wrong.
  • Are people of action they move things forward because they know they can.

Assertiveness creates new opportunities, influences people, and improves relationships with co-workers, customers, suppliers, and personal contacts by providing you with a closer and more honest relationship with those you meet.

On the contrary, a lack of assertiveness undermines physical and psychic energies, causes many psychosomatic disorders, complicates and deteriorates interpersonal relationships, and generates frustrations and dissatisfaction.

Understand that it is above all a matter of respect  

The notion of respect plays a key role in the ability to assert ourselves. To assert ourselves is to establish a win-win relationship in which respect for others (and their opinion) is fundamental. Respecting others means recognizing that we are all of equal value and that the opinions and needs of others are valid. Concretely, it is a matter of being able to express our point of view with conviction while agreeing to consider someone else’s even if it is different.

Assertiveness is best expressed in the phrase “Neither doormat, nor hedgehog!”

Neither doormat - Passive people let others decide what happens to them regardless of their needs, are intimidated, and accept that they are shown little to no respect.

To be a doormat is to adopt a passive behavior in which one does not express their needs and desires, avoids conflicts, and leaves all the room to the other. Passive people who have difficulty speaking out to others do so out of fear of being rejected or to avoid harming others. Theybottlethings up and avoiduncomfortable situations.

They tend to feel “victimized”, blame others for not being considered, and experience feelings of frustration, dissatisfaction, guilt, or anxiety, as well as high levels of tension and stress because their relational expectations aren’t met.

Passive people value themselves less than others. They believe that their rights, opinions, and emotions are not important, and therefore, their needs are almost never met. In the long run, the helplessness and isolation associated with a lack of assertiveness can lead to feelings of depression, insomnia and health problems. Doormat behaviour is disrespectful to oneself!

Nor hedgehog -Aggressive people place their own needs above the needs of others, intimidate others, and show little to no respect.

To be a hedgehog is to adopt an aggressive behavior in which one is insensitive to the ideas, feelings, and needs of others. Hedgehogs meet their needs at the expense of others and interact in a way that is confrontational, violent, or disrespectful.

Hedgehogs are not very grateful for services others provide them with. They tend to victimize others and others usually respond,react with distrust and anger, and avoid any future interaction with them.

As a result, aggressive people experience a lot of stress, guilt, and discomfort. The satisfaction they obtainis short-term andcreates relational problems (repeated conflicts, relationship break-ups, etc.), and hedgehogs end up feeling misunderstood and isolated, which feeds their frustration even more and leads them to an even more aggressive behavior. Hedgehog behavior is disrespectful to others!

Express a balanced statement  

To assert oneself is to know how to find the right balance. It is to place yourself halfway between aggressiveness and passivity.

Assertiveness is based on balance. To assert ourselveswe must know how to express ourselves in a way that clearly indicates our needs, desires, and values while maintaining open communication with others. In other words, finding the right balance of respect for everyone. And this does not come effortlessly. Both poles are necessary: Self-respect and respect for the other.

Asserting oneself is … expressing ourselves  FOR  our needs and values, not AGAINST  those of othersBeing assertive also includes understanding that the freedom of some ends where the freedom of others begins!

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