Assertiveness is essential for every situation.

The true meaning of assertiveness


Assertiveness is a powerful tool for daily life. However in my experience, it can sometimes run the risk of going too far towards aggression or worse – passive aggression. Some of the most charismatic people I’ve met manage to walk that line and be assertive, but not imposing.

Let me explain what I mean when I’m talking about assertiveness and why it’s so important to success.

The definition of assertiveness

Assertiveness is standing up for people’s rights, including your own, in a way that’s:

  • Positive.
  • Respectful.
  • Honest.
  • Straightforward.
  • Calm.

I believe that assertive behaviour stems from an understanding of your and others self-worth. When you’re an assertive individual, you won’t be manipulated or taken advantage of. You’re also willing to express your needs, feelings and viewpoints.

Being assertive is a balanced way of responding to situations. It’s based around respecting other people while acknowledging your own rights and defending them.

I know that many people link assertiveness and aggressiveness together. However, with assertive communication and behaviour, you’re not being demanding or physically pushy. Instead, it’s walking a fine line that runs between passiveness and aggressiveness.

Are you assertive in your professional and personal life?Are you assertive in your professional and personal life?

Why is assertiveness important?

One of my favourite examples of an assertive personality is Gandhi. He recognised the oppression his people were experiencing and chose non-violent resistance as his way of defending their rights.

His actions clearly weren’t passive, but didn’t push into aggressiveness either. A passive person wouldn’t take action and stand up for their rights. An aggressive person would take the defense too far, and ignore the rights and needs of the other side.

Despite what his people faced, his actions showed respect for the rights of the people he was fighting against. What he achieved, demonstrates how important assertiveness is.

Assertiveness is a powerful behaviour to employ. It allows better situational and emotional control. By being assertive, you:

  • Respond better to criticism – As an assertive person, you take negative feedback in your stride. You asses the criticism and decide whether it’s genuine or stemming from something else that’s not your fault, like a bad mood. Your response acknowledges what was said and thank the individual for providing the feedback. An important thing to note here is that you will neither lash out (even if the criticism was undeserved) or try and fend off what was said.
  • Deal with conflict more effectively – Being assertive, you won’t try and avoid conflict by complying with the wishes of the other person. Neither will you let anger take control of your responses. You understand how you’re feeling and seek to better grasp where they’re coming from. This helps resolve conflict in a positive way, where both of you feel like you’ve been heard and the issue dealt with.
  • Accept compliments gracefully – Compliments are notoriously hard to accept. I know that I can struggle with them myself. However, often they’re more of a reflection of the person giving them, than the individual receiving the compliment. They’re expressing something that they value in you. By dismissing them, you’re brushing off their viewpoint, which can come across as hurtful. As an assertive individual, you acknowledge the compliment with gratitude.
  • Handle demands efficiently – In your personal and professional life it’s possible to become overwhelmed with demands, some of them unreasonable. Being assertive allows you to say “no” to them when needed and understand what levels you can manage.
Respectful and positive communication are part of being assertive.Respectful and positive communication are part of being assertive.

How assertive behaviour is expressed 

Body language is a big part of assertiveness. Eye contact and standing with your shoulder’s back shows self-confidence, which is an underlying factor of assertiveness. Often, a lack of self confidence is what causes passive or aggressive behaviour.

Communication style also reflects on how assertive someone is. For example, someone with a passive-aggressive personality will indirectly express any hostility they’re feeling. Whereas an assertive person is straightforward and respectful with their communication.

Assertiveness is a behaviour that is appropriate for every scenario. Developing it and using it every day is vital for your relationships and self-esteem.

If you’d like to know more about how ICML can help you with assertiveness training, get in touch today.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Latest Assertiveness skills Articles