How many people can truly say they are assertive when speaking to others at home, work, school, etc? Assertiveness eliminates the "what if's" of situations. I have fallen victim to being passive-aggressive, but I know better now.
James J Messina, PhD, is a licensed psychologist with more than 35 years of experience counseling individuals and families. Messina, who specializes in adult and children psychotherapy, serves as Director of Psychological Services at St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital in Tampa, Fla. He has a private practice in Tampa and is also a member of the American Psychological Association.
What is assertive behavior?
Ten Assertive Rights of an Individual
Journal Exercise on 10 Assertive Rights
Six Myths That Encourage Non-Assertive Behavior
Steps to Improve Personal Assertiveness
What is assertive behavior?
Assertive behavior is:
* Standing up for one's rights no matter what the circumstance.
* Correcting the situation when one's rights are being violated.
* Seeking respect and understanding for one's feelings about a particular situation or circumstance.
* Interacting in a mature manner with those found to be offensive, defensive, aggressive, hostile, blaming, attacking or otherwise unreceptive.
* Direct, upfront--not defensive or manipulative--behavior. Those using assertive behavior confront problems, disagreement, or personal discomforts head-on, and their intent is unmistakable to others.
* Verbal "I" statements, where individuals tell others how they feel about a situation, circumstance or the behavior of others.
* Taking the risk of being misunderstood as being aggressive, abrasive or attacking.
* Being able to protect one's rights while protecting and respecting the rights of others.
* Risk-taking behavior that is not ruled by fear of rejection or disapproval, but is directed by the rational belief that "I deserve to stand up for my rights."
* Rational thinking and the self-affirmation of personal worth, respect and rights.
* A healthy style in which to conduct interpersonal relationships.
* Finding a "win-win" solution in handling problems between two individuals.
The "you win and I lose" solution is a passive solution where one individual gives up his rights to another. The "you lose and I win" solution is an aggressive solution where one individual ignores the rights of another in order to get his way. The "you lose and I lose" solution is a total passive solution where both individuals give up their rights. A healthy resolution is impossible. The "you win and I win" solution is an assertive solution where the rights of both parties are recognized, respected and utilized in reaching a healthy compromise.
Ten Assertive Rights of an Individual
Assertive Right 1: I have the right to judge my own behavior, thoughts and emotions and to take the responsibility for their initiation and consequence. The behavior of others may have an impact upon me, but I determine how I choose to react and/or deal with each situation. I alone have the power to judge and modify my thoughts, feelings and behavior. Others may influence my decision, but the final choice is mine.
Assertive Right 2: I have the right to offer neither reason nor excuse to justify my behavior. I need not rely upon others to judge whether my actions are proper or correct. Others may state disagreement or disapproval, but I have the option to disregard their preferences or to work out a compromise. I may choose to respect their preferences and consequently modify my behavior. What is important is that it is my choice. Others may try to manipulate my behavior and feelings by demanding to know my reasons and by trying to persuade me that I am wrong, but I know that I am the ultimate judge.
Assertive Right 3: I have the right to judge whether I am responsible for finding solutions to others' problems. I am ultimately responsible for my own psychological well-being and happiness. I may feel concern and compassion and good will for others, but I am neither responsible for nor do I have the ability to create mental stability and happiness for others. My actions may have caused others' problems indirectly; however, it is still their responsibility to come to terms with the problems and to learn to cope on their own. If I fail to recognize this assertive right, others may choose to manipulate my thoughts and feelings by placing the blame for their problems on me.
Assertive Right 4: I have the right to change my mind. As a human being, nothing in my life is necessarily constant or rigid. My interests and needs may well change with the passage of time. The possibility of changing my mind is normal, healthy and conducive to self-growth. Others may try to manipulate my choice by asking that I admit error or by stating that I am irresponsible; it is nevertheless unnecessary for me to justify my decision.
Assertive Right 5: I have the right to say "I don't know."
Assertive Right 6: I have the right to make mistakes and be responsible for them. To make a mistake is part of the human condition. Others may try to manipulate me, having me believe that my errors are unforgivable, that I must make amends for my wrongdoing by engaging in proper behavior. If I allow this, my future behavior will be influenced by my past mistakes, and my decisions will be controlled by the opinions of others.
Assertive Right 7: I have the right to be independent of the good will of others before coping with them. It would be unrealistic for me to expect others to approve of all my actions, regardless of their merit. If I were to assume that I required others' goodwill before being able to cope with them effectively, I would leave myself open to manipulation. It is unlikely that I require the goodwill and/or cooperation of others in order to survive. A relationship does not require 100 percent agreement. It is inevitable that others will be hurt or offended by my behavior at times. I am responsible only to myself, and I can deal with periodic disapproval from others.
Assertive Right 8: I have the right to be illogical in making decisions. I sometimes employ logic as a reasoning process to assist me in making judgments. However, logic cannot predict what will happen in every situation. Logic is not much help in dealing with wants, motivations and feelings. Logic generally deals with "black or white," "all or none" and "yes or no" issues. Logic and reasoning don't always work well when dealing with the gray areas of the human condition.
Assertive Right 9: I have the right to say "I don't understand."
Assertive Right 10: I have the right to say "I don't care."