If asked to define assertiveness what comes to mind…? Would your description include confident or would you say “pushy?” Perhaps you believe assertiveness means being an upfront, direct communicator. Were you thinking not everyone has the personality required to be assertive? Maybe you even mused it’s much easier for men to be assertive.
Let’s explore this skill set as assertiveness is finally receiving the attention it so rightly deserves. And it is gender-free in its application, so no holding back.
Your choice – will it be assertiveness?
The description of the following choices (and it is a choice) will help explain the distinct differences as we examine how to maximize the benefits of being assertive.
Passive: A style that doesn’t feel entitled to speak-up or join in as needed. Often we have no idea what the passive person is thinking because they stay safely on the sidelines.
Passive Aggressive: The least trusted style because this person says one thing to your face and something different behind your back. They plot their revenge carefully as they manage to keep their hands clean.
Aggressive: This style comes equipped with a large ego and struts shamelessly as they want the attention, the glory and the credit. They will protect their street cred at all costs so if they have to take you down to prove their worth…well, you get my point!
Assertive: The most trusted style of all because they are forthright, honest, respectful and diplomatic. They call it like they see it, but take care to never insult or embarrass.
Anyone come to mind?
As you read the descriptions, did anyone come to mind? Of course they did – we all know people who would fit each of the descriptions. And the good news…becoming assertive has never been more appreciated and embraced. The other three styles are counterproductive and not good for one’s reputation.
Gen Y (who I love and advocate for) has certainly helped with the faster pace of doing business and overall communication (texting, instant messaging, abbreviated emails, etc.) This is another reason to be assertive – time management. You say what you mean the first time and there is less (or none) of the back and forth vague communication. That makes for many ahh moments!
A little play on words
So this brings me to my titillating title – perhaps you noticed a little play on the word “itch?” Are women equally regarded when they are behaving assertively compared to men? Is there any pushback? Yes, there often is pushback, hence the “itch” reference, but it comes more frequently from other women rather than from men. Yes, you read that correctly! In my research on this topic for years, I found that to be the case. For instance studies show that women will have at least three career sabotage attempts by another woman during their professional careers. Not so with men. Men are known for not caring who likes them, who doesn’t – it’s not a popularity contest on the job. For whatever reason, many women still struggle with the need to be liked over the need to be respected – that is where assertiveness can help.
Answer the following questions to determine just how assertive you currently are:
- Do you wait to be invited to participate in a conversation or to give your expert opinion? If you answered “yes” that is a passive indicator.
- Do you interrupt people as they are talking – perhaps even talking over them? If you answered “yes” that is an aggressive indicator.
- Do you ask the questions others are too hesitant to ask in a meeting? If you answered “yes” that is an assertive indicator.
- Do you manipulate others behind the scenes to get what you need? If you answered “yes” that is a passive aggressive indicator.
- Do you do a lot of favors that you’d rather not/should not be asked to do? If you answered “yes” that is a passive indicator.
- Do you solicit the help of others to spread the word, but you manage to stay clear of the fallout? If you answered “yes” that is a passive aggressive indicator.
- Do you/can you say “no” when necessary without feeling guilty? If you answered “yes” that is an assertive indicator
- Do you control the conversation with no room for input or healthy debates? If you answered “yes” that is an aggressive indicator.
The benefits of becoming assertive are endless. I find that men and women alike are approaching this rediscovered soft skill as a vital tool for their communication toolbox.
Assertiveness benefits and positive perceptions include:
• Less stressed – wow!
• More approachable – critical
• Increased confidence – who doesn’t want that?
• Trustworthy – everyone needs to be trusted
• Time management – more time for fun!
• Credibility – something that should never be questioned
• Increased rapport – people like being/working around you
• Flexible – change is everywhere
• Diplomatically candid – this goes a long way
• Can do attitude – we thrive around optimistic people
Time to grow your backbone? NHLA will be offering upcoming seminars on assertiveness and communicating effectively in Southern and Northern Nevada. Be sure to attend.
Guest Blogger: Deborah Thomas-Nininger – Founder of DTN Productions International