WHAT IS ASSERTIVENESS?
Assertiveness is many things to many people, but the most common
definition is about speaking up and letting others know what we think
and feel. It is about voicing our feelings; that is, putting the
right word in a sentence that accurately describes our experience.
In fact, jumping ahead a little, using just the right feeling word in
a sentence is THE thing that will increase our assertiveness by fifty
I am a psychologist and in my private practice, I deal with eight
issues or problems every day. Lack of assertiveness is one of the eight.
Improving assertiveness skills positively impacts the other seven areas,
usually right away. (For the curious, some of the other seven issues are
low self-esteem, anxiety disorders, depression, relationship issues, etc.)
In my practice I teach clients how to pick just the right words to use.
In fact, I wrote an ebook that describes the nine primary feelings we
humans have. At the back of the ebook I have listed nearly eight hundred
synonyms for these nine feeling words. When it comes time to be
assertive, all a client has to do is go to the back of the ebook and
select the right word, and then use it in a sentence. Nowhere in my
research is there a greater collection of feeling words. I have made
the process very easy and put it in written form in a very
easy-to-understand flow chart format.
Learning assertiveness involves other things besides just choosing
the right feeling words. Clients have to learn that being assertive is
actually a good thing. Too many people fear being assertive because we
think there is going to be conflict or negative feelings involved.
These things are hard to avoid in life, so we need a technique to deal
with them. Assertiveness is just the ticket. We all sometimes have
to deal with negativity, regardless, because it is in the nature of our
But it does not have to be this way either; that is, focusing on
the negative. I think our experiences are more often positive, or at
least neutral. If not, then we need to consider how to create such a
mental atmosphere, which again, is where assertiveness comes in.
And, even if there is no negativity, which is the sought after goal of
most of us, assertiveness is the technique of choice in dealing with our
thoughts and feelings. The technique of assertiveness is very much
needed to get what we want, or at least ask for it regardless of whether
we succeed in actually getting something. (The process of being
assertive is what counts.)
Assertiveness, as I teach it in the office, involves five steps.
We have to 1) know what we actually are thinking and/or feeling,
2) decide that our thoughts and/or feelings are important enough to do
something about, 3) if so, fantasize a little about the possibilities
of expressing ourselves, 4) then, once settling on a “plan,” actually
doing something or “working” the plan, and lastly, 5) assessing the
results. I call the fifth step, “feedback.” I describe this flow
chart approach to becoming assertive in great detail in my ebook,
entitled, “The Five Steps of Assertiveness.”
The process is very easy to understand, but we have to approach
assertiveness, starting with step one. Most people try to skip directly
to step four, which is the “doing” step. We tend to do this without
thinking through the first three steps. Then, we scratch our heads
in wonderment when “things” did not go so well.
Actually, more people fail at assertiveness in steps one or two.
Many of us do not pay much attention to what really goes through our
minds. We are not “mindful,” to use a popular phrase. Or, even if we
do have some awareness of our thoughts and feelings, we tend to downplay
their significance. We tell ourselves our thoughts and feelings are not
important, therefore, why bother to tell anyone, much less do anything
about them. This is a formula for non-assertiveness. For much more
information about this and other subjects, see my website.
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