Dr. Purushothaman
September 30, 2013

Assertiveness is one of those pop-psychology terms that
confuses people. So, let's define it first, and then explore
what it entails.
In its most simple form, assertiveness is sharing what
your experience is with another person. Think of it as playing
a hand of cards. You have your cards facing you and your
opponent has his cards facing him. You lay your cards down,
face up on the playing table, so that he can see what you have.
You are sharing what your have. Metaphorically, you are
communicating what is your experience for another to appreciate.
This does not require the other player to lay down his cards.
Being assertive does not mean the other person has to say what
his experience is or to communicate with you in any way.
Assertiveness at it core is you sharing something about you,
preferably in a matter-of-fact way.
Assertiveness is not aggressiveness. Whey you lay down
your cards, you do not throw your cards at your opponent. You
lay them down nicely. When communicating, do so with aplomb or
at least just state your feeling about something or your opinion
about something without too much affect. Be direct and as we
psychologist are fond of saying, use "I" statements. Yelling,
name calling and/or hitting are all aggressive. Assertiveness
is not aggressive and can be accomplished even while sitting on
your hands and whispering.
Not stating your opinion is either passivity or
non-assertiveness, but these are not the same. Passivity is
trying to accomplish something indirectly, usually manipulatively,
by communicating something related to your real feelings but not
quite spot on. It's goal is to get you to react but without
you really knowing what is going on. Non-assertiveness is simply
choosing to not react. It is direct, not indirect like passivity,
and it may or may not have a goal. Non-assertiveness is
conscious, clear and designed to just not respond, but it is a
clear choice that does not aim to manipulate others.
In real life, assertiveness is speaking your mind and asking
for what you want. Even if you do not ask for what you want,
it feels better in the long run to at least state your opinion
out loud. And, if you ask for what you want assertively,
the chances go up that you will get what you want. Assertiveness
is no guarantee of this, but it does increase the likelihood.
But we all know that most of us have, on occasion, passed on
being assertive. I've written a to-the-point ebook titled
The Five Steps of Assertiveness in which I outline the eleven or
so most common reasons to not be assertive. Heading the list is
the wish to avoid conflict with others. Second is the wish
to avoid dealing with one's own feelings. There are a lot of
excuses, some of them quite creative. However, none of these
reasons justify the effort to self-sabotage, which is the net
effect of not being assertive.
This same ebook outlines the really simple and basic steps
to follow to achieve assertiveness. I've made it as simple
as is humanly possible to succeed. In my outpatient psychology
practice, I teach this every day and believe me; it is not hard.
The benefits are huge to effectiveness in communicating with your
partner, decreasing anxiety and depression, and on and one.

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