How to Train Yourself to Be Assertive

Dr. Purushothaman
October 1, 2013

Few of us are naturally assertive; we lean either towards aggression or passivity. To build our self esteem not only creates balance in our personal lives, but also in the World around us.

Tolerance is something which is becoming a relatively scarce commodity in today's world. In fact, it might be said that a state of intolerance abounds. But like anything, this depends on the particular circumstances or area to which the concept is being applied. In many ways we are more tolerant than ever before.

Everything seems to come in cycles. My mother was passing comment about the way the "British Empire" has collapsed, how it used to have so huge a spread and now it is so small. Perhaps, I said, it was simply a matter of the World's natural way of re-balancing things? If one country has too much whilst another has too little then there will be an inevitable move to change this imbalance.

The only problem is that circumstances can swing from one extreme to the other, instead of finding a happy medium. A tolerant community can easily become intolerant and vice versa. Each community is of course made up of individuals. As each of us works to find a balance, the community as a whole achieves that same state.

Assertiveness is a personal quality which we all should strive towards as it represents a state of balance. It stands within the middle ground, half way between the extremes of aggression or passivity. We know the destruction which aggression can cause in both personal lives and the world in general. Aggression, like any other negative emotion, can never really lead to good.

Aggression is an expression of dominance, a lack of respect for others, completely thoughtless to another's feelings or rights. To be too passive, on the other hand, is to be too concerned about the others viewpoint, too often trying to please, too easily dominated. We need to be able to put ourselves in the others shoes but still able to maintain our own perspective at the same time.

I remember as a child being asked to get something out of the closet. I was told it was in the left hand cupboard of the said closet. So I ran off to the bedroom, looked at the wardrobe, turned around to face the room so that my back was to the wardrobe doors, and in this way I knew that the wardrobe's left side door was on my left arm's side.

I was quite young at the time, but you can see here an instinctive example of seeing the world from the other's viewpoint; and yes, I am of a passive temperament and I do like to please! And yes, I have had to train myself to be a little more assertive. A friend did comment only in the last week or so that I am, in her opinion, still too tolerant; she may have a point, but I feel that I have found a happy enough medium to suit me.

A too-passive person tends to spend so much time trying to please that you lose sight of your own perspective, you stop valuing your own likes and stop treating yourself with respect, and your self-esteem dips. You become an easy target for the too-aggressive person who is firmly focused on their own purposes and ideals.

Self-respect and self-esteem are the weapons that fight both passivity and aggression. For a passive person to learn to build their own self-respect allows them to give more weight to their own thoughts, beliefs, and desires. As you respect yourself you instinctively "demand" that others respect you too. This means that you are no longer "an easy target", vulnerable to the aggressor. You make it more difficult for the aggressive person to be aggressive.

When an aggressive person builds greater self-respect and self-esteem they discover a better way in which to deal with circumstances in which they wish to change; perhaps too, they will discover that the change they used to seek is no longer so pressingly desirable. We see the world around us from the perspective of our own thoughts, beliefs, and expectations...and self-esteem or lack thereof is what lies at the source of it all.



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