Understanding Assertiveness


Passive Behavior: Giving up your rights, honest feelings, thoughts and beliefs. Feeling helpless, anxious, resentful, disappointed with yourself, trying to please others. You feel being manipulated and pushed around all the time.

Aggressive Behavior: You feel angry, frustrated, almost all the time. You generally dominate, forcing others to lose, show strength, are tense and achieve your ends at the cost of your and others’ happiness.

Assertive Behavior: You are capable of standing up for your personal rights and expressing your thoughts, feelings and beliefs in a direct, honest and helpful way that do not violate the rights of others. After the expression you feel much better and your self-esteem goes up.

Passive-Aggressive Behavior: As the name suggests the passive-aggressive style combines elements of both, the passive and aggressive styles. The anger of the aggressive style and the fear of the passive, both have the influence. The anger makes you want to “get” the other person but the fear holds you back from doing it directly. When we are passive-aggressive, we disguise our aggression so that we can avoid taking responsibility for it.

As it seems from the above-mentioned explanation, assertive behavior is more effective and superior in nature.

Assertiveness: The Expression of Being

  • Assertiveness is the self-expression through which one stands up for one’s own basic human rights without violating the basic rights of others.

  • All of us should insist on being treated fairly. We have to stand up for our rights without violation of the rights of others.

  • This means tactfully, justly and effectively expressing our preferences, needs, opinions and feelings.

  • Being assertive is distinguished from being unassertive (weak, passive, compliant, self-sacrificing) or aggressive (self-centered, inconsiderate, hostile, arrogant, demanding).

Why Assertiveness (The Purpose)

  • To speak up, make requests, ask for favors and generally insist that your rights be respected as a significant, equal human being.

  • To overcome the fears and self-depreciation those keep you from exercising your rights.

  • To express negative emotions (complaints, resentment, criticism, disagreement, intimidation, the desire to be left alone). To refuse requests if you wish to.

  • To show positive emotions (joy, pride, liking some one, attraction). To give compliments. To accept compliments with “thank you”.

  • To ask why and question authority or tradition. Not to rebel but to assume responsibility, to take control of the situation and to make things better. You are not a slave.

  • To initiate, carry on, change and terminate conversations comfortably. Share your feelings, opinions and expressions with others.

  • To deal with minor irritations before your anger turns into intense resentment and aggression.

Assertive Rights

  • You must recognize your rights and stand up for them. If you do not, other people define your role for you and you stop being yourself?

  • You have the right to be treated with respect.

  • You have the right to be treated as a human being equal to others in every way.

  • You have the right to do anything as long as it does not hurt someone else.

  • You have the right to maintain your dignity by being properly assertive even if hurts someone else, as long as your motive is assertive, not aggressive.

  • You have the right to judge your own behavior, thoughts and emotions and to take the responsibility for their initiation and consequences upon yourself.

  • You have the right to offer no reasons or excuses for justifying your behavior.

  • You have the right to judge if you are responsible for finding solutions to other people’s problems.

  • You have right to change your mind.

  • You have right to make mistakes and be responsible for them.

  • You have right to say, “I don’t know”.

  • You have the right to be independent of the goodwill of others before coping with them.

  • You have the right to deal with others without being dependent on them for approval.

  • You have the right to be illogical in making decisions.

  • You have the right to say, “I don’t understand”.

  • You have the right to ask for more information.

  • You have the right to say, “I don’t care”.

  • You have the right to say “no” without feeling guilty. You also have the right to say "yes".

  • You have the right to pamper yourself.

  • You have the right to ask for what you want.

  • You have the right to stand up for your rights and attain those rights.

  • You have the right to answer honestly when you are asked if you like something and you don’t.

  • You have the right to refuse to entertain a friend of your spouse whom you don’t like.

  • You have the right to make request of another person as long as you realize the other person has the right to say “no”.

  • You have the right to ask for what you want.

  • You have the right to clarify in case of doubts.

Simple Assertiveness Technique

The three-line assertion technique:

  1. You understand and summarize the facts of the situation.

  2. You indicate your feelings towards the situation.

  3. You state your requirements, reasons and benefits to the other party, if appropriate.

Assertion normally comprises this three-line assertive message. This technique enables you to confront the other person with your concern without being personally aggressive. It requires skillful conversation control and practice.

Example: You may say:

1. “When you…………” (state facts)

2. “I feel uncomfortable…………” (state feelings)

3. “I would like…………” (state requirements). “In this way we will be able to work together more productively because…………”(state benefits to the other party)

In extreme case, there may be a fourth line indicating the consequences of the other person still not mending his ways. You may say:

4. If you don’t, I will……….