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Dr. Clifton 

WHAT IS ASSERTIVENESS?

By C. Russell Clifton, Ph.D

2121 N. W. 40th Terrace, Suite B                                                                                           
Gainesville Florida 32605 
Ph: (352) 336-2888  Fax: (352) 371-1730                                                             

all rights reserved: Clinical Psychology Associates of N. Central Florida   www.cpancf.com 

One definition of assertiveness is the communication of one’s needs, limits, wishes, or requests of others in a manner which is respectful and recognizes the rights of others.
 
 Basic rules of assertiveness are
 
Express your own feelings, needs or thoughts.
Communicate in a manner which does not threaten, offend or render judgment on others.
Take personal responsibility for your own feelings, actions, and concerns.
Allow others to agree, disagree, refuse, postpone, and or express their own feelings, needs, or thoughts.
Do not interrupt, or dominate the conversation.
Be constructive – look for win-win solutions
 
Assertiveness or assertive communication is often contrasted with aggressive, passive-aggressive, or aggressive styles and communication.  Passive style is giving into others too easily without making a strong enough effort to see that your own wishes, thoughts, and feelings are heard.  Passive-aggressive style involves failing to meet normal or agreed upon expectations, stonewalling or avoiding communication or responsibilities. Aggressive style is pushing too hard for what you want or making demands without regard for other people’ feelings or rights.
 
Assertive style is standing up for yourself and expressing your true feelings while making an effort to be considerate of others people’s feelings, too.
 
Passive communication or style often results in one not getting one’s needs met.  It can result in feelings of low self-esteem or ineffectiveness as a person, frustration, anger, and resentment.  It is often characterized by magical thoughts that others should or would know what one wants or does not want.
 
Passive-aggressive communication or style often leads to resentment and anger in others, while the individual claims “What, I didn’t do anything”.  The response is often “That’s the point.”
 
Most of us recognize aggression. This can involve bullying, demanding, threats, inappropriate tones of voice, demeaning comments, sarcasm, clenching of fists, violating other’s personal space, hostile stares, etc.
 
Much of what we communicate involves behavior, attitude, and body language.  Assertive body language is firm, but not threatening.
 
ASSERTIVE BODY LANGUAGE
 
1. Maintain good eye contact
2. Maintain good body posture
3. Speak clearly, audibly, and firmly but don’t yell
4. Don’t whine or use an apologetic tone
5. Use firm but not aggressive gestures and facial expression for emphasis
6. Don’t clench fists, cross arms, invade others personal space, close distance, etc.
 
Asking for Change
 
1. Specify the type of behavior you would like the other person to change
2. Tell the other person how you feel about this behavior
3. Name the specific changes you would like to see. Also think about what might you need to change in your own behavior?
4. What will you do in response if the other person can make these changes?
 
Starters or Responses in Communicating and Negotiating Assertively and Respectfully
 
1. The “Stroke” - Thanks for caring about me. I know you must be worried about....
2. The “I” message - I would really like to....
3. The “Detective” - How can I [do something].that will show you that I can handle this?
4. The “Broken Record “sounds like you believe can we do something to work it out?
5. The “Future Credit” - I want you to trust me. I hope we can continue to talk about this.
 
Assertive Refusals
 
Aggression sometimes involves not respecting other’s rights to refuse. Some individuals may find it hard to say no, even when the request is respectful.  While refusing to do something that is part of one’s responsibilities or part of an understood relationship can be passive-aggressive, sometimes refusing requests is an appropriate way to express preferences, or to set very important boundaries.
 
Hints for Saying No
 
Maintain good eye contact and speak firmly.
Say “no”.  Simple refusals often gives the other person less room to argue or challenge your refusal.
Don’t offer excessive apologies or explanations if the person press on. 
Don’t make up excuses.
 
For those who have difficulties in communicating assertively it is often helpful to practice in low risk situations. Practicing, rehearsing in front of a mirror, or role-playing can be helpful.  For some individuals sessions with psychologist in practicing these techniques or applying them to a particularly difficult situation or relationship might help.
 
NOTE: Expressing yourself assertively is not a guarantee that you will get what you ask for.
 
Related Articles:

Anger Management

 Anger Management 101 Rules for Productive Disagreement

Jealousy in Relationships: Jealousy is a Dangerous Sword ...

 Edited by Ernest J. Bordini, Ph.D.   published on the CPANCF.COM website  Nov. 2015

 


 

Clinical Psychology Associates of  North Central Florida

 2121 NW 40th Terr. Ste B,  Gainesville, FL 32605     (352) 336-2888                    www.CPANCF.COM 

 Clinical Psychology Associates of North Central Florida offers Employee Assistance Programs to municipalities and employers in the North Central Florida Area.  We offer a range of services for employers included EAP programs, fitness for duty evaluations, supervisor training, and violence avoidance seminars.


 
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