Many people struggle with their ability to be assertive. Assertiveness is simply communicating your wants/needs in a direct and respectful way. It’s standing up for what you need and taking appropriate steps to see that those needs are met. However, we tend to get caught in communication strategies that are passive or aggressive nature when instead, we need to find that sweet spot of assertiveness.
People who tend to not speak up for themselves or are constantly trying to meet everyone else’s needs while not prioritizing theirs would fall in the passive category. These folks experience a lot of anxiety about expressing their needs. Instead, they are much more comfortable keeping quiet and going along with what others want. The problem is that after a while, being passive starts to create resentment. It’s really frustrating when your needs aren’t being met. The resentment will start to creep into the relationship and cause problems. Sometimes, people that are passive will hit their limit and lash out unintentionally.
People who fight to get their needs met via yelling, name calling, intimidation, or coercion fall into the aggressive category. They don’t compromise, and it’s their way or the highway. Aggressive communication is highly damaging to relationships because it leaves the other person feeling violated and upset about the interaction.
Assertive communication is effective, and unlike the other two forms, it doesn’t damage relationships. You don’t yell, you don’t say hurtful things, you don’t back down when challenged. You have the awareness to know what you want and the confidence to advocate for yourself. Being assertive is a skill. It’s something people can learn even if their default communication is passive or aggressive. There is a plethora of assertiveness tactics you can learn in therapy. A discussion of those tactics is too broad for this blog, but they all center around standing up for yourself in a kind and determined way to ensure your needs are being met.
If you’re struggling with assertiveness and want to work on it in counseling, I’d love to chat with you. Please give our office a call, and we can discuss further.