Zainab Bawa

Zainab Bawa


Primer on assertive communication

Submitted Apr 18, 2021

Did it ever occur to you that you have a right to say ‘no’, and you have the right to not offer reasons or provide justifications for why you are saying ‘no’?

Assertiveness is the quality of being self-assured and confident without being aggressive. It is a communication style. By being assertive, you respect your own needs and the needs of others.

There is however, a difference between assertiveness, passive behaviour and aggressive behaviour. With passive behaviour, you violate your own needs giving primacy to the needs of others. With aggressive behaviour, you put forth only your needs aggressively, forcefully, and you violate the needs of others.

There are many myths about assertiveness. Here are some of them:

  1. Assertiveness is the same as being aggressive. The only difference is politeness. In reality, assertiveness is a very different way of communication wherein you communicate your needs and listen to the needs of others. Some people who may have had advantages from your earlier ways of communication may blame you for being aggressive when you start being assertive. But assertiveness is not the same as being aggressive.
  2. If I am assertive, it means I will automatically get what I want. Putting focus on being assertive is not a guarantee of getting what you want. But assertive communication definitely improves your self-esteem because you will feel better when you have stated what you want.
  3. If I am assertive, I have to be assertive in every situation. No, it is you who decides when you want to be assertive.
  4. It is uncaring, rude and selfish to assert. This is a common childhood conditioning.
  5. Being assertive will upset the other person when you state your needs. Assertiveness can ruin relationships.
  6. Communicating your needs will be terribly embarrassing. Situational evaluation, and cultural and generational differences influence the severity of this myth and how much it comes in the way of communicating assertively.

Consequences of saying ‘yes’ when you want to say ‘no’.

  1. The first and foremost problem of lack of assertiveness is that you experience dysfunctional emotions such as being anxious, resentful, guilty and stressed. It is also known that the lack of assertiveness can lead to social phobia. There is a greater likelihood of substance abuse in people who are unable to communicate their needs.
  2. You feel loss of control when you are unable to say ‘no’. This leads to aggressive behaviour which provides an outlet for pent-up emotions. Being aggressive can help release tension, but it comes with a cost. Your behaviour can lead to resentment among those around you.
  3. Inability to say ‘no’ or communicate your needs results in you trying to control others as an indirect means to get your needs met.
  4. It can be very difficult for you to feel relaxed in your relationships if you are struggling to communicate clearly. Negative emotions can arise, and make relationships fundamentally unstable. Aggressive people have unstable relationships.
  5. Aggressive people also tend to feel inferior deep down, and try to compensate their emotions by putting others down.

Assertive communication is a way of communicating our feelings, thoughts and beliefs in an open and honest manner without violating the rights of others.
Assertiveness is a skill. It will help you increase your self-esteem. It will help you decrease your anxiety and stress. In short, if you are assertive, you have a much better chance of unleashing your true potential.


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