What is Assertive?
Being assertive is not about being right all the time. It is more about getting what you want in a way that doesn’t trample on someone else’s feelings or neglects other’s needs. The emotionally intelligent understand this. The opposite of assertiveness could be aggressiveness. It could also be giving into the needs and wants of others as a rule. Consequently, being a a bully is as bad as being a doormat! Passive people cave in or say they are going to do something and don’t do it later. They are the ones who don’t commit when asked to attend a gathering. They answer, “Maybe” or “We’ll see.” If you don’t know by now these responses usually mean, “No.” Bullies only care about getting their way, and many times, anyway they can.
How To Be More Assertive
Healthy assertiveness involves empathy like all other aspects of emotional intelligence (EQ). Assertiveness seeks a win-win relationship. This is Covey’s Habit #4. Win-win involves integrity, maturity and abundance mentality. Win-win is both-and not either-or. As this concept relates to EQ, self awareness comes first in any improvement. Until we are able to accurately assess reality no improvement is possible.
The next step in growing assertiveness is being able to control our feelings – impulse control; and, expressing our desires in an appropriate way. Lastly, to grow assertiveness we learn to stand up for our rights in a way that isn’t aggressive.
What Does Aggressive Mean?
Assertive people are clear about their needs but not to the detriment of others. Assertiveness does not equal aggressiveness. Aggressive people do not respect other people’s viewpoints. They seek win-lose whether consciously or not. Or, they manipulate you into thinking you are winning. Their actions and their deeds clearly communicate their lack of concern for others if only in retrospect. Aggressiveness is often in task driven people. On the other hand, when you want something done quickly hand it off to someone task driven. You may have to pick up the pieces later.
What is Passive Aggressive?
This is misguided behavior. Passive people shy away from confrontation because they desire harmony. They allow people to push them around until it gets to be too much. Think of it this way. A passive person experiences a minor slight without much effect. But turn this minor slight into 4 or 5 times each day and the passive person eventually blows up. It is like they are gathering all their slights into a bag they are carrying around. At some point the bag gets too heavy to carry! Passive aggressive behavior is seen in people who are afraid to express their feelings or needs or lack the confidence to do so in an appropriate way.
In the board room this is dangerous. A passive person will take their complaints home with them, share them with their co-workers or worse yet the analyst that keeps calling asking about company performance. The resulting behavior is passive resistance, which is the subject of another blog.