Monday, June 15, 2009

Assertiveness Explored

"Assertiveness Explored" - By Valerie Montgomery, MA, NCC Personal & Image Counselor

How do you define assertiveness? How would your best friend define it? What about your family?

In American culture there are unspoken rules about what is rude, polite, or offensive. Many of us shy away from stating the obvious at risk of being called rude or insensitive. But, whose feelings are we responsible for anyway? Consider the following scenario:

Becky asks her friend, Ruth, for a ride to her mechanic's garage to pick up her repaired car. Ruth knows that she has other plans to go to lunch with another friend. What does she choose? She could feel obligated and say yes to Becky, she could yell at Becky for expecting help all the time, or she could say no respectfully. The rules you have grown up with will likely determine what you would say to Becky.

There are two extremes for how to handle a situation like the one described above. One extreme is to say yes to Becky which may lead to a building resentment within you that could lead to distancing of the relationship eventually. This is called Passive.

The other extreme would be to blame Becky for your feelings of being infringed upon. This leads to blame and anger. "You always want me to take care of you!" This would also lead to distance in your relationship. This is called Aggressive.

There is another alternative and hope for building up the relationship with your friend: Assertiveness. Assertiveness means recognizing your reality honestly while considering if you want to forgo your plans in preference of your friend's. This freedom is called Assertiveness. It means being true to whom you are and what you want and need, while being able to consider putting your friend's needs first. It's this freedom of choice that can lead to a free willingness to invest in another person.

Being in this state of personal awareness leads to balance: Balance of being able to live somewhere between Passive and Aggressive. Consider the following behaviors. You may want to take some time to think honestly about how you handle situations.

... If you find yourself in either extreme of (passive, assertive, aggressive) behaviors, consider keeping a journal of when this happens. Read books on this topic. Be honest for yourself and your relationships. Ask for feedback from others in your life about what they see in you. Be open to hearing what they perceive about your reactions or feelings. After all, you cannot really know how you come across to others if you do not ask them. Think about talking to a safe person about your feelings after doing these things. A counselor may be a safe person for you to talk to about this.

Let's talk about how you express who you are. Do you even know? Exploring who you are and how you come across to others in your world can bring benefit to yourself and to those who are important to you. ...Being true to yourself and to your wants and needs can lead to a new freedom of relationship with yourself and ultimately with others in your life.

...What is holding you back from being who you want to be? Maybe your fear or obligations are holding you back. Old rules from your past may be holding you hostage to some rulebook that is really a relic from someone else's experience. It is easier to hold to these old patterns. This is another example of being Passive. Think about it. Are you being Assertive with your life choices? Trying something new is not easy, but it is well worth it. You will grow, and others around you will notice and be inspired by your courage.

Valerie Montgomery, MA, NCCPersonal & Image Counselor As shared on Network of Business Women

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