This is a phrase I find myself saying all the time, whether to me or to my friends. “Be assertive!” I have found this to be such a helpful phrase in many situations of life.
For me personally, I am very independent. I hate asking for help to the point where I will struggle along not knowing rather than asking for help. This is very problematic as I don’t always know the right thing to do. I’m working on being able to ask questions and get help when needed.
Last Friday, I had a staff meeting. We were talking and I realized there was something I didn’t know. Rather than struggling along and hoping for the best, when the principal asked if there were any questions, I raised my hand (it was a virtual meeting) and asked the question that I needed answered. I was assertive and got help.
I have many friends who are quiet and don’t want to make a scene. They don’t like to push through crowds or have their voice heard. So often, when they’re doing something like that, I tell them, “Be Assertive!”
I have no difficulty making my presence known. I’m very good at getting through crowds and saying “Excuse me” to have my voice heard. However, my issue is that I don’t like to bother people. In high school, I sprained my ankle at a winter camp. The last day of the camp, my group walked a decent distance to have a meeting. I didn’t say anything about it, and it wasn’t until we got there that people remembered I was injured. I got a brief reprimand where the leaders asked, “Why didn’t you say anything?” Again, I didn’t want to be a bother.
This, like many other things that are the subject of my writings, is something I am still working on. I’m still independent and hate asking for help. But at the same time, I need to understand that it’s important to be assertive when the situation calls for it.
Dictionary.com defines assertive as “confidently aggressive or self-assured.” Dictionary.com puts one definition of aggressive as “boldly assertive and forward; pushy.” I think there’s a difference between being assertive and aggressive despite the fact that the definitions interchange the words. To me, assertiveness is making your voice heard while aggressiveness is making your voice heard at the detriment of others. Aggressiveness hurts others while assertiveness doesn’t.
Assertiveness is the happy medium between submission and aggressiveness. You make your voice heard and problem known without hurting anyone else. I think the examples I gave are good ones. There is nothing wrong with asking questions at appropriate times or trying to navigate around people. Submission is kind of the response I had with my ankle. I didn’t want to be a nuisance so I didn’t say anything. Meanwhile, aggressiveness is detrimental to others. It’s “Oh, I need to cut through this crowd because I need to be first. It doesn’t matter how long other people have been here. I’m busy and important.”
Just to reiterate and clarify: Submission hurts you, aggressiveness hurts others, and assertiveness gets your point across without causing problems. This is kind of the middle road. It’s the way all of us should strive to be in our lives. We look for compromises but do not compromise our beliefs and morals. Look for solutions to satisfy as many people as possible that also don’t leave anyone angry, upset, confused, or feeling like their opinions haven’t been heard. Only then will we be able to grow and solve the problems that we come across.