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The True Colors of Assertiveness

Assertiveness is a regularly referred skill, in communication and social skills training. Standing up for other people’s and own right, in a positive and calm way, without being aggressive or accepting ‘wrong’ passively, is being assertive.

Individuals, who are assertive, get their points across without becoming upset or upsetting others. Although everyone acts in aggressive ways once in a while, such responsive ways result from lack of self-confidence and therefore, inappropriate ways of mingling with others.

  1. What does Assertiveness Entail?

This is standing up for one’s personal rights, expressing feelings, thoughts and beliefs in honest, direct and appropriate ways. Respecting the feelings, thoughts and beliefs of other people is involved when being assertive.

Assertiveness entails being capable of expressing wishes, wants, feelings and desires appropriately. It is a great interpersonal and personal skill. Whether at work with employers, colleagues or customers or at home interacting with others, assertiveness helps you to express yourself in an open, clear and reasonable way, without undermining others or your own rights.

  1. Passive, Aggressive and Assertive

Assertiveness is always seen as a balance point of aggressive and passive behavior, but it is easier to think of all three as triangle points.


  1. Being Assertive

Assertiveness is encouraging other people to be honest and open about their wishes, views and feelings, so that all parties act appropriately.


Assertive Behavior Characteristics


  • Expressing wishes, feelings and thoughts openly and encouraging others to do so.


  • Listening and responding appropriately, to other people’s views, whether or not in agreement with the views.


  • Taking responsibilities and delegating to others.


  • Expressing appreciation to others, for the things they have done or are doing regularly.


  • Apologizing and being able to admit mistakes.


  • Maintenance of self-control.


  • Behaving like an equal to others.

2. Being Passive


Responding in a non-assertive or passive way means compliance with other people’s wishes and does undermine self-confidence and individual rights. People adopt a passive response as they have a strong need for others to like them.


Passive people do not regard themselves as being equal, because they put greater weight on the wishes, rights and feelings of others. When one is passive, they fail to communicate their feelings or thoughts, resulting in doing things not to their liking, in the hope of pleasing others. It also means allowing others to make decisions, to lead and take responsibility for them.


When one responds passively and not in an assertive way, they present themselves in a less positive light or put themselves down in ways. You will eventually feel inferior to others, when you constantly belittle yourself this way.  Although the underlying cause of passive behavior is often caused by poor self-esteem and self-confidence, further reduction of self-worth feelings arise, making a vicious circle.


  1. Being Aggressive


When one is aggressive towards somebody, that person’s self-esteem and rights are undermined. This behavior fails to consider the feelings or views of other individuals. Aggressors will rarely appreciate or show praise and they tend to put down others. Aggressive response leads the other people to make non-assertive response, either passively or aggressively.


Aggressive behavior is wide, including telling rather than asking, rushing a person unnecessarily, not considering another person’s feelings or ignoring someone. The meaning of good interpersonal skills is to be aware of the different communicating ways and the different resources each might provoke. Passive and aggressive behavior use in interpersonal relationships, could lead to undesirable results to the ones you are communicating with and can block positive forward moves.


It can be a distressing and frightening experience, to be aggressively spoken to and the receiver is left wondering what caused such behavior or what he/she did to deserve the aggression. If feelings and thoughts are not clearly stated, this can make people to manipulate others into doing their desires and wishes. Manipulation is a covert way of aggression and humor may be used aggressively.


  1. Different Measures for Different Situations

When communicating in different situations, someone may respond differently – either aggressively or assertively or passively. It is good to know that any interaction, is a two-way process always and thus our reactions can change depending on the relationship with the one you are communicating with.

For example, you may find it easier to have assertiveness to your spouse than to your boss or vice versa. Assertiveness response however, whether easy or not, will be better for you and your relationship with one another.

  1. General Techniques of Assertiveness


Two main techniques that can assist assertiveness are “fogging” and “stuck record” technique.


  1. Fogging


This is a useful technique, when people are behaving in an aggressive or manipulative way. Instead of arguing back, the aim of fogging is to give calm, minimal response, by using placating terms and not defensive, at the same time not consenting to meet demands.


Any truth agreement that could be contained in the statements, even if hard, is involved in fogging. If one does not respond in the way expected, that is being argumentative or defensive; the other one will stop confrontation, because the desired effect is not being accomplished. In a less heated atmosphere, issues will be discussed more reasonably.


Example Situation


“What time is it? You are half an hour late and I am fed up with you all the time letting me down.”


Fogging response


“Yes, I am late than I hoped for and I can tell this has annoyed you.”


“Annoyed? Yes, I’m annoyed; I have been waiting for a long time. You should think about others a bit more.”


Fogging response


“Yes, I was concerned that I will keep you waiting for half an hour.”


“Well…. Why were you late?”

  1. b) The Stuck Record Technique

This assertiveness technique involves the key assertive skill of ‘calm persistence’.  It is repeating what you want always, without becoming angry or raising your voice, involved in side issues or becoming irritated.

Example Situation

Imagine that you are taking back to a store, something that is faulty.  The conversation can be as follows:-

“I would like a refund, because the heels have fallen off please.”

“It seems that they have been worn a lot, and the shoes are designed for only occasional wear.”

Stuck Record response

“They are faulty and I have only had them for a week.  I would please, like to have a refund.”

Do not forget, it is always appropriate to be assertive, than to have aggressive or passive behavior, even though difficult. Treat others respectfully and politely, just as you would like to be treated. It will help you to respond to others assertively, in hard situations during your college life.

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