Recently, I’ve had several conversations regarding the topic of assertiveness, and there does seem to be a lot of varied opinions or beliefs on the matter.
Often, many of us associate assertiveness with aggressiveness, but they are not the same thing.
Assertiveness is simply speaking up for ourselves without hostility or stomping over other people’s rights. It is not about trying to change people or being cruel or unkind, whereas, aggressiveness is controlling, hostile and repugnant.
Often those who struggle with expressing themselves were raised to be “good” girls and boys who were taught to avoid making relational waves or asking for what they needed.
Additionally, many were directly or indirectly instructed to believe that being a nice person meant doing whatever anyone asks of them, without taking themselves into account.
However, this kind of nice or self-sacrificing pattern of living keeps us from setting boundaries and leads to destructive people-pleasing behaviors such as saying ‘Yes’ when we mean ‘No.’
Ultimately, these types of dishonest responses will negatively impact our interpersonal relationships.
For instance, if we do everything for everyone all the time, they consciously or unconsciously begin to take advantage of us, which we taught them by continuing to carry their weight and ours too!
Therefore, people-pleasing is ultimately not very pleasing because submerging our genuineness often leads to resentment toward others!
These resentments can lead to passive-aggressive behavior which has been referred to as “sugar coated hostility” in the form of subtle or (not so subtle) snide remarks, silent treatment or withholding affection.
Having genuine relationships doesn’t mean that everyone will always get what they ask for, but at least all those involved would be honestly expressing what is true for them.
All in all, being a good friend to ourselves and those around us involves exercising our assertiveness muscles and sharing who we truly are, instead of betraying ourselves by trying to win the approval of everyone around us.
What does assertiveness mean to you and is it easy for you to kindly speak up?