Assertiveness is essentially honesty - with oneself and with others
“Assertiveness” is almost a dirty word. I consulted my “Collins Essential Dictionary”, and “assertiveness” was defined as “declaring forcefully” or “insisting upon one’s rights”. Thus, assertiveness has an overtone of almost aggressiveness or pushiness, which, in turn, has overtones of being unlikeable or domineering inherent in its definition.
However, I beg to differ. I define “assertiveness” as declaring one’s rights, while at the same time maintaining respect for both the other individual(s) and oneself.
There should be nothing ‘dirty’ about being assertive.
In fact, not being assertive can create more problems than being assertive. If one is not assertive, than one is essentially being dishonest. It is like lying, being false to another, saying ‘yes’ when you want to say ‘no’. It is not being true to yourself. Thus, when you say ‘yes’ when you want to say ‘no’ you are not only being dishonest, but you are creating a feeling of resentment, which will start to bubble up inside you, that you are doing something that you really do not want to do.
There is nothing heroic about being passive. You are living a lie, and by putting yourself last, you are creating resentment which will grow, and one day that bubble of bitterness will bubble and burst, create ill-feeling between you and the person (or people) you feel you can’t be upfront and assertive with. This in turn, is the same, or certainly no better than aggression, being forceful about your own rights, at the expense of another or others. In some ways, being passive is even worse, ethically, for at least when one is aggressive one is still honest, though forceful.
Certainly, assertiveness is a very hard skill to master, especially at first. We can be worried that if we are honest with others about where we stand, and what we can and cannot do, than they may not like us if our response is not what they want it to be.
However, it is hard to hide the truth for very long, and if you lie and say ‘yes’ when you want to say ‘no’, than the other party will harbour even more resentment toward you for not being honest. People always appreciate honesty, even if the truth is not something they want to hear. In fact, being assertive and honest may increase others’ respect toward you. When you are not honest with yourself or others, not only do others’ doubt your integrity, but so do you, and you may begin to harbour dislike towards yourself.
If the other party is a true friend or friends, then they will respect, even if they may not like, your point of view.
Don’t compromise your integrity. Say it how it is. You will feel much better about yourself. You are acting with integrity and honesty. You are not complicating matters which may have to be unravelled down the track. Being assertive isn’t unlikeable – it’s the only way that upholds integrity.