Assertiveness is the skill of expressing how you feel and asking for what you want without being aggressive. It is an ability to defend your rights without hurting those of others.
An assertive person, therefore, is the one who can express his emotions, needs, and opinions to others without being forceful in any way.
An assertive person will not sacrifice his own wants and needs just to please others. This is because an assertive person is usually a self-confident person with high self-esteem. He does not give much weight to the opinion of others and he doesn’t submissively comply with any demand that others make of him if it went against his will.
What causes non-assertiveness?
It has a lot to do with childhood experiences. If someone in his early childhood was constantly taught to be ‘nice’ in front of others so that they approve of him, then he may not become assertive. Non-assertiveness is primarily caused by the fear of rejection along with the fear of offending others.
That’s why non-assertive people try to avoid- if they can- the situations where they may be required to be assertive. A non-assertive person may not ask for his rights because he thinks that it will offend the other person!
If a child who expressed his emotions was discouraged from doing so, then also he may fail to become assertive.
Subconsciously, he still thinks that expressing his true emotions is inappropriate behaviour that would make people dislike him. Non-assertiveness is, therefore, nothing but learned behaviour that can be unlearned.
Why assertiveness is important
Assertiveness is an important personality trait that everyone should develop. Not being assertive may appear to be harmless but in the long run, it can do significant harm to self-esteem and may even cause depression.
We usually feel a little sad and disappointed when we are not assertive because our rights have been violated. However, if this continues for some time, these emotions can get accumulated and make us feel really bad.
If you act assertively whenever needed, then you will short-circuit this accumulation of emotions. Also, it will give an important boost to your self-confidence and self-esteem.
Non-assertiveness can lead to frustration because you are constantly failing to safeguard your rights. This constant frustration can cause you to become aggressive.
It is very common for a non-assertive person who suppresses his emotions, under the pressure of these accumulated emotions, to suddenly burst into very aggressive behaviour.
For instance, Rita was in a relationship with Raj and always had problems with expressing her true emotions because she didn’t want to hurt Raj.
Whenever she felt that Raj did something wrong that violated her rights, she chose not to tell him about it in order not to risk his disapproval. One day she decided that she just couldn’t take it anymore and a small mistake by Raj triggered an avalanche of all the suppressed anger that Rita had towards him.
Needless to say, they got into a severe fight and the relationship ended.
Assertiveness, like any other trait, can be learned by practising it over and over till it becomes an automatic subconscious response.
Never miss any chance of being assertive and over time you will give your subconscious mind enough proofs that you are an assertive person. It may be hard at first and may take time depending on how intensely you were conditioned as a child to be non-assertive.