Assertiveness: what it is and how it affects our well-being

Respect yourself and respect others. This phrase that seems easy, hides behind one of the most current concepts in the field of psychology: assertiveness.

The way we communicate with others also reflects the way we think about ourselves, about others, and how relationships should be. The feelings that arise in interactions with other people are key in the type of relationship we establish, being these satisfactory or disappointing.

Around this concept of assertiveness a vast literature has emerged that teaches us how to say no and how to set limits on others. But what hides this final behavior of saying NO is the internalization of fundamental rights that we possess for the simple fact of being human beings.

Let’s see what an assertive communication consists of and then explain how to put it into practice and the positive repercussions it can have on our health and self-esteem.

Assertiveness is part of a continuum where aggressiveness and passivity would be the extremes.

  • An assertive person would behave in an intermediate way between passive and aggressive styles, by expressing in a respectful, direct and honest way their own needs, desires, opinions, feelings and beliefs. Understanding that others may have different ideas from yours.
  • An aggressive person would do so invasively and disrespectfully, ignoring the rights and needs of others. Pursuing the other to change his mind through coercion, manipulation and underestimating what he feels.
  • A passive, would behave keeping the opinions for herself and leaving aside her own rights and needs for the benefit of the other. Only taking into account what the other thinks, without being able to express their desires and emotions.

According to Manuel J. Smith, author of one of the most influential books on assertiveness, the first thing we should do is give value to our own opinion, that is, “be your own judge.” Since if you trust your criteria on how you should feel, think or act you will not depend on outside judgments that pretend to influence these variables. That is, you will not depend on anyone deciding what is right or wrong for you.

Once we free ourselves from the pressure exerted by the opinions of others, we will be free to act without giving explanations and to decide following our own logic without fear of being bad in front of others. So it is essential to pay attention to emotions, being necessary to express what we are feeling in the relationship with the other so that you can understand how we are.

Maintaining an attitude of calm, firmness and perseverance in the defense of our interests is essential in order to have social interactions in which we are not always harmed.

In family, friendship or work relationships we can act in an aggressive, passive or assertive manner, having different consequences for our well-being. A passive person, who gives in to others and who always puts his interests in the background in front of others will see his self-esteem diminished, he will feel that he has little control over what happens to him and will feel dissatisfied with personal relationships. This can lead to a low mood and feelings of helplessness.

An aggressive person, despite achieving their goals at the expense of the needs of others, will also have unsatisfactory relationships and may end up feeling rejected, with low self-esteem and feeling little control over their emotional state.

However, a person with an assertive style will see his feeling of worth increase, since he will have a positive consideration of himself, feel that he has control over his environment and enjoy healthy and satisfying interpersonal relationships.

Assertive communication is part of a set of coping techniques that can make us less exposed to stress and anxiety. When we feel that we have tools, we will be better able to carry out our objectives, be they labor, social or self-care.

There are people who naturally have assertive skills in their day to day, either by the education received or by the behavioral models they have observed in their environment… But the good news is that assertiveness can be trained and acquired. Doing the exercise of asserting our rights and needs with serenity and firmness takes time and effort so we must be persistent, but the benefits are worth it.

Psychology Service

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