Assertive Behavior: Healthy Communication

Recent posts have focused on passive and passive aggressive types a behavior. In both posts, I used movement to illustrate these behavioral styles.

Aggression moves against the other person.

Passivity moves against the self.

Here, I’ll concentrate on a behavioral style that is natural, direct and honest: Assertiveness.

Self-care and honesty.

Unlike aggression and passivity, assertiveness does not move against the self or others; it respects others while respecting the self. Furthermore, it provides honesty and boundaries for self-care. As a result, communication becomes natural and open, which helps professional and personal relationships flourish.

No sarcasm zone. 

In the post: Speaking The Truth: Respect and Love, I discussed the no sarcasm zone my wife and I have created in our relationship. We confront sarcasm assertively by being direct, open and honest. As sarcasm often masks anger, establishing this practice means we tackle the reason toxic communication arises in our relationship.

Confronting sarcasm is simple, we ask a direct question: Are you being sarcastic? The response is often yes – an assertive answer.

I might add, Thank you for bringing it to my attention – I am most often the offender in our relationship.

Say yes or no.

Another characteristic of assertiveness is the ability to say yes or no to others; it may seem simple, but many of us go to great lengths to avoid saying no.

I firmly believe that we all have the right to take time and think about a decision. However, we must never use this right as an avoidance to saying no, but many of us do this.

Be assertive and say no if that is what you need to do.

From my experience.

A friend of mine called and asked me if I could pick her up, take her to church, and then take her back home. Her car was in the shop, and she had no transportation. At this time, Inna lived in Ukraine, and I was in Alabama. I had planned to Skype with Inna after church, as the time difference was eight-hours, It was the best time for us to talk. So when my friend called and asked, I didn’t give a reason, I only said no. Today won’t work for me, but I didn’t explain why. Often, we don’t need to add anything more, and there is no obligation to explain. No is just a boundary word that establishes what I am willing to do and not do.

Give and receive freely.

Assertiveness means giving and receiving freely.

Give and receive based on fairness, and this leads to obligation, resentment, and emptiness. How you receive from another person is the at the core of any healthy relationship. Achieve this mindset and escape obligation because we don’t owe or deserve.

From my experience.

I recall a time in business when a client attempted to use fairness and obligation to ask for help. They asked if I remembered what they did for me years ago, and I did remember. More importantly, I also remembered that I received it freely.

To clarify my point, I asked, “Did you do that freely?”

Their response, “Yes, of course.”

I explained how I received it freely without obligation or a sense of fairness. As a result, years later, I didn’t feel obliged to say yes.

Start receiving things freely.

I encourage you to think about your job. Employers give jobs freely and not based on fairness. With this idea in mind, give responsibly in humility and grow by becoming more, and adding value to the team. Fulfillment comes from ownership, and we achieve this from receiving freely. While obligation comes from fairness.

Assertiveness is standing up for your rights.

During the last Thanksgiving Parade in Chicago, Inna and I found a coffee shop to warm up in; it was crowded, and there was a long line for the bathroom. Waiting in the line, I noticed that a man got up and walked to the front. As the door opened, he went for it. I quickly stopped him, and we had a conversation about the respect for others waiting their turn. I was standing up for my rights, and the rights of those in front of me.

An assertive person sees themselves as being important, having rights, beliefs, ideas, feelings, opinions and everything else worthy of expressing.

But assertiveness goes beyond self-importance, the assertive person respects this right of others and demonstrates humility, because every individual has the right to be who they are.

A final word on assertiveness.

My point is this. Aggressive people don’t respect the rights of others. Assertive people are respectful of others even in the face of difference. Everyone has the right to be who they are and express themselves. Assertiveness does not seek to will, shape or form the other person but aggression always does.

I welcome comments and feedback.