How assertive are you?

“Too many of us fail to fulfill our needs because we say no rather than yes, yes when we should say no.” – William Glasser

To handle uncomfortable or hostile or difficult moments or situations in your personal or professional life, you should have a strong sense of yourself and should find balance in your passive and aggressive behaviours in order to stand up for yourself. You need to be more assertive in expressing yourself in a positive way in such situations and should be able to communicate your thoughts and feelings firmly and directly in order not to be on the receiving end of meanness or bullying or teasing. Research has shown that those who are victimised by bullies exhibit a certain kind of vulnerability as they lack the ability to stand up for themselves and are unable to assert themselves or defend themselves even when picked on. How well you can handle such situations is often determined by your levels of assertiveness. Some people are naturally assertive, but if you are not one of them, it is an important skill to be practiced and developed.

Assertiveness is a must learned skill when it comes to handling stressful and conflicting situations in our personal and professional relationships and to overcome traits like passivity, sensitivity to criticism, insecurity, anxiety and low self-esteem. Some of us struggle to be assertive in some situations, but can find the right words in other. Some are not assertive for fear of upsetting or displeasing others and of not being liked. Even though you may avoid immediate unpleasantness by not being assertive, in the long run, you end up jeopardising your relationships. And if you are too passive, always putting others’ needs before yours, you give others the license to disregard your wants and needs. Sometimes this leads to saying ‘yes’ to certain things at the expense of your own interests and priorities thereby leading to an internal conflict, stress, resentment, seething anger or feelings of victimisation. And also leading to your needs always ending up on the back burner leaving you perpetually dissatisfied.

So, What is being assertive or self-assertion all about?

Being assertive is standing up for your rights while still respecting others, defending your own boundaries while not crossing other people’s lines, expressing your own opinions, needs, wants and feelings without hurting others, or disagreeing without being disagreeable. It means you are not afraid of speaking your mind. It requires being forthright about your wants and needs, while still considering the rights, needs and wants of others. You thus draw power from this to get your point across firmly, fairly and with empathy.

Being able to stand up for yourself in a way that is both respectful to yourself and others shows that you have boundaries and you are prepared to put your own needs first. When you are effectively assertive, you are neither aggressive nor passive — instead you are honest, direct, and skilled at articulating your views. Assertiveness is being proactive. It’s negating any possibility of the person we communicate with getting mad at us or disliking what we said or did.

Being Assertive over Passive or Aggressive

Assertiveness is often confused with aggression as there is a very fine line between the two. For this reason, it is important to know the difference in both the behaviours. Assertiveness means standing up for yourself in a nonaggressive way and it does not mean dominance over others or controlling. If you are aggressive, and in case you had a difference of opinion with an other person, you may resort to anger, rudeness or name calling. Also you might try to force your point of view, even at the expense of another’s. Whereas assertive behaviour is standing up and expressing yourself by being respectful and without putting down anyone else.

Being aggressive is also disregarding the needs, feelings and opinions of others. Aggressive behaviour damages your personal and professional relationships and undercuts trust and mutual respect. Others may come to resent you, leading them to avoid or oppose you. On the other hand, if you are passive, you become uncomfortable expressing yourself honestly. You feel you don’t have the right to be heard. You back down easily or would go with whatever others decide to avoid conflict. Also if you are passive-aggressive, you may say ‘yes’ when you want to say ‘no’ and you may complain and pass comments behind their backs rather than confronting them directly. You may show anger and feelings through your actions or negative attitude. Overtime passive-aggressive behaviour makes it difficult for you to meet your goals and needs.

Why is it important to be Assertive?

Being assertive is to find the right balance between passive and aggressive. To be assertive is to have a strong sense of yourself, your values and to openly express your opinions, feelings, needs and desires and to act in accordance with your goals and objectives. Knowing and claiming your own rights while at the same time respecting others can help you build better relationships in your professional endeavours. You can get things done by treating people with fairness and respect. It can help you to interact and negotiate so that yours and others’ views are given fair treatment and can find common ground to arrive at the best solution possible.

With increasing competition, being assertive at the workplace becomes really important to openly share your ideas thoughts and opinions at work. Assertiveness helps you exhibit positive and open style of communication that is neither submissive nor aggressive. It also improves confidence and is an indirect and a powerful tool to increase your productivity and efficiency. Being assertive is important to handle different situations like to respond or cope with putdowns, to make requests, or to say ‘no’ effectively, give and receive criticism appropriately, handling and expressing anger, speaking up to a rude person, or to deal with stressful or unpleasant situations in your personal or professional life. It helps you plan and carry through difficult encounters and to manage conflicting situations more effectively.

How to become more Assertive?

Not everything you want will be handed to you. Sometimes, you have to go out and get it. And if you want to succeed in your goals, you will have to be assertive. The right amount of assertiveness can help you get ahead. Assertiveness can be learned and the key is to understand the context and to set realistic goals to make small changes. Here are some strategies to help you become more assertive.

Assess your level of Assertiveness. You can assess your own behaviour or can do so through feedback from others. Check your willingness to express yourself and what you want. Try to assess your interactions as to what is being said and how you feel about it, how do you want to respond to what is being said? Or what do you want from that particular situation. This way, you will be able to decide whether you need to be assertive and most importantly how to be assertive so that there is a positive result. If you find that in your assessment that you are holding back in certain situations where you shouldn’t, write down the reasons as to what you aren’t saying and the reason as to why you aren’t saying. This way, you can make yourself assertive next time you enter a similar situation. Assessment keeps you focused on improving your abilities to be assertive in difficult conversations.

Practice assertive communication techniques. Sometimes it is often quite hard to know how to put your feelings across clearly and confidently to someone. The scripting technique can help in such situations as it allows you to prepare what you want to say in advance. You can tell the other person exactly about the event and how you see the situation or problem. You can describe your feelings about the situation and express your emotions clearly. You can tell exactly what you need from him or her so that he or she doesn’t have to guess. Describing the positive impact that your request will have for him or her if your needs are met.

Using ‘I’ statements lets others know what you are thinking or feeling without being accusatory, like for instance, “I disagree” rather than “you’re wrong”. While requesting , you can say, “I want you to help with this” rather than “ you need to do this”. Keep them simple and specific to get your points across firmly. Try using verbs that are more definite and specific. For instance, use verbs like ‘will’ instead of ‘could’ or ‘should’ or ‘want’ instead of ‘need’ or ‘choose to’ instead of ‘have to’. Keep your communications direct to get your message across by using the assertive communication technique.

Express yourself positively. It is important to express your thoughts and opinions even when dealing with difficult or unpleasant situations. Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself and to confront people who challenge you. If others get angry or resentful towards you, avoid reacting to them. But try to control your emotions and stay calm and respectful at all times. Accept both positive and negative feedback positively and if you don’t agree with criticism that you receive then you should be able to say so without getting angry or defensive. Express negative emotions in a healthy manner. Don’t take out your frustration or aggression on others in order to be assertive. Understand that you cannot be assertive all the time with all people in all situations. The key is to achieve the right balance of when to be assertive and when not to. This will help you to respond and not react to situations.

Practice saying ‘no’. Many confuse saying ‘no’ with negativity. Knowing your own boundaries or limits and how much work you are able to take will help you to manage your tasks effectively. You cannot possibly please everyone. Saying ‘no’ assertively when necessary can save your time and work load. Saying ‘yes’ to a commitment or task you don’t really want to do can get you into a state of stress and negativity. If you have a hard time turning down requests, try saying “No, I can’t do that now.” Don’t hesitate and be direct or brief in your explanation if required. It is important to be consistent in respecting your boundaries and to learn to say ‘no’ clearly and unambiguously.

Resist the temptation to react immediately and in extremes. Difficult conversations often trigger a huge amount of stress which is why you may avoid such interactions in the first place. When pushed to our limits, most of us get either compliant (submissive) or defiant(opposing or resisting). Reacting either way does not help you in being a good team player or to lead effectively. Recognise your style either compliant or defiant and then consciously try to take the middle ground. Ask questions rather than reacting. It gives you specific points to argue rather than just catastrophizing about how others might react if you object. And in contrary, If your views don’t chime with the dominant view point, you need not change yours on important issues according to who you are talking to. Sometimes saying nothing also is one of the most assertive position you can adopt.

To conclude,

Do you voice your opinion or remain silent in important discussions and conversations? Are you able to assert yourself or defend when you get picked on? Do you often say ‘yes’ to additional work even when you have work to do? Is your unassertiveness is because of the fear that the other person will criticise you or put you down? Do you stand your ground or do you feel victimised when it comes to your values or important issues in your personal or professional relationships? Is your communication style aggressive or assertive? Do you often disregard the needs, feelings, and opinions of others or do you respect them? Asking yourself above questions will help you to know where you are particularly sensitive and where you need to be assertive thus you will be better placed to avoid being too passive or aggressive.

If you’ve spent years silencing yourself, becoming more assertive takes time and practice. You don’t need to be assertive in every context of the day or you need not change your authenticity to become assertive. Assess your own degree of assertiveness, understand the context, set realistic goals to make small changes in your behaviour or communication with the help of the above strategies to become more assertive in your work or social or personal relationships. Express yourself openly and authentically without being passive or aggressive.

“Assertiveness is not what you do, it’s who you are!” ― Shakti Gawain

Don’t let yourself get consumed by envy.

“As iron is eaten by rust, so are the envious consumed by envy.” – Antisthenes

Envy is the emotion that all of us experience from time to time. It is an emotional state we get into when others get what we want or it can stem from comparisons in belongings, personality traits, physical appearances, relationships and or achievements. Regardless of the personal or professional climate, people at all levels are vulnerable to envy. Feelings of envy can also happen in domains of work, family and friendship negatively impacting our emotional health, productivity levels, relationships, teamwork, and creative abilities.

So Why do we feel envy?

Envy is like most of our other emotions, it comes from within and causes lot of unhappiness and resentment. It’s important to remember, though, that you don’t feel envy when as much when someone achieves great success in a different life pursuit. But you feel envy when someone who is of roughly the same background, abilities, age, location, life situation or achieves something similar to your goal in your field of choice. When you compare yourself to others, you mostly compare in extrinsic qualities or things like fame, status or wealth rather than intrinsic values like meaning or purpose. This is the reason, your initial response will often be one of envy when you compare. Being surpassed by another’s ability makes you feel insecure about your concept of who you are.

Also, when you are constantly exposed to stories of success which makes them seem so close within your reach. This makes you crave for the same opportunities and achievement they appear to have. Feelings of envy also arise when someone achieves something that you have always wanted to achieve, or when someone you don’t like succeeds or when someone manages to get something and you think that he or she doesn’t deserve it.

Why is envy harmful to your productivity?

“Our envy always lasts longer than the happiness of those we envy.” – Franois de la Rochefoucauld

Even though enviousness makes you lead your life in constant hope to have more. It can never lead to better outcomes like the way you can with intrinsic motivation.

Envying others and worrying about others’ successes will make you blind to your own potential, strengths and to the weaknesses of rivals. Sometimes, we make ourselves feel better by belittling the accomplishments of the person we resent and tend to distance and disconnect ourselves. Such envious emotions leads to missed opportunities, unproductive behaviour and professional inefficiency. Ignoring other people’s ideas or dismissing the value of others’ qualities due to envy makes it difficult for you to learn and collaborate.

Envy also increases your insecurity, self-doubt, and lowers your self-esteem. Most of all, when you become so fixated on envy, you start to neglect or sabotage your own efforts or performance. When others successes bother you, you become ruminative and lose focus on your priorities. Envy interferes with your ability to think and act and instead of working on attaining what is important to you, it focuses your energy on what you lack.

Envious feelings are difficult to manage if you try to conceal and deny as the repressed feelings inevitably surface. Also with envy, the gap is between what you have and what the other person has or it may be that the other has something you want to have but don’t have thereby making you feel of inferior.

So, How to deal with your envy constructively?

You can recognise your potentially, destructive thoughts and behaviours by being honest with yourself when you feel envy and try to respond to it constructively. Instead of allowing the emotion to linger and derail, you can try and interpret it as a signal for what it is and what is that you actually want to achieve and can turn them into more positive and productive ones to set and achieve your goals. Envy is mostly about relative status compared with someone else’s, hence you need to know how to transform your envy to help you achieve what you want. And also freeing yourself from the control of envy liberates you from unrealistic and counterproductive desires. And you can make progress in the areas you want to grow.

Here are few ways to deal with your envy in a more productive and positive manner.

Understand your envy

When you identify with your envy, don’t ignore or conceal it but at the same time don’t continue feeding it. Instead try to understand what’s really behind the envy. Envy can tell you a lot about what you want. The key is to understand the circumstances and qualities in others that trigger your envy. Ask yourself what is that you are most insecure about. Witnessing someone else’s success can highlight your own insecurities and perceived failures. Once you understand the WHY, the feeling will have much less control over you. Not doing things that you want to be doing is when envy has a perfect breeding ground. Through understanding, you can use it as an opportunity to see the gap between what you are doing right now and what you still aspire to do in the future and what are the other areas you can improve.

Get to your core self-concept

Getting to the essence of your self-concept helps you connect to your core values, your needs, and things that are most important to you. Most often we include things such as money, abilities, physical appearance or status as part of our self-concept. When you evaluate yourself lower than how you evaluate those around you in comparison to these things, you may see it as a threat to who you are and experience envy. Gain clarity on your core values and instead of comparing yourself with others, measure your past self with present self. Reminding yourself of your strengths, past accomplishments and your core values, you can fix your mental self-image and thereby remove any feelings of insecurity you might be feeling. There is no reason for you to envy what others have when those things don’t align with your core values.

Shift your focus to gratitude

Being intentionally grateful can help you put greater emphasis on what you have rather than what you do not have that is causing you to be envious. Gratitude creates feelings of connectedness to a bigger purpose and increases feelings of empathy rather than envy. Make a list of things you are thankful for, no matter how small they are. Shifting your focus to positive life events or the small everyday occurrences can help you not to take what you have for granted. When you compare yourself with others and label the outcomes of your comparison as good or bad, you tend to lower your self-worth. Instead be grateful of your uniqueness, talents and abilities and remind yourself that no body has it all. Rather than fixating on what you don’t have, make gratitude your strategy to replace each envious thought with a moment of gratitude.

Be realistic in assessing others

We always compare the worst of what we know about ourselves to the best assumptions we make about others. Be realistic in assessing others. Everyone experiences their own problems, trials and weaknesses. But if you place more value on others’ abilities, you tend to devalue your own. Constant exposure to social media creates a delusion that everyone else’s life is happier than yours, more productive and more valuable. When you fall prey to such delusion, you start feeding yourself with envy and begin to think that everything else is better and not yours. That friend or coworker or relative who seems to have an amazing life might be striving to put his or her best face forward. Correct your false assumptions about others and realise that everyone struggles with something or the other in their life.

Stop comparing yourself to others

We tend to judge ourselves by comparing with others. Comparison to people who are similar to you is a normal process to evaluate yourself and to improve your skills or abilities. But the judgment and value you place on your self-judgment can lead to envy. Comparing yourself to others is a great way to learn and comparing yourself to people who are sufficiently different or ahead of you can make you strive out of inspiration instead of envy. Focus on yourself to be better and stronger. Being able to applaud success of others without having negative reaction leads to more opportunities. When somebody receives something that you desire, be happy for them. If you wanted they too probably wanted the same. Stop judging yourself negatively by focusing on your strengths and knowing for certain that your are worthy can be enough to eliminate any feelings of envy.

Conclusion

While the feeling of envy may arise from time to time, we don’t have to respond to it counterproductively or try to repress it. Even though it is difficult, but it is always possible to prevent yourself from being consumed by it and you can even try and harness it to your advantage. Admitting that you are envious is not easy, but admitting it to yourself allows you to change your priorities so that you can redefine what is important to you and also helps you find other areas where you can excel. Be honest with yourself when you encounter feelings of envy within yourself and respond to them constructively by using the above strategies. Get interested in creating an environment that boosts productivity and work on your aspirations and work to improve yourself.