On the Road to Assertiveness

Andrew E. Schwartz

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Learning to be assertive takes time, courage and the ability to recognize the situation for what is really is.

You want to get something done, and you need another’s help. You can request it, you can demand it, or you can sit back and hope that it happens. The first behavior is an example of assertion, or standing up for your own rights without violating the rights of others. The second is aggression; you are standing up for your rights, but violating another’s right to voluntary action. The third choice is submission, a failure to stand up for your own rights at all.

Being assertive is not easy. Like any other expression of emotion, it involves risk-taking, since feelings handled inappropriately in the workplace are a well-known source of anger or conflict. But letting fear of conflict inhibit expression only increases stress and anxiety. Until appropriate expression of feelings is considered possible many people fail to learn which battles to fight. In a conscious effort to avoid confrontation, they give ground on issues of paramount importance or end up taking an aggressive stand on a trivial issue.


  • You control your feelings and by being assertive you can change the situation that is creating a problem.

  • Ask yourself what is being lost, and how difficult it will be to regain if you avoid a situation instead of confronting it.

  • Learn to be rational. Ask yourself: “Do I know all the facts? Am I overreacting? Am I worrying about nothing? What am I losing by letting the situation continue? Am I the cause of the conflict?

  • Delay causes damage! The longer you avoid meeting a situation head-on and on resolving issues, the greater the damage that can be done. Pent up resentment leads eventually to explosions at those around you, or to implosions in the form of negative self-image or tension-related physical ailments.

    By taking things personally, people assume the role of target in situations that are not in fact directed against them. It is safer to assume that almost all problems are professional and to respond to them that way. The minute you start taking things personally, you diminish your ability to be rational and therefore assertive. Be sure the risk of assertiveness is worth taking by determining whether or not you have something to gain. Failing to be assertive in such a situation can set a precedent for others to use or abuse you.

    Copyright AE Schwartz & Associates All rights reserved. For additional presentation materials and resources: ReadySetPresent and for a Free listing as a Trainer, Consultant, Speaker, Vendor/Organization: TrainingConsortium

    CEO, A. E. Schwartz & Associates, Boston, MA. , a comprehensive organization which offers over 40 skills based management training programs. Mr. Schwartz conducts over 150 programs annually for clients in industry, research, technology, government, Fortune 100/500 companies, and nonprofit organizations worldwide. He is often found at conferences as a key note presenter and/or facilitator. His style is fast-paced, participatory, practical, and humorous. He has authored over 65 books and products, and taught/lectured at over a dozen colleges and universities throughout the United States.

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