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.
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.
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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.