Assertiveness refers to open, honest, direct communication. It is our ability to express our thoughts, feelings, wants and needs in a respectful manner.

For various reasons, including low self-esteem, many people have difficulty sharing their thoughts with others (passive). At the other end of the continuum there are people who express themselves in an aggressive manner. They bluntly state their opinion without regard for the impact on others. Both passive and aggressive communication can cause problems for us.

Passive Communication
Do you:
Have difficulty saying “no”
Try to please others even at the expense of your own mental health
Do things out of obligation/ guilt
Avoid making requests fearing you will inconvenience others
Resist sharing your concerns, not wanting to be a burden
Avoid conflict at all costs
Keep your anger inside rather than expressing it

Aggressive Communication
Do you:
Order or demand when you want something
Manipulate to get your own way
Intimidate to influence others
Raise your voice, swear and/or belittle others when angry
Refuse to compromise

Speak your mind, even if your voice shakes. ~ Maggie Smith

Strong assertiveness skills can help improve our relationships with others by building trust, respect and understanding. Communicating more assertively also increases the chances of meeting our own wants and needs. If we are not able to tell people what we want and need, it can lead to a lot of frustration for both parties. We are sometimes angry at ourselves for not speaking up and angry at others for not seeing what we need. Aggressive behaviour may help us reach short term goals, but there are consequences. When we manipulate or steamroll over others to get our own way, we hurt people and damage our relationships.

As with any skill, learning the steps, practicing, and receiving feedback, can help us improve.

For more information or to book a counselling session, contact Heather Sutherland.