Many of us have difficulty in being assertive rather than passive. This can be for many reasons. We want to be nice. We want to be liked. We do not want to cause conflict. We do not like confrontations. For us baby-boomers, as girls we were encouraged to be passive. These reasons are all understandable. However, they can also be obstacles to our success.
Sometimes, rather than being assertive, we go overboard and become aggressive. This can be equally detrimental to achieving our professional and personal goals. When we are aggressive, we can damage the relationships that we need.
We can change. We can find that balance between passive and aggressive behavior called assertive. Sometimes it is easier to change if we look at a behavior from a new perspective. One perspective is the 3 R’s: relationships, rights, and respect.
We all have relationships. We have professional relationships with our supervisors, employees, co-workers, customers, suppliers, and many others. We have personal relationships with our spouse/significant other, children, parents, in-laws, neighbors, friends and countless others.
These relationships are important to us. We need other people to help us achieve what we want. We cannot do everything ourselves. Most of these relationships also provide us with a great deal of happiness and enjoyment. They make our life richer.
It is to our advantage to have positive relationships with the people around us. To do this, we need to be assertive.
We all have basic rights simply because we are human beings. We have the right to be treated with respect, dignity, professionalism, courtesy. We have the right, at least in this country, of freedom of speech. Not only do we have the right to speak out, we also have the right to be heard.
We also have the right to set boundaries. We have the right to create boundaries around what we consider acceptable behavior from others and around what we consider acceptable treatment of us. We have the right to defend these boundaries.
In addition to general rights, within each relationship each party has rights. For example, in a customer/supplier relationship, the customer has the right to the agreed upon good or service. The supplier has the right to get paid the amount agreed upon.
When we are passive, it is as though we forget that we have rights. We do not stand up for our rights. We let others take our rights away from us.
When we are aggressive, it is as though we forget that others have the same rights that we do. We take their rights away from them.
When we are assertive, we find the balance. We recognize that we have rights and so do others.
Respect is the key to finding the balance between passive and aggressive behavior. It is the key to being assertive.
When we are passive, we do not respect our rights. We do not respect ourselves.
When we are aggressive, we do not respect others’ rights. We do not respect others.
When we are assertive, we find the balance. We respect our rights while respecting others’ rights. We respect ourselves while respecting others.
Knowing how to show respect can be difficult sometimes related to differences in cultures, situations, and people. You may think you are being respectful, but the other person may perceive it differently. The opposite is also true. Be aware of this and carefully listen and observe. If you are not certain if your message has been received as intended, or if you are not certain you have received the message as intended, ask for clarification.
Consistently finding the balance between passive and aggressive behavior (assertive) can take some work. It is well worth the effort, however, in improved professional and personal relationships. To help you, remember the 3 R’s: relationships, rights, and respect.