What makes someone assertive?

It’s important to understand the difference between being assertive and aggressive.

Assertiveness isn’t a personality type, while aggressiveness is. Aggressive people are task-oriented extroverts; they’re energized by interacting with others, but what they care about are outcomes and bottom lines. That’s how they can be so fired up, blunt, and forceful, using intimidation to bend all circumstances to their whim.

Being assertive simply means being free to honestly present yourself and your thoughts exactly as you choose to.

Assertive people can be calm and quiet by nature, yet they don’t hide their will or pretend to be anything they’re not for the sake of anyone. They’re not passive or deferential. They have enough emotional intelligence to know when and how to best communicate their wants.

Unlike aggressiveness, assertiveness can be learned and developed; but like all social skills, this only comes through practice . . . not study.

Generally, the two roadblocks to assertiveness that must be overcome through practice are fear and lack of emotional intelligence.

Fear

Social anxiety shows up as thoughts that say, “Everyone here will soon see that I’m not ________ enough.”

Your mind then frantically goes to work searching for any cues that confirm the rejection and judgment you believe you deserve.

Find a way to share your experience of social anxiety, and you’ll start to see how unreasonable its fearful prescriptions of your worth and abilities actually are.

Emotional Intelligence

Part of emotional intelligence is a deep awareness and understanding of your own feelings. When you know exactly how you feel and why, you can make a calculated decision based on what you truly want (after a process of evaluation) instead of just reacting to your feelings in the moment.

Let’s say you have an aggressive boss or parent that tends to bowl over anything and anyone in their way. Whenever you don’t immediately go along with what they want, things get extremely unpleasant and uncomfortable.

You long for the momentary peace that comes from making the aggressive authority happy; yet on another level, you fantasize about delivering the perfect snide remark to show that authority the error of their ways.

Both responses (passivity and passive aggressiveness) are reactions to your feelings. Neither are emotionally intelligent or assertive. Neither will really benefit you in the long run.

At the end of the day, you’re a person that happens to be alive for whatever reason. Your time is going by, and you only have one life to live, just like everyone else. No one deserves to be a person (with a will, thoughts, and feelings) any more than you do. That doesn’t mean everyone has to understand or respect you, or that you’re entitled to anything from anyone.

But if you react in aggressiveness or passivity, your life isn’t really even yours; it belongs to your notion of whoever you’re trying to please or hurt.

The simple aim of living your own life is worth making the tough and emotionally intelligent decision to assert yourself, even though you know you might be judged, rejected, punished, etc.

It’s worth facing your fears and practicing honesty (with wisdom) over time so you can grow in perspective and tact . . . and so you can be your true self.

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