Personal & Relationship Counselling

What is Assertiveness? #01

The Difference between Assertiveness & Non - Assertiveness

The basic difference between assertiveness and non – assertiveness is that the former is based on a respect of and a responsibility for oneself. The latter is based on a lack of respect and responsibility for oneself. A person who has a sense of their self worth is more secure and confident in themselves than a person who lacks a sense of self worth and who feels insecure. When a person is lacking in self confidence they are more likely to respond to a situation in a variety of non – assertiveness ways, such as aggressively, passively and manipulatively.



To be assertive we need self-esteem and confidence.

Self-esteem is made up of two words;

Self = A persons own individuality or essence and Esteem = Think favourably of, regard as valuable. Together we get, ‘Think favourably of ourselves, and regard our essence and individual character as valuable’.

Confidence = Firm trust, assured expectation; self-reliance; boldness.




What is Assertiveness?

So, if we need self-esteem and confidence to assert ourselves how do we get it?

The best way is being in a loving caring relationship or having supportive family and friends that value us.

Lacking this, counselling is a helpful place to start as we can gain insight into the things that block our ability to value ourselves and explore ways to change. Another way is to attend workshops on assertiveness or join a group that offers a safe place to talk to others that have similar issues with a facilitator that can encourage change. It is very difficult to gain self-esteem alone, we do need others to help us, to keep us motivated and grounded when things become difficult.

Assertiveness can be mistaken as being aggressive or bullying; self esteem with self importance and being confident can be mistaken for arrogance. This is not the case but messages from childhood can cause us to feel this, for example, a common message such as 'don't be a big head', 'stop showing off' or 'your getting too big for your boots'.

So to give a clear picture of how I see them, self esteem is an internal sense of who I am or how I see myself, this can ebb and flow, sometimes it can be good and sometimes not so good. We get a sense of who we are from our childhood, so depending on whether we were lucky enough to have a safe, comfortable and loving environment to grow up in or an unsafe, unloving and uncomfortable one, will impact upon how our self esteem develops.

The first problem we often face is how to change the negative messages from our childhood.

For example; you are not that valuable, messages like ‘not now, I’m busy', 'I've got work to do, go away’ can easily be interpreted by a child into ‘you are not important enough to deserve my time’ and it is at these times we are developing an understanding of our Self.

By attending groups, workshops and counselling, we can give you an opportunity to explore how you feel about yourself, see more clearly and listen to the things that prevent you from looking after yourself. With this information we can start to address the blocks that prevent you from feeling confident, and learn new effective ways of seeing yourself. Feelings about yourself can change and then we can learn new ways of communicating, which will improve how we get treated by others, this can grow and become a starting place to build a more pleasant future.

Depression and anxiety can be linked to low self esteem and a lack of confidence, so working on this can also reduce our feelings of depression and anxiety.

Nigel Summerton



What is Assertiveness? #02

To help you become more assertive and confident, try the following;

    • Assess your style. Do you voice your opinions or remain silent? Do you say yes to additional work even when your plate is full? Are you quick to judge or blame? Do people seem to dread or fear you? Understand your style before you begin making changes.

    • Use ‘I’ statements. Using “I” statements lets others know what you’re thinking without sounding accusatory. For instance, say “I disagree”, rather than, “You’re wrong”.

    • Practice saying no. If you have a hard time turning down requests, try saying, “No, I can’t do that now”. Don’t beat around the bush – be indirect. If an explanation is appropriate, keep brief.

    • Rehearse what you want to say. If it’s challenging to say what you want or think, practice typical scenarios you encounter. Say what you want to say out loud. It may help to write it out first too, so you can practice from a script. Consider role playing with a friend or colleague and ask for blunt feedback.

    • Use body language. Communication isn't just verbal. Act confident even if you aren't feeling it. Keep an upright posture, but lean forward a bit. Make regular eye contact. Maintain a neutral or positive facial expression. Don’t wring your hands or use dramatic gestures. Practice assertiveness body language in front of a mirror or with a friend or colleague.

    • Keep emotions in check. Conflict is hard for most people. Maybe you get angry or frustrated, or maybe you feel like crying. Although these feelings are normal, they can get in the way of resolving conflict. If you feel too emotional going into a situation, wait a bit if possible. Then work on remaining calm. Breathe slowly. Keep your voice even and firm.

    • Start small. At first, practice your new skills in situations that are low risk. For instance, try out your assertiveness on a partner or friend before tackling a difficult situation at work. Evaluate yourself afterward and tweak your approach as necessary.



.........and here is a message from an assertive man.


Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves,
Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are the child of God.
Your playing small doesn’t serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that
Other people won’t feel insecure around you.
We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously
Give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear,
Our presence automatically liberates others.


Nelson Mandela
1994 Inaugural Speech



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Copyright Nigel Summerton, Personal & Relationship Counselling - Est.1994. VAT Registration Number 183 3378 90
relationship counselling, stress counselling, therapy, depression, anxiety, bereavement, loss, anger management, sexual problems, visual impairment, disability, workshops, supervision, group supervision, Plymouth, Plympton, Ivybridge, Devon & Cornwall.

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