Assertiveness is one of the most important tools for dealing effectively with others. But what is it? Assertiveness is simply standing up for yourself, speaking up for your rights, and effectively expressing your wishes, ideas and concerns.
Assertiveness without guilt is the right of every person who is asked to do something he he or she doesn’t want to do, or who wants to make reasonable requests of others.
Another type of assertiveness demanding situation that is often not considered is when people behave rudely towards you, try to put you down, or treat you in a patronizing manner. Assertiveness without guilt is not only possible, it is essential for dealing with some types of people.
Consider the example of someone who is interrupted by a telemarketer. “Will you buy this,” “Will you contribute to that?” Perhaps the unassertive person will even agree to something they don’t want just to get it over with. There might even be a little guilt. After all, the caller is just doing his or her job.
The key word, however, is “unreasonable.” There is nothing wrong with doing favors for someone if you want to. But if you feel you must in order to be “likable” or “a nice guy” then something is wrong.
Gary Emery, a clinical professor at UCLA, once stated “We all want people to think were nice, but millions of people carry it too far. Every moment of their days is spent being nice — and the damage it does them is enormous!” Some experts attribute being “too nice” to harmful frustration, anxiety, anger and depression.
There are those who always seem to desperately need somebody else’s help, but assertiveness may be a particular problem for shy people, who may think that doing favors for others will make up for their lack of extroversion in getting people to like them.
Those who are unassertive often suffer from an excess of empathy. While empathy is normally an admirable trait, too much of it, as with anything, can be harmful. And some people, rather than admiring this trait, will look for ways to take advantage of it! If you feel resentful about a request after you agree to it, this is generally a sign that you were asked to do something unreasonable.
The flip side of assertiveness is the inability to make reasonable requests of others, something that can be even more difficult than turning down other people’s unreasonable requests of favors from you.
Remember that you have the right to look out for your own interests. This is the key to assertiveness without guilt.