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Part I: How to Develop Positive Assertiveness > Three Basic Behavior Styles

Chapter 1. Three Basic Behavior Styles

It would be great if you could simply decide to go down the road marked “Assertive” and live your life without straying from the path. Real life is full of twists and turns, however, and no one is consistently assertive. All of us use the following three basic behavior styles, depending on the situation and personal factors. The good news is that you can learn to become more assertive more of the time.

  1. Nonassertive Nonassertive behavior is passive and indirect. It communicates a message of inferiority. By being nonassertive, we allow the wants, needs, and rights of others to be more important than our own. Nonassertive behavior helps create “win-lose” situations. A person behaving nonassertively loses (or is at best disregarded), while allowing others to win. Following this road leads to being a victim, not a winner.

  2. Aggressive Aggressive behavior is more complex. It can be either active or passive. Aggression can be direct or indirect, honest or dishonest—but it always communicates an impression of superiority and disrespect. By being aggressive, we put our wants, needs, and rights above those of others. We attempt to get our way by not allowing others a choice. Aggressive behavior is usually inappropriate and it violates the rights of others. People who behave aggressively get ahead at the expense of others, and in doing so set themselves up for retaliation. No one likes a bully.

  3. Assertive Assertive behavior is active, direct, and honest. It communicates an impression of self-respect and respect for others. By being assertive, we view our wants, needs, and rights as equal to those of others. We work toward “win-win” outcomes. An assertive person wins by influence, listening, and negotiating so that others choose to cooperate willingly. This behavior leads to success without retaliation, and encourages open, honest relationships.


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