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Assertive Behavior and Why It Is Important

What do you think of when you hear the word assertive? Many people think of someone adamantly standing his or her ground, pushing for his or her own way, refusing to give an inch. Others think of someone who is generally pleasant but stubborn on certain issues. Most people don’t understand what assertive behavior really is.

Assertive behavior as defined in this book is a natural style that is nothing more than being direct, honest, and respectful while interacting with others. So what’s the big deal? Why is there a need for assertiveness training courses and books? Why do cartoonists poke fun at assertiveness training? Why is there resistance among management in some organizations when assertiveness training is mentioned?

Poking fun and open resistance are symptoms of a lack of understanding. When people do not understand, they are resistant to change. Assertiveness is a most desirable human behavior. It is necessary for honest, healthy relationships. It is the behavior required for “win-win” outcomes in negotiation, conflict resolution, family life, and normal business dealings.

The courses, books, and cassette tapes are necessary because so many people do not understand the desirability and importance of using assertive behavior. As more people develop assertiveness, and begin to influence others, the awareness and acceptance of assertiveness will increase. This book explains why people have to make a conscious effort to develop their assertiveness. Although assertive behavior is natural, it is not the only natural behavior. We humans also use nonassertive and aggressive behavior. These styles create many problems in our relationships, business dealings, and social interactions.

All of us use all three behavior styles throughout our lives. Most of us are not as consistently assertive as we might think. As we learn to become more assertive, we reduce our conflicts, failures, dissatisfactions, and stress. Developing assertiveness requires effort, but the rewards are worth it. This book provides you with information, simple directions, and plenty of opportunities to practice becoming more assertive.

After first finding out how assertive you are right now, you will then learn how to identify the three behavior styles previously mentioned: assertive, nonassertive, and aggressive. You will also learn how to ensure successful change, and how to develop positive assertiveness. Once you have learned to develop your assertiveness, you will learn how to maintain the changes you have made. All of this in about 100 pages. Whew!

The first step is to find out how assertive you are now. How assertive are you?

An Assertiveness Quiz

Before learning how to develop your assertiveness, take a few moments to get some idea of where you are right now. Answer the following questions honestly. They will help you gain some insights about your current level of assertiveness. Assign a number to each item using the following scale.

5 = Always 1 = Never

____ I ask others to do things without feeling guilty or anxious.

____ When someone asks me to do something I don’t want to do, I say no without feeling guilty or anxious.

____ I am comfortable when speaking to a large group of people.

____ I confidently express my honest opinions to authority figures (such as my boss).

____ When I experience powerful feelings (anger, frustration, disappointment, and so on), I verbalize them easily.

____ When I express anger, I do so without blaming others for “making me mad.”

____ I am comfortable speaking up in a group situation.

____ If I disagree with the majority opinion in a meeting, I can “stick to my guns” without feeling uncomfortable or being abrasive.

____ When I make a mistake, I acknowledge it.

____ I tell others when their behavior creates a problem for me.

____ Meeting new people in social situations is something I do with ease and comfort.

____ When discussing my beliefs, I do so without labeling the opinions of others as “crazy,” “stupid,” “ridiculous,” or “irrational.”

____ I assume that most people are competent and trustworthy and do not have difficulty delegating tasks to others.

____ When considering doing something I have never done, I feel confident I can learn to do it.

____ I believe that my needs are as important as those of others, and I am entitled to have my needs satisfied.

____ Total Score (sum of the 15 numbers)

How Assertive Are You?

If your total is 60 or higher, you have a consistently assertive philosophy and probably handle most situations well. You may receive some ideas from this book to further improve your skills and effectiveness.

If your total is 45–60, you have a fairly assertive outlook. You are probably naturally assertive in some situations, but this book will help you to increase your assertiveness through practice.

If your total is 30–45, you may be assertive in some situations, but your natural response is either nonassertive or aggressive. Using the suggestions in this book to change some perceptions, and practicing new behaviors, should enable you to handle things much more assertively in the future.

If your total is 15–30, you have considerable difficulty being assertive. If you follow the road outlined in this book, practice and allow yourself time to grow and change, you can become much more comfortable in situations where asserting yourself is important.

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