We all have different communications styles, each can be placed somewhere on a continuum between assertiveness and passivity. Some people, however, believe that being assertive is the same thing as being aggressive; this is far from the truth.
In the workplace, and in most areas of life, at least some level of assertiveness is necessary to get things done. But to be as productive as possible, you need to find the right blend of passivity and assertiveness: learning not to be so shy and reserved that you accomplish nothing, yet not being so bold and pushy that you alienate everyone around you. As with many areas in life, finding the right blend of both qualities is the key to being successful in life and business.
The Value of Assertiveness
Assertiveness does not have to mean pushy or aggressive. Just the opposite; assertiveness is a positive personality trait that, when possessed in proper quantities, makes a person an effective communicator and an excellent leader. Even the famed Mayo Clinic has touted the value of assertiveness as a core communication skill. So, you might ask, what exactly does “assertive” mean?
Being assertive is a method of expressing yourself effectively, while advancing your own point of view and knowledge, while simultaneously respecting the ideas that others express. Being assertive ensures that you make valid points and that your voice is heard, but it also elevates you in the eyes of others, showing you to be confident and a person worthy of respect. Being assertive can also help you avoid problems which cause stress, such as having too many responsibilities piled upon you because you cannot seem to say “no.”
Being Careful Not to Become Too Aggressive
Of course, there is a flip side to every scenario and every rule. Certainly assertiveness is a positive quality that can help you be part of a winning solution, ensuring that voices are heard and helping to alleviate potential stress that can occur when people are too passive. However, too much assertiveness can be seen as pushy; this type of behavior can turn people right off, causing conflict and confrontation.
Over assertiveness can also cause other people to back down, becoming more passive. This is negative in the workplace both because it disrespects others and breaks down the communications process, as well as potentially causing others to hold their ideas in, depriving you or your team of potentially valuable insight.
Finding the Right Balance
Communicating your opinion effectively means finding the right balance. It is important that people who tend towards passivity work towards increased assertiveness and recognize that being assertive does not mean being aggressive.
At the same time, it is important for people who have a tendency to come off as aggressive to reign it in a bit. Understanding that asserting one’s self respectfully adds value to a situation, but being overly aggressive can turn people off and cause a variety of problems within a team or workplace is the first step towards improving workplace relations.
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