Assertiveness is a
way of thinking and behaving that allows a person to stand up for his or
her rights while respecting the rights of others. Nonassertive people may
be passive or aggressive. Passive individuals are not committed to their
own rights and are more likely to allow others to infringe on their rights
than to stand up and speak out. On the other hand, aggressive persons are
very likely to defend their own rights and work to achieve their own goals
but are also likely to disregard the rights of others. Additionally, aggressive
individuals insist that their feelings and needs take precedence over other
people's. They also tend to blame others for problems instead of offering
Assertive attitudes and behaviors are at the
heart of effective advocacy. A person with an assertive attitude recognizes
that each individual has rights. These rights include not only legal rights
but also rights to individuality, to have and express personal preferences,
feelings and opinions. The assertive individual not only believes in his
or her rights but is committed to preserving those rights. An assertive
attitude is important in recognizing that rights are being violated. The
passive person is so concerned with being liked and accepted that he or
she may never recognize the need to advocate. The assertive person clearly
expresses his or her rights or needs. They tend to face problems promptly
and they focus on solutions rather than problems.
Many people feel that they are not assertive.
If you are one of them now is the time to start changing this. Perhaps
at the present time, you are not as assertive as you could be. Assertiveness
is a matter of degree. You can become more assertive than you are now by
increasing your understanding of the idea and by practicing assertive behaviors.
Brain injury can transform a passive person into an aggressive one, and
vice a versa. Additionally, it can undermine assertiveness. The following
section will describe several aspects of assertiveness and contrast assertiveness
with passiveness and aggressiveness. Information in this section will help
you identify such behaviors in yourself and others. It also offers suggestions
for where to find help changing such behaviors.
Self and Others
The passive person is preoccupied with being liked
and accepted. However, because the passive person usually does not accept
him or herself, this person is afraid to speak up for fear of rejection.
Because the passive person gives the power over self acceptance to others,
he or she feels powerless. The aggressive person focuses on his or her
own desires and how others may be used to achieve them. While the aggressive
person usually appears to value him or herself highly, little regard is
given to others, their feelings or rights.
The assertive person values him or herself
but also values others. The assertive person does not necessarily like
everyone nor desire to be liked by everyone, but she or he does respect
others and their rights.
The assertive person is more likely to be a
good listener than either the passive or aggressive person. The assertive
person is able to be more open to information and to be more effective
in analyzing and evaluating the value of what he or she hears and sees.
The ability to listen, and to gather and analyze information is important
in the advocacy process.
A person who is passive listens to others but
does not always hear accurately because he or she often feels too anxious
to concentrate. Furthermore, a passive person is unlikely to analyze information
in terms of his or her own values because those values become lost in the
attempt to win acceptance from others. Desensitization exercises can alleviate
feelings of anxiousness. If anxiousness is problematic for you — see your
doctor or community center for training in such techniques.
The aggressive person may allow others time
to speak but usually does not listen well. He or she is too preoccupied
with his or her own perspective. The aggressive person may also be a poor
listener because he or she feels very angry and defensive.
Brain injury can add additional levels of complexity
to listening behaviors. Hearing impairments caused by brain injury can
interfere with the ability to "listen" or process information in the brain.
If you suspect that you are having difficulties processing information,
you should seek a neurological assessment, you might also want to consider
an otolaryngological assessment.
The passive person is motivated mainly by a
desire for acceptance and security. Although he or she frequently feels
anxious, this person is not likely to take risks. The aggressive person
is motivated by a desire to control and dominate others. He or she frequently
feels angry, insecure and defensive. The assertive person has a wider range
of motivations and emotional states. He or she may be concerned with self-understanding
and growth, with development of his or her abilities and with relating
to other persons. He or she usually is able to exert more control over
emotions and to work for solutions that benefit all parties. Which type
The behaviors of a passive person are usually
designed to hide individuality. The individual may actually look and act
passively but could also look and act conventionally - so conventionally
he or she is never noticed. The behaviors of the aggressive person are
designed to intimidate and overpower. There is little chance that this
person will go unnoticed "Pushy" is a good description of this person's
loud and insistent voice and large, sometimes grandiose, gestures.
The assertive person's behaviors are designed
to promote communication and problem solving. This person uses a variety
of behaviors depending on the situation. In general, the assertive person
appears energetic yet relaxed. The Assertiveness Quiz, is a short
quiz designed to help you gain an idea of how assertive you are at this
to take the Assertiveness