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Assertive Action Defined
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Assertive Action Defined

         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 solutions. 

     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. 

  Relationship Between 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. 

   Listening Behaviors

     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. 

  Hearing Impairments

     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 are you. 


     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 time. 

    Click here to take the Assertiveness Quiz.


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