Is it unkind to be assertive?
There is a difference between being assertive and being aggressive. We all have needs to be met. There is a time and a place to be assertive in communicating our thoughts, feelings and needs to another person.
As long as we do not violate the rights of another person, then we are not being unkind to them.
What is the difference between being assertive and being aggressive?
The act of being aggressive barrels over the top of the rights of other people. Being aggressive is when someone demands that their desires are met, no matter what the consequences may be to other people.
Aggressive interaction does not concern itself with the feelings, thoughts, ideas or desires of the other person. If you are listening to and considering the other person, then you are not being aggressive.
You can let someone know how you feel and how a situation is affecting you. Speaking up for yourself and communicating about how you feel, is assertiveness.
How can we be assertive, without crossing the line into aggressive?
This involves being mindful. If you are mindful of others, then you will be aware if something is upsetting them.
We should not call people names, yell at them, or treat them in a way that is controlling or manipulative.
We should not belittle, embarrass or humiliate someone. Threats, blackmail and intimidation are examples of violating a person’s rights.
If you are simply stating how you feel about something, in a way that is not mean, then you are not being aggressive. You should never do anything that will knowingly lower someone’s self esteem. Verbal attacks on someone’s character are not kind. Deliberately violating the rights of another person is aggressive.
What is the difference between passive and assertive?
Being passive is when you are compliant with what other people want, to the point where you are actually allowing your own rights to be violated.
Passive interaction is not making your needs known to the other person. It is simply allowing the other person to do whatever they want, even if it is stepping on your personal rights. Other people may not know how something is affecting you, unless you explain it to them.
Why are some people naturally assertive while other are naturally passive?
Passive behavior is something that is taught during childhood in some families. Other families encourage assertive behavior.
Some people are born into families that encourage self-esteem and individuality. They are encouraged to tell people how they feel. Their needs are considered important in the family. Being assertive is not punished; rather it is a quality that is admired.
Other people may have been brought up in more dysfunctional types of families. They were taught to meet the needs of others, while neglecting their own.
This is typical in families with an alcoholic parent. The needs of the parent take precedence over the needs of the child. There may be one child in the family that is chosen to take care of the parent. This child is taught to neglect their own needs and violate their own personal rights.
Whatever behaviors were taught to you as a child will naturally carry over into adulthood. Many adult children of alcoholics have trouble being assertive, or even identifying their own rights. They are not used to thinking about speaking up for themselves.
Isn’t being passive a more kind way to be?
Being passive all the time means that you will have your rights violated. This is not being kind to yourself. Part of being a kind person is also showing kindness towards yourself.
What are the consequences of being too passive?
There are negative mental health consequences to being too passive on a regular basis. It will end up lowering your self-esteem and you will start to feel worthless. The feelings of worthlessness and low self-esteem can cause depression.
Passive behavior on a regular basis will also cause anxiety, which can develop into a severe anxiety disorder. Holding in your feelings all the time is not good. When you do not express your thoughts about things then others will just disregard you.
This continual disregard of your feelings by others, can cause the feelings of isolation and alienation. Severe anxiety can build up over not having your needs considered by other people.
What is the ideal way to handle being assertive?
People are individuals and each person has a unique way of expressing themselves. It is important to be mindful. Learn to be aware of the feelings of others as well as your own feelings.
Do the best you can to communicate your feelings, about something that is bothering you, in a way that is not challenging the rights of another person. Simply speak to others and let them know when a situation is hurtful to you.
There are times when the other person will care about what you say and adapt according to your needs. There are also times when the person you are dealing with will not care. The point is to practice asserting yourself in situations where you feel that you are being violated.
The act of speaking about your thoughts will allow you to be more mindful about your own feelings. The more mindful you learn to be, the more your self esteem will go up. The more your self esteem goes up, the less at risk you will be for mental illness such as depression and anxiety disorders.
Be kind to yourself.
You can read more of Annie’s writings at GentleKindness’s Blog.
Also by the same author on Kindness Blog:
- Richard and Molly, A True Story From the Assisted Living Facility
- Kindness Connection Brings Out Our Humanity
- One ALS Patient’s Ability to Share His Kindness With Others