Education

Be assertive

Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Getty Images/iStockphoto)   | Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

In order to succeed, build healthy relationships and to gain respect, stand up for yourself

I was telling someone that this time I thought I would write on assertiveness. And his immediate response was, “But can young professionals afford to be assertive?” At that point, I was surer that this is what I was going to write about.

Assertiveness is something we are never usually taught in most schools in India. As children, we are mostly taught to obey, to defer, and fall in line. The ones who disagree are labelled rebels or troublemakers. In fact, some of them may even be punished for either asking questions or for having different opinions. How assertive we are as children and young adults, depends on what we see in our immediate environments at home and in school. I know parents who encourage children to disagree or state their opinions clearly without disrespecting other points of view.

I don’t think I grew up, learning to be assertive, but I learnt quickly that in order to succeed, to build healthy relationships, and to gain respect, it was critical to be assertive.

The right choice

Being assertive means to express your view, to stand for your rights, taking into account and respecting other opinions, especially when there are disagreements. When we are not assertive, it allows others to dominate us, take us for granted, leaving us frustrated and stressed. The frustration builds over time till it boils over and puts us in embarrassing situations. The choice, as always, is in our hands.

As far as our behaviour towards our colleagues goes, irrespective of where they stand in the company hierarchy, assertiveness is something we must demonstrate at all times. Consider this situation: A receives an email from B, who blames A for something that had gone wrong. However, it was not A’s mistake and had occurred due to some unforeseen circumstances. A replies, apologising profusely, but does nothing to explain the situation. After sending the email, A feels small and frustrated. The same A goes for lunch later that day and stands in the queue at the counter. Someone else cuts in out of turn and manages to get her meal before A, who does nothing.

These two incidents are instances from everyday life when lack of assertiveness can lead to frustration.

In the case of the email, A must have simply acknowledged the state of affairs, apologised, but also gone on to state clearly how it happened, to clarify any misunderstanding. This is especially important if you are being held responsible for something that was not your fault. If this had happened over a conversation, it could go something like:

“I see that this has happened and that you feel this way. Sorry about that. At the same time, I would like to let you know that this was because of… So, what can we do about this to solve the situation? Please let me know how I can help.”

Assertive behaviour entails three things: Active listening and acknowledgement, which demonstrates your respect for others, stating your point of view and then asking for action. In the beginning, this may seem a bit artificial and difficult to follow, but over time, it will become part of you and you will find it easier to navigate relationships and situations.

Try assertiveness and I assure you, it is your way to a healthier mind.

The writer is a poet and literary journalist. She also heads Corporate Communications at UST Global. Twitter: @anupamaraju

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Printable version | Apr 3, 2020 7:33:46 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/education/be-assertive/article27947918.ece

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