- Mental Health
Assertiveness - Stress Management Techniques
Ten years or so ago, learning to be more assertive was rather fashionable. At that time, once polite and helpful colleagues disappeared for a weekend course subsidized by their employers and came back bloody-minded, stubborn and uncooperative. Unfortunately, only a fine line divides the quality of being assertive from that of being self-absorbed and rude. As a result, the need for people who are reasonably polite but also reasonably assertive has been played down. Assertiveness has become a joke, but lack of assertiveness is still a potent cause of stress.
At its most simplistic, being assertive is having the ability to say 'no' without fear that you will lose the regard of a friend, relative or colleague, but it goes beyond this. If you want to adopt an independent line, you have every right to do so -provided that you are not compromising other people or hazarding the vulnerable. Lack of assertiveness is not just a female characteristic; it affects both sexes. Being too anxious to please others so that every decision is made only after considering the welfare of every other person and your own concerns have been ignored is a sure recipe for stress. Unfortunately, the stress from not being assertive is a fertile breeding ground for resentment. Martyrs probably went to the stake grumbling rather than singing.
Giving honest answers to the questions below will give you an idea as to whether or not you are independent, assertive and fair, or are so assertive as to be bloody-minded and tiresome, if not an actual bully. They will also tell you whether you are so passive that you'll inevitably become stressed and resentful as every ghastly job is heaped onto your shoulders, your in-tray is never empty, yet despite all the extra work, no one takes any notice of opinions.
- Can you say 'no'? Can you refuse an ' invitation, task at work or in your home life -without feeling guilty? Or do you feel honour-bound to produce a good reason for turning down any invitation or request other than that you have no desire to do it, or because it might upset existing plans?
- Are you prepared to accept help from other people and ask for it? Lack of assertiveness is two-way. It is not just a question of never .saying 'no'. It is also a matter of saying 'Please will you...?'.
- If you've made an agreement, are you prepared to admit if it becomes impossible to fulfill? Would you ask for the contract to be re-negotiated? Are you prepared to admit making mistakes, including those concerning your ability to achieve an objective?
- Are you indecisive, or conversely are you too timid to change your mind?
- Do you fear success?
- Are you so assertive that other people describe you as aggressive? Could you be passive-aggressive and dumb insolent? This is a fine art. Demands are stated, every pill is sugared but the pill the passive-aggressive person asks someone else to swallow is still bitter.
- Do you ever use emotional blackmail? Do you bare your soul hoping that others will do things for you so as to avoid hurting you? Are you, in fact, manipulative?
The key to being assertive without being aggressive and uncooperative is to plan and carry out an appreciation of the task in hand. Know what needs to be achieved choose one aspect of it that must be the primary objective and decide how it may be achieved.
Having settled these basic boundaries, decide what is reasonable for you to do in order to achieve the objectives, and what is reasonable to ask others to do to help you in attaining your own goals.
The consequences of not formulating such a positively assertive plan of action are nowhere better seen than in the world of politics. Just as in other aspects of life, in politics, the aims of any group, and the roles of the people involved, are too often poorly defined. The rewards for working on the project - even the job description of those in the team - are frequently either casually thought through, or .very often not thought through at all.
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