Meeting Desires with Assertive Behavior
What is assertive behavior? It is identifying our inner desires and being willing to share them with others in a sensitive, sensible way. The purpose of assertive behavior is to make our desires known and to be on equal footing with others. We have the right to be heard and so do others. We should keep a written record of what style of assertiveness works for us and what does not. We may have varying degrees of success depending on the person we are interacting with and the actual situation. We should recognize that we have the right and the choice to be assertive. However, our choice is whether we want to be assertive, not whether others will respond to our assertiveness. We generally have better feelings about ourselves when we are assertive, especially in the long run. It’s usually better to state our preferences and not to have them met, than not to say anything at all. Here are the four S’s to keep in mind when using assertive behavior:
We need to determine with whom and under what circumstances we will be more assertive or less assertive. Every situation does not require assertive behavior. We may choose to let some situations slip by almost unnoticed. The point is we choose. We make the selection of what is important enough to us to be assertive about.
We should be sensitive to our loved ones, but still recognize that we have desires or wishes too and would like to have them met. In order for our desires to be met, we need to let our loved ones know what they are. We can do this in a direct, but kind way. We also recognize that others have desires and wishes too and may say “no” to our wishes.
After we choose to be assertive or non-assertive in a particular situation, we still need to be sensible on how we proceed. Use common sense.
We should begin slowly and work to become assertive. We may not be successful at our first attempt. As we begin to be more assertive, we should choose a situation that is most likely to have a positive outcome. This will provide us with a good foundation to become more assertive. Early failures can be very discouraging. However, one failure or several failures is not reason enough to stop trying assertive behavior. Here are three different situations with passive, aggressive, and assertive responses for each.
I am in the mood for a fresh bowl of soup and salad, . . .
. . . but when my husband asks me where I want to eat I just say, “It doesn’t matter to me.” My husband chooses his favorite—a place that serves hamburgers and fries. (I go along and don’t say anything even though I really wanted a nice salad and bowl of soup. I get resentful that I continually sacrifice my preferences for what my husband wants.)
. . . and tell my husband, while I’m pointing my finger at him, that I will not go to any place unless I can choose it. (I raise my voice and give my husband an ultimatum to get what I want—a restaurant that serves soups and salads.)
. . . and suggest a place that I would prefer to go. I know that my husband does not especially like this place because it does not sell hamburgers. I recognize that my wishes are important and suggest to him that next time we can go to a place of his choosing or to a place that serves both. I am open to a discussion and want to respect his desires too. (I state my preferences and make them known. I recognize my husband’s desires and am willing to discuss or brainstorm ways that both of our desires may be met.)
I want to get a filtering or block-out program for the Internet since my husband has had problems looking at pornography, but each time I suggest it my husband says, “There are too many good sites that inadvertently get blocked out with filtering software.”
. . . I don’t know if what he is saying is true or not, but he usually says he knows what is the best thing to do, so I just won’t say anything any more.
. . . I yell at my husband and tell him that he is wrong and I will prove it to him by purchasing the filtering software and getting the neighbor to install it on the computer if he doesn’t want to. (I have used anger and attacked my husband’s knowledge about filtering software and involved a third party to get what I want.)
. . . I tell my husband that I am not sure exactly how the software works but that it is really important for me to have some assurance that pornography cannot easily be accessed in our home. I suggest that we learn more about filtering software together by saying, “I would really like to learn more about filtering software. Can we gather information together and perhaps find a solution?” (I have been very assertive on what I prefer, but still recognize that my husband may not agree. I recognize that he can still choose to get or not to get more information, but have firmly stated my preferences.)
I’m not in the mood for sexual intimacy . . .
. . . but I will tell him it’s okay and just go along. (Quite often I feel pressured or forced to have sexual intimacy and that makes me angry, but I don’t say anything.)
. . . and won’t be until you start helping around the house. You never help with anything!” (I raise my voice and shake my finger at him. I have used sexual intimacy as a weapon to get what I want.)
. . . but I will try and see where it goes. If nothing happens, then I would like to try it again on another night.” (Tonight I have chosen to have sexual intimacy, but have also set some boundaries, if it doesn’t work out. I could also choose not to try tonight and suggest we try again tomorrow night. It’s my choice.)
We can think about being more assertive and how these positive steps will help us to deal with our pain and eventual healing. However, for this to happen we actually need to take the assertive steps in order to get the results we desire.
© 2002 © 2013 Rod W. Jeppsen