Wikipedia, which is actually pretty good at defining this term,
“…a form of behavior characterized by a confident declaration or affirmation of a statement without need of proof; this affirms the person’s rights or point of view without either aggressively threatening the rights of another (assuming a position of dominance) or submissively permitting another to ignore or deny one’s rights or point of view.”
Further, assertive people have the following characteristics:
“They feel free to express their feelings, thoughts, and desires.
“also able to initiate and maintain comfortable relationships
with [other]people. They know their rights. They have control over their anger. This does not mean that they repress this feeling; it means that they control anger and talk about it in a reasoning manner.”
Assertive people …”are willing to compromise with others, rather than
always wanting their own way … and tend to have good self-esteem”
Assertive people enter friendships from an ‘I count my needs. I count
your needs’ position”.
The most important trait in this last list is the first one, “They
feel free to express their feelings, thoughts, and desires.” This is the
state which allows for the expression of those recently excavated feelings, values, ideas, memories, associations and thoughts that previously weren’t in awareness. Now that they are, the task is to use the appropriate words and say them, out loud, to decrease the tension inherent in the procrastination dynamic. Notice that I did not say that externalizing your thoughts got you off the hook or that it even reduced tension. It shifts attention from procrastination to assertiveness, which for some, is equally uncomfortable. (This is secondary procrastination-fear of dealing with it because of trouble being assertive.) But the demand now is to face the issue with assertiveness, which may cause another kind of anxiety, that of speaking up, This has to be mastered sufficiently or the dynamic of procrastination, even though exposed, will still not change.
You, the reader, are probably thinking, “Great, now I have to be
assertive when I haven’t yet mastered procrastination.” The short answer
is “yes” but assertiveness doesn’t have to be so arduous, if that is the way you think about it. In my ebook, The Five Steps of Assertiveness, I describe three levels of assertiveness, “Beginning, Intermediate and Advanced.” You only need to master the first level, which is very simple.
All you have to do is find the right words to describe your thoughts and/or feelings and say them. That’s it! That takes the edge off the underlying or buried thoughts and feelings, because now they are no longer buried (it takes energy to contain energy and we experience this phenomenon mentally in the form of fatigue, distraction and overall tension). You’ve taken the lid off the bottle, so to speak, and let out some of the pressure. The next easy and logical step, is to state your position on something and then ask for what you want, this time directly. This is Beginning Assertiveness, and it is not hard. This is the simplest direct way to clear the air and get more of what you want.
Procrastination probably is the most indirect way of creating what you want, but it causes all kinds of problems inside your head and in your social environment because people are not pleased with procrastinating behavior. When you overtly state your wishes, people react to you differently. While they still might not like what you say or agree to give you what you want, they will see and appreciate the normal approach
you are now taking to resolving a situation. (Assertiveness does not
guarantee you will get what you want, but it does increase the odds.) You will get feedback that assertiveness is much better than “that other behavior” and the secondary benefits to you will be things like lowered anxiety, increased self-esteem and greater social matriculation.
So, follow me as I describe some situations in future articles that embody all the dynamics I’ve talked about.