Last week, you learned that there are certain basic rights that help to define and shape your sense of self. Utilizing these basic rights increases confidence, enhances self-esteem, and allows you to focus on values important to you. Today you will learn the difference between the human right called assertiveness and three other forms of behavior that aren’t proactive or healthy.
Assertiveness. Assertiveness is being clear and direct about what you need and want. It does not mean you will get what you want; it means you have stated your feelings and facts clearly. When you assert yourself your loved ones or coworkers will know where you stand. It enables you to set limits so that you others won’t walk all over you. It creates healthy boundaries and enables you to accomplish goals because it reinforces what’s important to you.
Mary was a client I had who learned assertiveness and was later able to use it with me. Mary wanted to lose weight so we strategized a plan to add exercise and a support group to her treatment plan. When she returned she had not lost any weight or done her assignment. When I asked her about her lack of progress she shared that when I gave her the assignment it had made her feel angry because the message it sent her was similar to a chronic message her mother gave her most of her life. The message was that she was not good enough. As she asserted herself with me, she realized how she sabotaged herself because of her anger toward her mother.
Passive behavior The old Mary would have behaved passively. People who are passive do not feel their opinions count. They are easily overlooked or walked on. This allows others to control them or not to understand what is going on in their life. People who are passive have poor self-esteem. .
Aggressive Behavior Aggressiveness is typically loud and intimidating behavior that is threatening. The aggressive person attacks other people’s character and appears very demanding.
Passive-aggressive behavior People who use P-A are angry and will get even behind your back. People who forget appointments that they don’t want to attend or who do not answer a question because they don’t want to talk about things may be practicing passive-aggressiveness. I see a lot of women spending hundreds of dollars per month shopping, are acting out passive-aggressive behavior, when in reality they are angry with their husbands for not attending to them. Men may spend hours on the computer when really they want appreciation from their wives.
A classic example of passive-aggressiveness was the woman who was battered by her husband when she didn’t clean up the house properly. After years of abuse, she came to me for Clinical Depression. When I asked her how she tolerated her husband’s strict standards she revealed that she had learned how to keep the house clean and did so by using his toothbrush to clean the toilets. This woman had obviously found a way to strike back at her husband without his awareness. It gave her a sense of control and an outlet for her anger. Passive-aggressive behavior helps to perpetuate a cycle of dysfunction.
As you can see, out of the four types of behaviors, assertiveness is the goal. If you find that you are passive, aggressive, or passive-aggressive in your behaviors, you need to take an Assertiveness Training course. It’s an amazing transformation to watch a client stand up for themselves in a healthy way and watch them recognize their own sense of self-worth.