The key to effective assertiveness

The assertiveness equation

It’s a common piece of advice in our progress through the game of life: the need to assert ourselves.

To build assertiveness. To show assertiveness. To be assertive.

I recall vividly the distinction that was drawn between assertiveness and aggressiveness. (Assertive = good; aggressive = bad.)

We can’t achieve what we’d like to do, we can’t be who we’d like to be, we can’t make the change we’d like to make — either in our own lives or the lives of the people we care about — without asserting ourselves.

But asserting ourselves can become a bit like a futile locking of horns. It can become an exercise in us against them, and for what reason? Because we’re right? Or they’re wrong? Because we might lose face or reputation if we back down? Because we might lose face or reputation if we’re seen to back down?

I think the key ingredient to effective assertiveness, then, is values.

Values are the things that are most important to you. The non-negotiable characteristics which guide how you communicate, how you conduct yourself and how you do business, whatever that business is.

Values are signposts to living the way you want to live.

Assertiveness without values will likely achieve little of note in the long-term.

Assertiveness + values is a recipe for lasting success, measured day by day by whether you are living the way you want to live.

Values are always evolving and need work but when you take the time to think about them and list them out and try to live by them, they do two great things for assertiveness:

  1. They make it much easier to be assertive when a situation calls for assertiveness
  2. They make the assertiveness much more productive, because it’s driven by something meaningful. It’s not just an exercise in us against them.

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