Assertive: having or showing a confident and forceful personality
I have a negative connotation of the word “assertive,” which has ultimately resulted in my discomfort around people who have overly assertive behaviors. When I think about why I feel this way, it’s probably centralized around experiences with those who have a more aggressive and domineering assertive personality, rather than confident and affirmative behaviors. But I’m also smart enough to acknowledge and support assertive behaviors when they are productive and positive. As always, I tend to break things down across two distinct areas of my life, since I’ve previously mentioned I seem to be two different people wrapped up in one body.
(Just being funny… only one of us sucks — the other one is awesome)
In my professional working environment and culture, I demonstrate a more assertive style than I do in my personal life. In my last position, I directly managed 9 people (Vice-Presidents, Directors and Managers) and approximately 100 people in total within my organization. While being assertive was important to being seen as a successful leader and executive, I certainly did not represent the norm when it comes to an assertive management style. And it was often a topic of discussion both with my staff and my own supervisor, who respected the ability I had in still accomplishing our goals without being a typical assertive leader — but also faulted me for not representing what (s)he thought was important to display for other executive management.
As a leader, my style is often relaxed, friendly and inclusive. Although I was the boss and had the corner office, I never felt comfortable acting and treating people as though there needed to be an arm’s length distance between us; my door was “always open” and I encouraged everyone to stop in to tell me how things were going, both professionally and personally. In meetings, I certainly “ran them” with a clear and focused agenda, kept everything on time, listened and made decisions, etc. — all with confidence and strong direction. But I was never the manager who would walk in, shut the door, get down to business, and then walk out after being sure I told everyone else what to do. That never felt like the right style for me. To me, that was a negative way to assert your leadership and management over people and projects.
When I think of negatively assertive behaviors, my experience was with managers who quickly shut down new ideas, said “no” without fully listening, or phrased their messages in either an accusatory or reckless way. (I’ve also had very positive managers, so no worries!). But as a result, I associate assertive with dominance, rudeness and indifference to people as humans with different personalities and comfort styles. I tend to dislike or feel uncomfortable around people with any sort of forceful personality — both in the business world and in my personal life.
At work, I tend to be driven and results-oriented. I need to be the leader and always take on new responsibilities. It’s such a huge piece of my personality. I’m sure a psychiatrist would suggest that I’m searching for approval and acceptance, as I must feel like I don’t have it in some other part of my life. Whatever the reason (not really all that important to me), I’m the complete opposite in my personal life. Outside of work, although I do take charge of “events” such as planning our annual holiday party or coordinating vacations, when it comes to every day things like choosing meals, decor, times to go out, et al… I would rather just go with the flow. I don’t want to take the lead, as it’s my opportunity to take a break, sitting back to let others run with things on their own accord.
For the same reasons, I also don’t like having forceful personalities in my friendships. When someone tends to be domineering or assertive in terms of pushing their own agenda, monopolizing conversations, arguing, or attempting to show why they are better or stronger at something, I immediately shut down, and to some degree, want to write off that person. I’ve abandoned many friendships or potential friendships for those reasons. And I’m totally OK with it! If I don’t like someone’s assertive personality, or they get too aggressive with me, I’m not going to enjoy being around them. When they assert themselves more than necessary, it’s a major turn-off. That said, I won’t throw away a solid friendship over an argument or slight change in behaviors. I’ll certainly make attempts to change how I think/feel or let him/her know what’s going on. But in the end, I want people in my life who are collaborative, open-minded, friendly and more able to let go of the unimportant things.
I know being assertive can be a positive thing, too, and I’m not discounting that side of this equation — just focusing on the negative aspects of it in this post. Another day will highlight the positive ones, when it comes to those with a “can-do” attitude. Due to how I feel about this type of negative assertiveness, I’ve heard a few interesting things when I make my position clear to others. Some say I lack passion. Others say I’m afraid to speak my mind. I’ve been accused of being weak-minded. My response: “OK, thanks for your input. Always glad to hear someone else’s opinion.” Then there’s some noise (usually me getting up, leaving and shutting the door) And I’m free!!!!!
True, that’s an exaggeration, but my point here is… we all have a comfort level when it comes to our own level of assertiveness and that of those around us. Assertive can be both positive and negative. In my world, if you are dominant, forceful or aggressive, I am inclined not to want to share much time in the same space as you. If you are flexible, open and accessible in your assertive behavior, we’ll get along quite well.
How about you? Do you have different levels of assertiveness at home or at work? With different friends? Do you like when others are assertive in a forceful way?
About Me & the “365 Daily Challenge”
I’m Jay and I live in NYC. By profession, I work in technology. By passion, I work in writing. I’ve always been a reader. And now I’m a daily blogger. I decided to start my own version of the “365 Daily Challenge” where since March 13, 2017, I’ve posted a characteristic either I currently embody or one I’d like to embody in the future. 365 days of reflection to discover who I am and what I want out of life.
The goal: Knowledge. Acceptance. Understanding. Optimization. Happiness. Help. For myself. For others. And if all else fails, humor. When I’m finished in one year, I hope to have more answers about the future and what I will do with the remainder of my life. All aspects to be considered. It’s not just about a career, hobbies, residence, activities, efforts, et al. It’s meant to be a comprehensive study and reflection from an ordinary man. Not a doctor. Not a therapist. Not a friend. Not an encyclopedia full of prior research. Just pure thought, a blogged journal with true honesty.
Join the fun and read a new post each day, or check out my book reviews, TV/Film reviews or favorite vacation spots. And feel free to like, rate, comment or take the poll for each post. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.