Assertiveness: extending self-esteem to social relationships

Assertiveness is a style of communication related to social skills. This term is very close to that of self-esteem, it is a skill tightly wrapped in respect and affection for oneself and others.

In this article, we will better understand the relationship between assertiveness and self-esteem by differentiating 3 types of individuals: passive, aggressive and assertive.

    The relationship between assertiveness and self-esteem

    The lack of assertiveness is expressed by two ends of the same pole, at one end are the passive people, those whom you consider timid, ready to feel trampled and despised; at the other extreme, there are aggressive people, who trample on others and ignore the needs of the other.

    Assertiveness can be understood as a path to self-esteem, towards the ability to relate to others on an equal footing, Being neither above nor below. Only one who has adequate self-esteem, who appreciates and values ​​himself, will be able to communicate with others on the same level, recognizing those who are better at certain skills, but who do not feel inferior or superior to them. other.

    The unasserted person, whether withdrawn or aggressive, cannot have adequate self-esteem because they feel the urgent need to be valued by others.

    It is rare that a person goes to a psychologist suffering from a problem of lack of assertiveness. Instead, they often refer to issues of anxiety, shyness, guilt., Frequent discussions, dysfunction in the couple, conflicts at work or similar problems. Often, an evaluation by the professional reveals a deficit of social skills, expressed by poorly asserted behaviors, either because the person is at the pole of passivity, aggressiveness, or because the fluctuation goes in both directions. .

      Types of people based on their relationship to assertiveness

      Then we will talk about the passive person, the aggressive person and the assertive person, but we must keep in mind that no one is purely aggressive or passive, not even assertive. people we tend to some of these behaviors, More or less accentuated, but there are no “pure types”. Likewise, we may exhibit some of these behaviors in some situations that cause us difficulty, while in others we may react completely differently.

      1. The passive person

      The passive person does not defend personal rights and interests. Respect for others, but not the same.

      It is characterized by social behavior marked by a low volume of speech, speech is not very fluent, and can block or stutter. He refuses eye contact, looks down, his body posture is tense, shows insecurity about what to do and / or say, and often complains about others because he doesn’t feel understood or because the others profit from it.

      The thought pattern is that of “sacrificed” people who seek at all times to avoid bothering or offending others, feel a deep need to be loved and appreciated by all and often feel misunderstood, manipulated or ignored.

      The emotions they typically experience are helplessness, guilt, anxiety, and frustration. They have a lot of mental energy but are not physically exteriorized, they can feel anger but not manifest it and sometimes they do not even recognize it themselves. This pattern of behavior often leads to a loss of self-esteem and sometimes to a loss of esteem for other people (who both need it and are constantly looking for it).

      Passive behaviors make others feel guilty or superior because, depending on how the other is, one can have the constant feeling of being indebted to the passive person or he may feel superior to her and able to take advantage of her. Somatic problems (gastritis, contractures, headaches, skin problems …) are also frequent, because the great mental stress from which they suffer by refusing themselves ends up being expressed in the body.

      In some cases, these people have disproportionate bursts of aggression, Located at the other pole. These explosions can be very uncontrolled and are the result of the build-up of tensions and hostility that eventually boil over.

      2. The aggressive person

      Excessive defense of personal rights and interestsRegardless of those of others: sometimes you don’t really consider them and others you don’t have the skills to deal with certain situations.

      In their overt behavior we observe a high tone of voice, sometimes the speech is too fluid to be rushed, speaks forcefully, interrupts, may insult and / or threaten. He tends to counterattack.

      Eye contact is difficult, His face expresses tension and invades the personal space of the other with his body posture. In terms of thinking, these people believe that if they don’t behave in this way, they are too vulnerable, put everything in terms of a win-lose, and have the capacity for ideas like “there are bad and vile people out there who do.” deserve to be punished. “or” it’s horrible that things don’t turn out the way I want them to come out. “

      They often experience increasing anxiety and their behavior leads them to loneliness and a feeling of incomprehension. They can feel frustrated and guilty. Self-esteem is low, hence this constant belligerence (it’s a defense). They feel very honest and transparent because they express how they feel, but in doing so out of anger or impulsiveness, they often hurt others.

      The consequences of this type of behavior are that these people usually cause others to reject or flee. On the other hand, they enter a vicious circle, forcing others to become more and more hostile, so they reinforce this aggression to defend themselves from the hostility they themselves have provoked.

      The passive-aggressive style, a mixture of the above two, is one in which the seemingly passive person there is a lot of resentment inside. By not having the skills to properly express this discomfort, these people use subtle and indirect methods such as irony, sarcasm or hints, trying to make the other feel bad but obviously not exposing them as the responsible.

        3. The assertive person

        Assertive are those who know their own rights and defend them, respecting others, that is to say they are not going to “win”, but “to reach an agreement”.

        In their outward demeanor, the speech is fluid, they are confident, with direct eye contact but without challenge, the tone is relaxed, the posture is comfortable.

        Sound, both positive and negative, defend it without attacking, honestly, Being able to talk about his or her tastes or interests, and may disagree or seek clarification, being able to recognize mistakes and without needing those for reason.

        As for their way of thinking, they know and believe in certain rights for themselves and for others. Their mental patterns are mostly rational, which means that they do not get dominated by irrational beliefs typical of other styles of communication, such as the idea that “I must be accepted and loved by everyone” or “It’s horrible that things aren’t. go out as I want. “

        Your self-esteem is healthy, they feel they are in control of their emotionsThey do not feel inferior or superior to others, have satisfying relationships with others and respect themselves.

        This way of feeling and expressing themselves, of respecting themselves and others, means that they know how to defend themselves from the attacks of others, without using this same hostility. They can resolve misunderstandings and other similar situations and the people they deal with feel respected and valued, so these people are often seen as “good people” but not “fools”.

        A final reflection

        Assertiveness is a social skill and as such can be trained, no one is born assertive and no one is doomed to be a “clumsy” or unskilled person their whole life, Always reacting with hostility or inhibition. Like any skill, the person who wants to develop an assertive style needs to practice to improve.

        Bibliographical references:

        • Castanyer, O .. (2003). Assertiveness: expression of healthy self-esteem. Bilbao: Desclée de Brouwer.

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