Assertiveness: Being able to speak your mind when it is appropriate and with respect

Sande Elison Oundo (Photo|File)

By Sande Elison Oundo

Imagine you were promised a promotion by your boss this month, but when you asked him 3 weeks later, he told you “Be patient, we are trying to sort out some challenges’ how would you respond to that? 

Isn’t good to be a people pleaser who everyone likes, because of being selfless, always there to help others in spite of their needs. Unfortunately, there isn’t anything honorable in being a doormat for everyone to step on and wipe their shoes. You may think that you are doing people kindness by being a people pleaser, however, it’s the other way around you are harmful and deceptive to your colleagues, boss, classmates, teacher, friend, spouse, parent and even your child.

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Instead of being a people pleaser or arrogant and a brute, you can rather be assertive by being able to speak your mind when it is appropriate and tell people the truth which may sting for some people but at the end of the day it helps everyone and it increases the bond between you and them because they see you as a genuine person who really cares. As Lao Tzu said ‘care about what other people think and you will be there prisoner’ 

Assertiveness is a communication skill, to express what is in your mind in a respectful way. To be assertive is the ability to speak up without being aggressive or confrontational. 

Assertiveness forces you to become an adult by making decisions, defending them and if proven wrong, accepting it and trying something else. Rather than leaving your fate to someone else making you unaccountable and giving you the excuses to not even try, when that thing fails because you were never committed to begin with since it was never your idea, both of you suffer. 

Is assertiveness the same as being passive-aggressive? not really because you only become passive-aggressive whence you have bottled up feelings you could have communicated earlier in an assertive way you rather communicate the aftermath in an insulting or threatening manner subtly. 

The reason assertiveness is a hot topic recently is due to the fact that a lot of women in the workforce are looking for assertiveness to express themselves to their colleagues, bosses, and customers just like their male colleagues. 

So why are women mainly less assertive, a current theory is based on social reasons which expects women to be more respectful and cordial to people. I don’t exactly follow that theory because some men aren’t assertive too, some women are more assertive than the majority of men and even in countries which are egalitarian like the Western countries still women aren’t as assertive as men. The answer to me is the big 5 personality traits which states that people who are low in extroversion and

high in agreeableness, which often happen to be women, are less assertive than vice versa. 


The shadow, according to psychologist Carl Jung, is the part of us which is unconscious and is composed of repressed ideas, weaknesses, desires, instincts, and shortcomings. The shadow forms out of our attempts to adapt to cultural norms and expectations. 

Carl Jung highlights that the only way to be complete is by integrating the shadow, so unlike it being projected like when you are angry or it comes out when under the influence like alcohol where you have no control over it in that state of mind, you rather tame it by integrating your aggression, when you say no you stick to your no, when something is bothering you speak up for yourself, if you don’t do it right now it will ride you with guilt and hate of yourself for being a coward. There are times when you are taking your shower or eating, and a thought comes intruding, it could say that ‘when Alex made that joke about you, you should have responded this way instead of just smiling’ and it eats you up, that is the shadow in a nutshell. 

Some easy techniques to remove the confrontation are; 

● Fogging: which is basically being able to agree in part or in principle while disagreeing with the part you don’t like. 
● Negative inquiry: consists of requesting further, more specific criticism. 
● Negative assertion: an agreement with criticism without letting up demand. 
● I-statements can be used to voice one’s feelings and wishes from a personal position without expressing judgment about the other person or blaming one’s feelings on them.

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In conclusion, Assertiveness is a part of personal potential and a prerequisite for self-actualization. To be assertive, it calls for conviction and If you are not naturally assertive, know that with a little time and practice, you could become more self-assured and will gain confidence and self-respect and advocate for yourself as you will be viewed as a leader, and others will seek your opinion thus leading to a happier and healthy life since it can help you control stress and anger and improve coping skills. Therefore, recognize and learn assertive behavior and communication for a meaningful, productive and long life

Sande Elison Oundo is a holistic health practitioner and President of Vigilant Living, a Counseling and Coaching company

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