There is a difference between assertiveness. Assertiveness is simply the polite or positive quality of being confident and self-assured without being overbearing. In the world of therapy and psychology, it’s a non-negative trait that is learned and sometimes a mode of internal dialogue.
While it’s very important to be assertive, there is a difference between assertiveness. It’s a shame when you see therapists using the terms interchangeably because they are not the same thing. This could be seen in the treatment of patients who have aggressive behaviors. While most people understand aggression as negative, therapy clients that exhibit it are often considered to be “aloof” or overly emotional. This is because they do not communicate their anger in a healthy way and thus, are given no chance to expunge their feelings. Rather than helping them to express anger in healthy ways, therapists might instead give them tasks they perceive as aggressive which further aggravates their feelings.
When experiencing anxiety and/or depression, clients may resort to passive aggressive behavior in hopes of getting attention and help. They may mimic aggressive behaviors that they see on the streets or in their daily lives, such as biting their nails, shouting at others, or hitting their spouse. While these acts are meant to scare and hurt others, they can also lead to depression and anxiety. While it’s fine to have these behaviors in order to get attention, therapists who use passive aggressive therapy methods teach clients to express their feelings without using verbal aggression. Instead, the client uses more gentle, yet assertive, verbal communications that help them express their anger and feelings without resorting to violence.
Assertiveness also encompasses other types of non-verbal communication that is often overlooked in the world of therapy. When someone is assertive, they are also fluent in expressing their needs and rights. Clients learn to listen to themselves and others, and have realistic expectations regarding how others respond to them. They don’t expect others to conform to or understand them, but rather, understand that they are a unique individual with their own set of needs and wants. In this way, assertiveness works as an ally rather than a hindrance when battling with dysfunctional issues in life.
Many clients who practice assertiveness and are of the compassionate persuasion tend to feel guilty about their actions. In other words, they believe that other people are controlling their feelings and using manipulative techniques in order to manipulate them. This type of guilt makes clients feel bad about what they are doing, but believing that they have control over their feelings and actions instead of feeling guilty for having those feelings. This is why assertiveness often leads to higher self-esteem and a healthier self-image. It can also prevent clients from developing unhealthy coping mechanisms such as stress relapses, low self-confidence, depression, and low assertiveness.
Communication is key in relationships. Whether it’s at work or at home, communication skills are a must. However, not all communication is appropriate for certain times or areas of a relationship. When communication doesn’t take place between partners, it can lead to passive aggressive behavior and in some cases, the verbal and non-verbal forms of aggression can actually become more pronounced. When communication does take place and an individual feels the need to be assertive, they are practicing assertiveness. However, if the communication in question involves manipulation or bullying behavior, they are behaving in ways that definitely does not promote healthy communication or interpersonal relationships.