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At my previous job, I always looked up to my manager. She continually stuck to the boundaries she created, seemed to say no confidently, communicated effectively, and took critique in stride… all while being self-confident and self-assured. I always aspired to be like her.
As it turns out, my manager has an assertive personality. And this type of personality is regarded as the ideal personality to have because of all the benefits associated with it.
But what exactly does it mean to be assertive, and what are assertive personality traits and characteristics? Here’s everything you need to know about assertiveness.
What Does It Mean to Be Assertive?
Assertiveness is a personality trait that is located in the middle of the personality scale or continuum, where you have passiveness on one end and aggressiveness on the other. When a person is assertive, it means they embody certain traits, characteristics, and behaviors that aren’t passive or aggressive.
For example, a person with an assertive personality has the confidence to effectively, calmly, directly, and confidently communicate what they need, desire, and want while, at the same time, being respectful of others, minimizing conflict, and maintaining their boundaries.
In contrast, someone who is passive would be too shy and fearful to communicate their needs and may be overly respectful of the needs of others, while someone who’s aggressive would have no regard for others and just bulldoze over them to meet their own needs and wants.
Being assertive is a healthy social and interpersonal skill you can learn and work at; it isn’t something you are born with. It’s essential to express yourself assertively in all spheres of life, from family and friends to school and work.
Being assertive is a valuable trait because it helps you reduce stress, regulate your feelings and emotions, and improve your coping skills.
Pros and Cons of Being Assertive
While being assertive is seen as ideal behavior, there are certain pros and cons:
Pros of being assertive:
Cons of being assertive:
Famous Assertive Personalities
Some famous people who have assertive personalities are:
9 Assertive Personality Traits
Here are the core personality traits of being assertive:
1. Know Your Worth
People who are assertive know their worth. They know they are enough, have something to offer, and are in control of themselves. They are worthy of kindness, respect, and love.
Assertive types don’t allow other people to make them feel less than, less important, or inferior. In the famous words from Eleanor Roosevelt, they believe no one can make them feel inferior without their consent.
When you are assertive, you teach people how to treat you – that you are valuable and that you are and can be their equal. You also know how important it is to protect your rights and dignity, and thus ensure people respect these. And if they don’t, you know to walk away.
2. Are Self-Confident and Self-Assured
Since assertive people believe in themselves and know that they are worthy, they are self-confident and self-assured. However, don’t mistake their confidence for arrogance or a feeling of superiority.
If you are self-confident as an assertive person, the source of your confidence is your understanding of yourself or your self-awareness. You know to observe, evaluate, learn, and accept responsibility for yourself – your whole self that includes your weaknesses and strengths. You have a holistic view of yourself.
Since you are aware of yourself and have obtained self-knowledge, you know and understand who you are, which leads to self-respect. You also understand that everyone else is also human, and thus, can’t be perfect. So you leave judgment and opinions at the door, knowing these don’t serve a purpose.
3. Appropriately Accept and Give Criticism
If you have an assertive personality, you are able to appropriately accept criticism. Sometimes when someone critiques us, we take it personally and often quite badly. We get angry and take our feelings out on the person who critiques us, or we are able to save face in that moment and then take it out on our family or friends instead.
But for assertive people, they know to take criticism in stride and turn it into an opportunity of learning.
They are also able to give constructive criticism in a way that doesn’t infringe on someone’s rights. The criticism is given in a way that’s useful and valuable so the other person can use it to learn, grow, and improve, both professionally and personally.
4. Identify and Address Your Needs and Wants
It’s not always easy to identify, express, and address your needs and wants. Plus, if you never vocalize what you want and need, you’ll be waiting forever and a day for these needs to be fulfilled. After all, people can maybe anticipate what you need but they can’t read your mind.
People who are practicing being assertive or have mastered this quality are pros at expressing their needs and wants.
They work toward satisfying their needs, which leads to being self-fulfilled, realizing potential, and boosting their self-esteem and self-confidence.
When they express their needs, they do so directly and respectfully, taking into account their and others’ right to respect. They don’t trample on the needs of others to achieve their own goals and work hard at achieving these goals.
5. Say No and Stick to Personal Boundaries
If you are assertive, you know the value of saying no and implementing your personal boundaries.
People shouldn’t walk all over you as if you are a doormat, but you do not need to get aggressive or verbally abusive with rude actions when they don’t treat you right.
Using assertiveness skills ensures that you put yourself first (and no, this isn’t selfish) in the way that you care for and are kind to yourself. You aren’t chocolate or pizza; you can’t please everyone and just say “yes and amen.”
When you stand up for yourself and adhere to your boundaries, you ensure your self-worth remains intact. You learn to say no and not open the conversation or debate up to discuss your reasons for saying no, while not creating unnecessary conflict.
6. Genuinely Relate to Other People
Assertive people have the ability to genuinely relate and connect with people as they prioritize safe and non-toxic relationships. From an understanding of themselves comes an understanding and empathy for others, which enables them to authentically relate to others.
If you are assertive, you also know that you can’t create and maintain relationships based on hypocrisy and lies, or with unsafe (aka toxic) individuals. You are who you are, and you know that there’s no value in sacrificing your identity to avoid conflict or to people-please.
As such, you are careful when choosing who you let into your inner circle and don’t force connections or friendships that aren’t based on mutual respect and that don’t add value to your life.
7. Can Self-Regulate Emotions
Assertive folks have learned how to best regulate their emotions. This means they can effectively manage, control, or modify their feelings, emotions, and impulses according to the situation. In essence, it’s similar to “think before you speak or act.”
When you have emotional self-regulation skills, you are emotionally intelligent and appear to be “naturally calm.” When something happens, you create a safe space for yourself to breathe, pause, and identify the trigger, and choose how you’ll act or respond (not react).
You are aware of how you feel, accepting the emotion (which is neutral, not good or bad) and practicing mindfulness. Losing control only makes you lose respect and dignity in that moment, so you center yourself so you can rather deal with the situation in a constructive manner.
8. Communicate Effectively
There are many benefits to communicating effectively. It ensures all parties involved are satisfied and feel a sense of accomplishment.
Effective communication also helps build trust, prevents or efficiently resolves issues, provides direction and clarity, and enhances the relationship you have with someone.
As an assertive person, you’ve recognized all these benefits and more, and so you practice effective communication strategies to express yourself.
Some common effective communication strategies you likely employ are to focus on the issue and not on the person, being authentic (and not manipulative), empathize with the person, use “I” statements and affirming responses, show awareness of your micro-expressions and body language, and listen mindfully and actively.
9. Live Authentic Lives
A last assertive personality trait is that these people live authentic lives. When you live an assertive and authentic life, you live according to who you truly are.
You live in the moment and strive to understand yourself, your desires, your motivations, your defenses, and your strengths as you become self-aware. Employ assertive communication techniques that allow you to ask for what you want and need while you speak your truth.
You aren’t afraid to be who you are, and as a result, you don’t let others walk over you.
Final Thoughts on Assertive Personality Traits
Being assertive doesn’t always come naturally, no matter how badly you want to be. It takes continuous hard work to build habits that support the assertive personality traits you want to cultivate.
You must remember to be authentic, learn to say no and stick by your boundaries. You need to become self-aware and communicate effectively. Exercising assertiveness can pay off in all facets of life, whether personally or professionally-speaking.
Do you want to be more assertive at work and reap the benefits? Then check out our guide with 9 steps to be more assertive at work this year.