As a personality characteristic, assertiveness refers to how forthright an individual will communicate their viewpoints. Assertiveness and aggression are not the same qualities, although an overly assertive individual may at times come across as forceful and aggressive.
Although personality traits should always be considered in combination with one another and through comprehensive psychometric assessment by a trained professional, certain personality traits can provide useful information for personal growth and development. Developing the skill to assert your opinion in a non-aggressive, yet professional manner may be more difficult for some individuals.
Personality research suggests that the assertiveness personality trait spans across a continuum from accommodating to dominant. On the accommodating side of the continuum, the individual will likely display co-operative and obliging behaviours. They will tend to come across as humble and somewhat passive, likely avoiding upsetting or uprooting friends and colleagues. These individuals will typically go to great lengths to ensure that they do not have to face disagreement from others and will as such tend to dislike, and likely avoid, any form of conflict or discord, even when this means that they have to disregard their personal viewpoints and needs.
On the other hand, dominant, forceful and aggressive individuals are determined to get their own way. They are not inclined to listen to others’ points of view and are not likely to concede even when they are not right or when someone else raises a valid point. They may come across as overly controlling and domineering, especially when dealing with more accommodating individuals. These individuals will also freely criticise others and tend to generate conflict through personal interactions.
From the above, it is clear that many individuals, falling on either side of the scale, struggle to optimally assert him- or herself. In order to reach the optimal level, an individual need to become comfortable with the fact that he or she is entitled to an opinion and allowed to stand up for his or her own rights, needs and desires. However, others are equally entitled to their own opinions and are also allowed to advocate for their viewpoints. It is only once we start communicating from a place where all parties are viewed as equal, that one can optimally assert viewpoints and reach consensus in terms of the matter at hand.
The cost of being too aggressive or accommodating can be detrimental to you as a leader. When developing your overall emotional intelligence and leadership techniques, with self-awareness of your own behaviour and core self-beliefs, you can develop the skill to optimally assert yourself whilst attaching equal worth to others’ values and needs.
This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)