Assertiveness is not only about speaking up, ironically it is also about listening and being heard. Being assertive means speaking up about your own needs while being respectful of others. As such, there is an inherent relationship involved in any assertive behavior.
Really, you can’t be assertive by yourself! 🙂
This is partly why assertiveness can get complicated. Think about this for a minute. If you speak up to someone and they don’t respond, what might you do? Try again and speak louder? Maybe do something like tap them on the shoulder or make a noise to get their attention? If that works, great, you can continue on with your conversation. But what do you do if it becomes apparent that the person you are trying to speak too is ignoring you?
- Grab them and scream?
- Talk about how you were ignored to others behind the person’s back?
- Forget about speaking up to this person, ever.
See how these responses could be labeled aggressive, passive-aggressive, and passive? Even though they might not be mature reactions, they might be understandable when someone is feeling ignored. Especially if this is a chronic pattern. Something to think about in terms of creating and sustaining cultures of safety, right?
Nurses are required to be assertive for patients’ needs, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be assertive for their own needs too. The more you explore assertiveness as a behavior that occurs in relationship, the more you will see how complex it is!
If you are curious about the relevance of this concept in healthcare, check out these two posts:
And let me know what you think!