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A Powerful Assertiveness Secret

Pamela Jett 12-17

I ran across an interesting research study this morning that posits reaffirming your core values helps you perform better.  People who thought deeply about their most important personal values committed 44% fewer errors in a button-pushing task than others, says a team led by Lisa Legault of Clarkson University. Self-affirmation appears to alert people to their mistakes, allowing them to improve performance. Past research has shown that self-affirmation also offsets the ill effects of mental depletion and boosts self-control.

I also believe that self-affirmation helps professionals be assertive, especially those who tend to struggle.  Here are a few thoughts on self-affirmation and assertiveness:

  • Assertive communication is communication which respects the rights of both parties.
  • Assertiveness is not aggressiveness (communication where one party disrespects the other.)
  • Assertiveness is not passiveness (communication where one party disrespects themselves to try and make others happy.)
  • Assertiveness is a choice.
  • Assertiveness is not always the best choice.  Sometimes it is wise to choose to let something slide or not say anything (passiveness) because it is simply not worth it.  Choosing to be passive on occasion doesn’t make you a passive person, it makes you wise. However, sometimes it is “worth it” and the cost of not rocking the boat or letting things slide can be too high.  That is when assertiveness is critical.
  • Assertiveness is often difficult or stressful because when we choose to stand up for our own thoughts, wants, feelings, and desires we run the risk that others may not “like us” very much – at least in the moment – and that can be scary for some people.
  • Personal Mission Statement can help us gather the courage to choose to be assertive.   One of my favorite thought leaders is the late-great Stephen R. Covey, the author of the best-selling 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and one of the things that he taught me was the power of a Personal Mission Statement.  A personal mission statement is a written representation of our highest values.  It is a written affirmation of what matters most to us.  When we take the time to write a Personal Mission Statement we are investing effort and energy in self-affirmation.  When we are crystal clear as to what matters most to us, it is easier to decide to be assertive, especially if what we are deciding to be assertive about is directly related to one of our highest values.  Stephen Covey taught me that my Personal Mission Statement can serve as a sort DNA upon which all future decisions can be based – even the decision regarding when to choose assertiveness, even when that choice is tough.

I have a Personal Mission Statement and I know it has helped when life has thrown me some tough decisions.  Or, when I’ve simply had to decide what communication approach to take.  Assertiveness is not always easy.  However, having a Personal Mission Statement can make choosing assertiveness easier.

Having a personal mission statement helps with assertiveness for one simple reason.  It isn’t always easy to be assertive.  Other people don’t always “like us” when we are assertive



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