The Disadvantages of Non-Assertiveness in an Aggressive World

A Harsher World

It is told by our elders that there was a time, perhaps not long ago, when people respected each other, showed patience and tolerance, and generally had a relatively high all-around regard for the display of politeness and good manners by everyone.

Now, perhaps, a certain competitiveness has crept into our world.  We have tight deadlines for challenging tasks.  We have far too much to do in too little time.  Our bosses and even our near and dear ones are not happy if we do not live up to certain expectations.  This has fostered a worldwide society that is forever restless and on the go, seeking to meet or even exceed both personal and professional demands.

Whatever the reason, whether by necessity or by design, people are now very, very straightforward, brutally honest, frighteningly blunt.  There is no longer time or patience to beat about the bush. When, into this dangerously frank and honest world, steps the uncertain, unsure, timid or non-assertive person, he is inevitably torn to shreds.  He takes a while, sometimes quite a while, to recover from this unexpected onslaught.

Assertiveness Defined

If you can effectively talk to people and take care of yourself then this article is not for you or about you.  Psychologists and sociologists commonly describe the non-assertive individual as an introvert.  There are obviously several levels of introversion among people, from the mild to the more extreme.

Contrary to misconceptions held by some, the purpose behind being assertive is basic interactive survival and social self-preservation.  It is done tactfully and courteously but what needs to be said is said to foster effective communication for a specific purpose at a given point in time.  Its purpose is not to get our own way, manipulate others or to impress anyone.

Non-assertiveness or meekness used to be a predominantly feminine trait but this is no longer the case.  Not being assertive is often a result of being socially awkward around people, being constantly snubbed or due to being made to feel less competent than others.  Non-assertiveness is not conscious behaviour.  It is usually the result of very low self-esteem, which has been brought about differently in individual cases.  The attitudes directed at us by others throughout our lifetimes directly affect our self-esteem and can make us vulnerable if we do not learn to manage them effectively at an early stage.

Whether or not we are comfortable doing so, we have to speak up.  Why?  Because nobody else will do it for us.  Because misunderstandings can occur if we do not clarify things.  Because in far too many cases, silence in the face of criticism or injustice is easily misinterpreted as a sign of personal weakness. Some people then immediately proceed to take undue advantage of this perceived weakness.

Do Not Expect Sympathy

Today’s world demands a self confident and self assured person who does not allow himself to be insulted or taken advantage of. This is easier said than done for some than for others, as this requires a huge effort from some of us.

Unfortunately, we cannot choose to be assertive or otherwise.  This is programmed into our personalities as we grow up and as we go through our random experiences in life.  It has many painful consequences that the non-assertive man or woman knows only too well and has to suffer every single day.

People’s aggression and their bluntness does not do wonders for a person’s dignity.  Knowing you are being virtually forced to do something you would rather have a second thought about or to listen to unpleasantries is not an experience one looks forward to.

There are usually valid reasons for impatience or bluntness. Perhaps the person standing next to us has a presentation the next morning in front of a corporate board of directors.  Perhaps he or she has to make a bid on a desired property for sale before someone else snaps it up. Perhaps the apparently rude driver in the car behind us is rushing to the hospital to take or meet a critical patient.

The way people i.e. your friends, your family, your wife, your bosses, your colleagues perceive you strongly affects the behaviour they adopt towards you. People in many cases automatically become more assertive with a weaker person than with one who is more likely to retaliate or reply.  This can literally take the form of bullying.

Guilt or self-deprecation over poor performance or remose over underachievement also shatters our confidence, reduces our level of assertiveness and makes us more vulnerable to criticism and harsh judgments on the part of others. This essentially results in one-sided communication with people, where they make overly honest comments and even criticize you or blame you to your face, while in your inherent meekness you lack the courage to even reply, defend yourself or give an opinion.

Unpleasant Results

In more extreme cases, lack of assertiveness manifests itself in other undesirable ways such as making you overly submissive and unable to make eye contact with whoever you are addressing.

It can also cause you to adopt an overly polite or even apologetic tone of voice, even where such an approach is not needed.  This self exposure encourages those so inclined to be needlessly aggressive and to take undue liberties with you, knowing you will be unable or unwilling to react.

Unfortunately, non-assertiveness translates into setting yourself up as an easy target and scapegoat in every area of your life.  It means having virtually non-existent supervisory skills, both professionally and personally, making you, for example, a very ineffective manager and sadly a hopelessly ineffective parent.

Similarly, meekness hurts one’s career prospects.  No one wants to hire or promote a non-assertive individual.  They understandably want people with the ability to inspire, motivate, impress, subdue and manage.  Many non-assertive people get called for face to face interviews on the basis of their qualifications, experience or other written credentials.  Unfortunately, once their subdued personalities become apparent, they are politely (or bluntly, as the case may be) taken off the list of candidates.

Sometimes, conveying messages with a little hesitation signals to others that you can be strong-armed and coerced. Others can easily sense your weakness in asserting yourself and can simply take charge. Because others make all your decisions, this state of affairs ultimately gives rise to an overwhelming helplessness that is frustrating and debilitating in the extreme.

This stress and lack of real communication can hamper effective teamwork and also inevitably give rise to mood swings that usually surprise and distress the person himself as much as others around him who would never expect this kind of behaviour from him or her.  The mood swings reflect the conflicting emotions and overwhelming frustration of a man or woman constantly being victimized.

Some people eventually build up the courage and ability to defend themselves to an extent.  Others are bound by cultural or other circumstances, such as a huge favour done by someone that could never be repaid.

This state of affairs makes for very strained and uncomfortable personal relationships, stressful professional relationships and mounting levels of frustration that drive you deeper into your shell to prevent an emotional and psychological breakdown. [phpzonsidebar title=”Books on the Topic” keywords=”assertiveness” num=”6″ country=”US” searchindex=”Books” trackingid=”mustbeautycom-20″ sort=”relevancerank” id=”2″]



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