A Critical Analysis of My Strengths and Weaknesses in the skills of Assertiveness Assertiveness enables us to act in our own best interests, to stand up for ourselves without undue anxiety, to exercise personal rights without denying the rights of others, and to express our feelings honestly and comfortably (Alberti & Emmons, 2008). Within interpersonal communication, the skill of assertion is absolutely vital; it is a skill we are constantly utilising either consciously or unconsciously.
Through nurturing the skill of assertiveness a person may have fruitful relationships with family, friends, peers, superiors and subordinates (Rakos, 1997) based on honesty and equality. The skill of Assertiveness can be viewed in differently within diverse cultures, for example in the highly extraverted, expressive and individualistic culture that is apparent in America; Assertiveness is a particularly important, if not essential skill.
However in the much more reserved and introverted culture of Britain more emphasis is placed on interpersonal sensitivity, being a rewarding partner and the use of non-verbal signals (Forgas, 1985). The skill of Assertion has 9 main functions, these include; helping individuals to ensure that their personal rights are not violated, make reasonable requests of others, recognise the personal rights of others, avoid unnecessary aggressive conflicts and confidently, and openly communicate their position regarding any issue (Hargie, 2009).
Assertiveness is a skill that is learned and training is available for those who may find it hard to assert their feelings within a social context. Assertiveness is a great skill to possess however there are times when an assertive response may in fact be the least responsive, in such times a non assertive or passive response may be what is required. The different levels of response are displayed well by the continuum which ranges from Non Assertive – Assertive – Aggressive.
In most instances people should aim to remain as close to assertive on the continuum as possible, as this promotes both standing up for yourself whilst also taking the other persons views into consideration. As a result of my Assertiveness practical I found myself to be just slightly towards the more non-assertive side of the continuum. I was quite pleased with this result as I did not want to be positioned too close to aggressive or non assertive.
Throughout the Assertiveness Practical I had a number of Strengths which were outweighed by quite a number of Weaknesses, this is natural as Rakos stated “Assertion is a learned skill, not a trait that a person has or lacks. ” An area throughout the practical in which I was strong was ‘Gesturing’, upon analysing my video I found my gestures to be smooth and fluid, I feel this conveyed a non-verbal message that I was calm within the situation. Accentuating your message with appropriate gestures can add emphasis, openness and warmth.
A relaxed use of gestures can add depth or power to your messages (Alberti & Emmons, 2008). Another area which analysing my practical revealed I was strong was ‘Paralanguage’ this can include an individual’s rate of speech, intensity, tone and volume. I found the tone of my voice to be conversational but not overly friendly and I felt this was perfect for the situation, the other people involved in the practical commented on the intensity of my voice being quite firm but not intimidating as the still felt comfortable.
This is quite an important aspect of being assertive as a Kimble and Seidel study showed that those who spoke with a dominant conversational tone where perceived as being confident and therefore more likely to gain a more adequate answers (Richmond & McCroskey, 2000). Analysing my practical led me to see that I excelled in complex direct assertion, most notably the use of embellishments. Embellishments lessen the social risk whilst having a discussion with someone, however if they are used too much they can be seen as false and can dilute a person’s argument. I was particularly well versed in the use of both Praise and Empathy.
An example of this in my practical was when the woman, who was trying to return a phone which was out of warranty said “you must understand where I’m coming from” in response to this I said “of course I do Miss X, I was in your position just over a year ago before I began to work here and you are handling the situation much better than I did. ” The woman who prior to this piece of dialogue was getting rather agitated seemed to calm down and come to terms with what I was trying to explain. Hargie states that empathic assertion conveys sensitivity to the other person thus allowing that person to feel understood and not undermined.
Although I had a number of Strengths throughout my practical I also had quite a few weaknesses which are illustrated by my personal assertiveness inventory score which was +9, although the class average was +2, my score still showed that I can be assertive but find it quite difficult. One of the weaknesses I noticed was that I failed to keep eye contact with the person in my practical; this was a major flaw and undoubtedly hindered my assertiveness. At quite regular intervals, namely when the discussion was getting a bit heated, I tended to look at the desk in front of me rather than focus on the other person.
Gaze aversion is typically an intentional act, you may be unsure of yourself and do not want him/her to see it in your eyes (Richmond & McCroskey, 2000). This was probably the case in my practical, I was unfamiliar with the given situation and felt that I was out of my depth thus I avoided eye contact; I can now see that this was a critical mistake. The second major flaw that I had involved my body posture, upon analysing the practical I realised that during our entire interaction my body was never directly facing the other persons.
When talking to another person, notice how much more personal the conversation becomes with a slight turn of the shoulders and torso toward the other person, this suggests confidence and openness to the conversation at hand (Alberti & Emmons, 2008). I now realise from my practical I was portraying quite a defensive posture, thus not putting the other person at ease whilst talking to me. Also from a defensive posture it is a lot harder to be assertive as the other person is likely to already have a certain prejudice about you.
My final and most glaring weakness was overuse of the “broken record” approach, after analysing my practical session I realised that I used the phrase “I am sorry, but there is nothing I can do” a staggering amount of times. This is not a good tactic to employ as it can frustrate the other person, it can also dilute the argument and take away the relevance of what you are saying. Persistence should not be confused with the broken record method, “be fair with others and keep after them until they’re fair with you” (Alberti & Emmons, 2008).
Throughout my practical I also used too much ‘you language’, this attributed responsibility to the other person and was possibly too aggressive rather than assertive. In conclusion I feel that as a whole my assertiveness practical was a success; there are a number of areas in which I can improve vastly such as posture and eye contact. However I feel that I did do extremely well in a few areas, these being; gesturing and embellishments. Jim Rohn once said “Every time we speak we choose one of the four basic communication styles: assertive, aggressive, passive and passive aggressive”.
This quotation helps me to illustrate that our learning of the skill of Assertion is continuous, throughout this practical research I have realised that Assertiveness is a great facet of an individual’s personality, and when used right can be an outstanding tool. When a person has mastered the skill they will know when to be assertive, whom to be assertive with and with what intensity to put their message across (Journal of Communication, Volume 19, Issue 03, Pages 257-265). In a minority of places where cultural sensitivity is raw assertion may be deemed somewhat wreck less.
Nevertheless, assertion that accommodates cultural norms is an accepted communication style and is widely used the world over. (Hargie, 2002) References Alberti, R. and Emmons, M. (1975) Stand Up, Speak Out, Talk Back: The Key to Assertive Behaviour. Pocket Books, New York Alberti, R. and Emmons, M. (2008) You’re Perfect Right, Assertiveness and Equality in Your Life and Relationships. Impact, San Luis Obisopo American Communication Journal, Volume 10, Issue 01, Spring 2008. Forgas, J. (1985) Interpersonal Bahaviour: The Psychology of Social Interaction. Hargie, O. , Dickson, D.
Skilled Interpersonal Communication, Research, Theory and Practice, 7th edition. Routledge, London. Chapter 11. Journal of Communication, Volume 19, Issue 03, Pages 257-265, September 1969 Knapp, M. and Vangelisti, A. (2006) Interpersonal Communication and Human Relationships. Allyn and Bacon, Texas Rakos, R. (2006) Assertive Behaviour: Theory, Research and Training. Routledge, London. Richmond, V. and McCroskey, J. (2000) NonVerbal Behaviour in Interpersonal Relationships, Allyn and Bacon, Texas The Electronic Journal of Communication, Volume 13, Number 4 2003. Townend, A. (2007) Assertiveness and Diversity. Palgrave, Basingstoke.