I knew that I was going to use David Richo’s chapter on assertiveness in How To Be an Adult to help develop my lesson on speaking up for my group program, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that he talks about assertiveness as “owning your own power.” This is so important because one of the best things we can do to increase our energy is to increase our sense of power and reduce our feelings of powerlessness. The most crucial way to do this is by getting clear on what we want and asking for it.
Assertiveness is owning your own power
Assertiveness is taking responsibility for your own needs and asking for what you want in a clear manner.We understand that we are the only ones responsible for our own feelings and needs. No one can “make us” feel a certain way. It is our thoughts about the situation that makes us feel that way. To understand this better, it is helpful to get clear on the difference between a stimulus and a cause. Someone’s actions might be the stimulus that lead to your feeling, but it is not the cause. The cause is our unmet needs and the thoughts that we have surrounding it. If we own this and get clear on our needs, we can have the power to take charge of them and make clear requests from people.
Passivity is giving your power away.
Passivity is not speak up for fear of the possible consequence. Unless of course, the person you aren’t speaking up to is out of control or violent, in which case you being assertive by taking care of your own needs. Glossing over or minimizing your concerns, or making excuses for other people’s hurtful behavior will just ensure that these things won’t be addressed. If you overcommit or do things out of “duty” then you aren’t really using your own power. As David Richo says, “what we are not changing, we are choosing.”
Aggressiveness is changing power to control.
Aggressiveness involves attempting to control or manipulate others. When you are aggressive, you demand rather than request things of others. Or else you indirectly try to control their behavior through manipulation. Other behaviors Richo identifies as aggressive include competitiveness, spitefulness, sarcasm and blame. Most surprisingly, he includes rescuing others as an aggressive behavior, because it puts you in a position of dominance over them.
Steps to owning your power:
So how can you increase your assertiveness? You can use the four step STAR (Stop, Think, Act, Request) to communicate assertively.
- Stop - Observe your thoughts and judgements around the situation.
- Think - Connect with your feelings and needs.
- Act - Express your feelings and unmet needs.
- Request - Make a request that might help meet your needs.
This will help you get clear on what you need so that you know what to ask for. Just remember, you are making a request, not a demand, so if the other person does not want to grant your request, be open to other strategies that might meet both of your needs.