Common Barriers to Assertive Behavior

Updated: Mar 30, 2021

Last week we found out what communication style you have. Knowing your communication style is the first step in being able to make changes to it. However, while you are making changes you need to also understand that there are barriers that will get in your way, but stick with it because what you will learn is pushing through theses barriers will not only help you in your communication style but will very likely help you in other areas of you life too! Many of the barriers you will encounter lie within you, but a few are external. Understanding these barriers and being prepared for them will make success more likely. As you learn about these barriers, consider how you would overcome them.

Belief System

Our beliefs have influence over our decisions. There are many beliefs that can make the adoption of assertive behavior more challenging, such as:

  • “I’m not as important as other people.”

  • “I can’t change.”

  • “I don’t deserve to have control over my life.”

  • “I can’t turn down a request from anyone.”

  • “I can only get my way by forcing people to comply.”

  • “Others will be upset with me if I express my opinion.”

  • “No one will like me if I become assertive.”

These types of beliefs make change less likely. Think of time when you have said any or all of these things (or anything similar to them) What caused you to say them? What was going on in your life at that time that made you think you couldn't do it? Was someone in your life always telling you that you aren't good enough? Were you spending time with people who put you down not built you up? If we are the sum of the 5 people we spend the most time with and if this is how they make you feel, then I would encourage you to find new people to spend time with who do build you up! If it takes you a while then make one of those people yourself! Tell yourself daily what you are good at and why you have value! Also, make a list of counter examples that show the belief is false. Finally, act as if the opposite is true.

By calling the source and validity of these false beliefs into question, you’ll weaken their hold on you.

“The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn't said.”

- Peter Drucker

Social Stress

One of the primary reasons to adopt a more assertive stance with the world is to enhance your relationships. You might expect that others will be thrilled at the change. After all, it’s likely to benefit everyone around you. Unfortunately, this might not be the case.

It depends on your starting point. If you’ve been overly aggressive or passive-aggressive in the past, the change may very well be fully embraced from the very beginning. However, if you’ve been passive in the past, others have learned to take advantage of this fact. They’re not going to be happy at first!

There are social issues you’re likely to encounter:

1. Fear of change. When you start to stand up for yourself and express your opinions openly, you’re going to raise a few eyebrows. People will wonder what’s going on. They might wonder if your relationship with them has changed in some fundamental way.

  • If you’re questioned about the change, consider being truthful. State that you’re attempting to be more open and transparent. Let them know that it will be better for everyone. Also inform them that you’ll be less resentful, and others won’t be in the dark regarding your thoughts and wishes.

  • Be prepared for any resistance. Think about what you could say to put the other person’s mind at ease while still asserting yourself.

2. The past. When you first begin acting in a more assertive way, your friends and family will attempt to apply the past to the present. For example, you may have only expressed your opinion in the past when you felt very strongly. They may give your newfound assertiveness too much emphasis.

  • On the other hand, if you’ve been very aggressive in the past, they might feel that you’re not being serious if you give your opinion calmly.