Common Barriers to Assertive Behavior

Updated: Mar 30

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.

  • If you’ve been passive-aggressive in the past, others might wonder if you’re angry, lying, sarcastic, or playing a game.

  • Regardless of the reaction, be consistent and persistent. Everyone will eventually catch on! Be patient. It’s not fair to blame people for assuming that the past will equal the future.

3. Control. When people are used to you being passive, they will resist when you attempt to take back control of your life. On some level, those around you enjoy knowing you’ll readily pick up their dry cleaning, eat at the restaurant of their choosing, and allow them to dictate the conversation.


· Everyone likes to be in control of a situation. It’s a powerful feeling. When you gain control, others are going to lose it. Expect the people in your life to resist.

· Again, consider how you’ll address any resistance. Stay the course, and people will eventually catch on to the new you.



4. Gender. If you’re a woman, it can be a little more challenging for others to accept your new level of assertiveness. This can be particularly true when dealing with the males in your life. But the truth is that everyone has the right to assert themselves in a healthy manner, regardless of gender.


· There are barriers for men to be more assertive, too. For example, a man might need to say “no” more often at work in order to keep his workload manageable. However, many men believe that it’s weak to admit the inability to deal with something, like extra work.

· There are many gender barriers to becoming more assertive. This is true for both women and men. The barriers tend to be different, though.


The social stressors you’ll face are real, but you’ll find they quickly dissipate if you stick with it. Others will test you to see if you’re really serious. They might also want things to return to more familiar territory. In time, everyone benefits from your increased assertiveness.



“Communication - the human connection - is the key to personal and career success.”

- Paul J. Meyer


Physical Stress


Changing your behavior is stressful! How many times have you tried to adopt or eliminate a new habit? There’s a certain amount of stress involved with any change. Physical stress relates to that uncomfortable feeling we all get when doing something new or stressful. This feeling of discomfort doesn’t have to control you.


Consider these points:


1. Changing the way you interact with people can be particularly stressful. Not only are you doing something that feels unnatural, others are likely to be confused or annoyed. This adds to the level of discomfort.

2. As your level of stimulation rises, it becomes more challenging to make good decisions. That’s why it’s so important to notice when you’re becoming over-stimulated before you speak. You can take your altered state into account or choose to wait.

3. Become knowledgeable of a few relaxation techniques and use them when you feel your stress levels begin to rise. The trick is to use your techniques as soon as you begin to feel stressed. It’s much easier to lower a small amount of stress than a large amount.

4. This barrier to assertiveness is self-induced. If you’ve been passive historically, you adopted passive behaviors to avoid this stress. If your tendency has been aggression, you battled your way through it.

5. Being assertive means controlling your emotions and choosing an appropriate response. You’ll notice that assertive communication isn’t overly emotional. Seek to control your emotions when being assertive.


In most situations, it’s more beneficial to give your opinion or let someone know when your rights are being violated. Seek to lower your physical stress and learn to act in the face of discomfort.


“To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others.”

- Tony Robbins


Can you see how making small changes to your behavior and the way you talk to people, could make huge changes in your life? It's okay if you are not there yet, but I would encourage you to open your mind a little more so you can experience all that life has to offer you!


Blessings & Love,

Jen





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