This month, I have been doing a series on taking initiative and developing assertiveness, and I was thinking it might be a great start to today’s article, if I simply start out with some definitions of initiative and assertiveness, so we have a proper working knowledge of what I will be referring to in today’s blog!

First of all, initiative involves taking an introductory act or step, a leading action; for example: he took the initiative in making friends. Initiative also involves a readiness and ability in initiating action. It is one’s personal, responsible decision: to act on own’s own initiative.

Perhaps you feel you have little or no initiative or you have been told this by people in your life. Does reading the above simple definition change your thinking on that definition, even if only slightly? Perhaps you are told you are not assertive enough and wonder if either taking initiative or developing assertiveness skills are ever possible for you. Let me first shine the light of truth on that negative distorted belief. EVERYONE can develop the skill of assertiveness and learn to take more initiative in their life. It involves work, and one small baby step forward after another, if that is all you feel you can muster the strength for, but it can be done. Before I get WAY ahead of myself, let me give you a definition of assertiveness:

Assertiveness is a style of communication. It is about being confident and self assured, positive. Assertiveness is NOT a strategy to get your own way, instead it recognizes that you are only in control of your own behavior and actions and realizes that other people are responsible for their behavior. It respects the wishes of others as equally as you respect your own.

Assertiveness is one of many styles in which we communicate with each other. Some others include reacting and responding to other people in an aggressive manner, or a passive style that tends to give in to the unreasonable demands of others. We all have heard of the passive-aggressive style, which is a combination of both passive and aggressive behavior which can include manipulation, or cannot clearly express their anger, but take it out on others in more subtle ways, like being late for work always because you are angry at your co-worker or boss, or addressing your displeasure with a result by speaking to the person you are angry with in the third person format, for example: “some people NEVER take out the trash and clean up after themselves” with a slightly aggressive tone, when they are obviously referring to you as you see the dishes you left in the sink, and know you hadn’t gotten around to taking the garbage out. This is a form of veiled communication. Often, if we are raised with one passive parent and one aggressive parent, we may use a combination of both skill sets we were taught by our families. Another style of communicating, apart from assertiveness, is the alternator…. Someone who sometimes is passive, holding things in, until one day all the bitterness and resentments burst to the surface like a volcanic eruption with a burst of aggression. Once the person has spewed out their building tension inside, they may return to a passive state of taking resentments in until the next eruption occurs.

The reality is we all have probably used one or more, if not all of these methods of communication at varying times in our lives! I know I have!

When it comes to communication, and developing effective skills to communicate well, as with all things it takes time and effort to make the changes in ourselves to do so! And the issues lying beneath the surface are the best place to start. What we believe often dictates how we respond in a situation. If we believe no one likes us, we will begin to act like no one likes us. If we believe we have to take responsibility for other people’s actions, behavior, moods or emotions, guess what? We will take responsibility for those things, despite the fact that we are only responsible for our own choices, actions, behavior, moods and emotions.

If you believe you are a loser, a failure, ugly, stupid, fat etc. you will act in such a way as to diminish your human dignity and incredible value as you continue to tell yourself what a horrible person you must be. I do not have enough time to dig into the root issues that lead to a diminished sense of a lack of confidence in oneself in this blog, or why your initiative may be low as well as your assertiveness skills perhaps under-developed, but I do offer a personal development program on my coaching website at http://www.freedomlifelove.com if you are looking for additional help in this area of your life. You may even want to look back through last months blog series where I discussed self worth and self esteem.

But my focus for today is to define initiative and assertiveness and our communication styles to open our eyes to see where we currently find ourselves in this area of our lives. And I want to give you some hope along with some practical help to develop some assertiveness skills today!

Let’s start here. This is what it means to be assertive:

“Assertive self-expression is direct, firm, positive – and when necessary persistent – action intended to promote equality in person-to-person relationships. 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 (eg. affection, love, friendship, disappointment, annoyance, anger, regret, sorrow)” – Your Perfect Right by Robert Albert, Ph.D and Michael Emmons, Ph.D.

Joseph Wolfe would define assertiveness in our interpersonal relationships as

“The individual places himself first, but takes others into account.”

While I don’t entirely agree with his perspective, as I take the viewpoint of considering others above myself in a respectful manner, in the form of honoring and preferring others, I do believe that to love others we must first be able to love ourselves. The bible suggests that we:

“Love others as you would love yourself”

I believe we must treat others as we would want to be treated, thereby having a balanced perspective on equality. We do not see others as less or more important than ourselves, but rather cherish our own humanity and others. To see ourselves in a positive light with grace for our weaknesses and compassion and love for ourselves as we see others in that same positive light, showing compassion and love for their mistakes, treating each other fairly, respectfully, and with loving kindness. When we can see other people like this, as well as ourselves, we are on the verge of discovering unconditional love.

On becoming more assertive, there are certainly things that we can do to get there. Setting reasonable goals for ourselves is a good place to start about the things we want to improve, work on, confront or address. It can involve learning effective communication skills. In fact I think I did a blog series on that a while back! It involves learning how to “say what you need to say” as I unintentionally quote lyrics from John Meyer’s song, while learning how to say it effectively in an assertive, yet respectful manner. It involves learning to change what we are choosing to think, to become more aware of our thoughts, and challenging the negative ones, and speaking positive confessions about ourselves, learning to love and care for, rather than sabotaging ourselves! Just simply choosing to believe it is a skill you can learn can make a world of difference. It is a big step in the turn-around! If we believe it is attainable, we have already begun taking initiative to develop assertiveness skills!

Last but not least, take it one step at a time! Find what you feel you are able to start with, even if it feels like a small step to others or yourself, and see what comes of it! Don’t despair! Don’t give up! You can make changes! You are not helpless! I believe you can! One small step at a time!

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