Being Assertive without Being Aggressive


For our #gmKISS (Keep It Simple, Sweetheart) focus this month, I’m going to take on the topic of assertiveness . I feel that assertiveness is elemental to gaining and keeping a feeling of control in your life and your eating. I’ll talk about a few specific topics within that range:

Saying ‘no’ (or words to that effect) with ease

Thinking and talking about yourself in a positive way

Asking directly for what you want (and don’t want)

Expecting considerate treatment from others

Expressing honest compliments to others

Managing anger – yours and others’

I see assertiveness as being considerate interaction with others and a way of being with yourself that allows you to feel comfortable with the above behaviors.

We all have a range of behaviors from passive to aggressive. Assertiveness is a temperate middle ground. Passive behavior can explode into aggressive lashing out when the moment comes that you suddenly see the other person as having taken advantage of you. Aggressive behavior tends to make others retaliate aggressively and leaves them with lingering feelings of resentment. Passive aggressive behavior comes out when we don’t know how to deal with our anger directly.

In my early work with assertiveness training I learned from clients that they were often more assertive at work (lower level of intimacy and lower level of risk) than they were with people near and dear to them. On the other hand, they were more likely to act aggressively toward those they cared for most than they were with colleagues.

I also learned that the biggest fear people shared was: fear of rejection. They didn’t fear it because they had experienced it, or at least not to the degree they imagined it, but because they feared the imagined consequences. This type of avoidance is not unusual, nor is it unusual that the rejection they were avoiding was quite exaggerated. We want to be loved and appreciated and will act in ways that we think will make us more lovable, more likeable without checking to see whether that’s what we got.

Assertiveness is a skill that can be learned and practiced and helps us create healthy self esteem. Finding words that work for you and help you get what you want while you count others is like learning new dance. Some of the steps you can learn easily and sometimes you feel like you have two feet.

Is there an area of assertiveness that you would like to learn more about? Have you already learned how to say no in a way that works for you?

One response to “Being Assertive without Being Aggressive”

  1. Watch Ghost Protocol says:

    Can I just say what a relief to seek out someone who actually is aware of what theyre talking about on the internet. You definitely know easy methods to bring a problem to gentle and make it important. Extra folks must read this and understand this facet of the story. I cant imagine youre not more widespread since you definitely have the gift.

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About the Author

Marsha Hudnall, MS, RDN, CD

Marsha has been a guiding force at Green Mountain at Fox Run since 1986. In addition to overseeing a professional program that helps women establish sustainable approaches to healthy living, she is a respected thought leader when it comes to managing eating, emotions and weight. She has been a voice of reason for the last three decades in helping people move away from diets, an area in which she is personally as well as professionally versed. An accomplished writer and speaker, Marsha is the author of six books, including the online course Disordered Eating in Active and Sedentary Individuals (co-authored by Karin Kratina, PhD, RD, Human Kinetics), What You Need to Know about Carbohydrates (Academy for Nutrition and Dietetics [The Academy]), What You Need to Know about Vitamin and Mineral Supplements (The Academy), and The Pregnancy Cookbook (co-authored by Donna Shields, RD, Berkeley Publishing). She has worked extensively on a national basis to educate the public about nutrition and the impact of dieting on eating behaviors, including binge eating and emotional eating. Active in many organizations helping to further the cause of health and wellness, Marsha currently serves as vice chair of the Binge Eating Disorder Association and vice president of The Center for Mindful Eating and has been active in the Association for Size Diversity and Health in support of Health at Every Size(R) principles.

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