Many people ask: “Do I have the right to be angry?” My response is to throw out the word “right” and replace it with the word “responsibility,” then have the question restated: “Do I have the responsibility to be angry?” Most folks do not readily think of anger as a responsibility, but it can be. If you are in a relationship that you want to succeed, there inevitably will be moments of conflict, creating frustration and irritability. The way you handle the emotions associated with that conflict will have a great bearing on the relationship’s success. In many incidences it would be irresponsible not to communicate your anger. The key is to learn to communicate anger constructively, which means you would be standing firmly for your worth, needs, and convictions while also treating the other person with dignity.

Look over the following statements to get an idea if you have a good handle on assertiveness:

  • When I am in disagreement with others, my voice can be firm while also calm.
  • Even in frustration, I treat people with dignity.
  • I have a reputation of speaking to the point, being clear about my needs or feelings.
  • Once I have made my point in a discussion I will give others time to think about what was said, as opposed to pushing the issue too far.
  • I am able to say “no” or to set stipulations when necessary.
  • I’ll use fair consequences instead of harsh arguing when I need to stand my ground.
  • I have a good handle on what is right and wrong yet I am not known as harsh or dogmatic.
  • I pick my battles carefully, making sure I am not just being finicky or critical.
  • I will let others know when I need help or when I need space to gather my thoughts.

The key to true assertiveness is that even as you are standing up for your needs or convictions, you are also thinking of the needs of others. Self-centeredness is out, while a sense of community is in.

Perhaps the most common mistake made by people trying to be assertive is when they say what needs to be said, then when they do not get the desired response, they shift gears and become persuasive. At that point it seems that their goal no longer is to speak truth, but to force the other person to think “right.” In appropriate assertiveness, you can stand firmly for your beliefs and even if others do not agree, you can still stand upon your convictions without coercion or condescension or defensiveness.

Dr. Les Carter