Adopting Assertiveness Pt I

Adopting Assertiveness Pt I

One of the most prevalent reasons that individuals seek out psychotherapy is in order to undergo assertiveness training. There are a number of factors that contribute to people’s desire to become more assertive which include the ability to stand up for themselves, to feel more self-confident, and in order to avoid being dominated by another individual. When looking at psychological research, we begin to understand that people who lack assertiveness are not necessarily timid or shy, but rather they tend to be low in a domain of personality that is termed “trait agreeableness.” Individuals who are higher on the agreeable scale tend to prefer harmony in relationships, want to avoid conflict, and have a lower drive for competition. The reason this is important to know is because if we happen to be high in this trait, we can better understand that it can actually be altered and that our proclivity towards being agreeable doesn’t mean we need to sacrifice assertiveness.

There is another factor involved in the reluctance to learn to become more assertive and that is our tendency to conflate assertiveness with aggression. It is helpful to make the distinction between the two in order to gain an understanding of why one is preferred over the other. Assertiveness is the ability to state clearly and directly our needs, wants, desires, and boundaries. Assertive communication is employed using respect, confidence, honesty, and firmness in our convictions. Aggressive communication, on the other hand, is rooted in the attempt to dominate which is typically achieved through fear and intimidation. The main difference between these two communication styles is the response we get from the person on the receiving end. While aggressive communication may actually achieve its goal, the individual on the receiving end will leave feeling shameful, guilty, and without trust or respect for the aggressive individual. The receiver of assertive communication, however, will gain a sense of respect for us and the trust that is built through this type of communication will lend itself to positive interactions in the future.

One of the great things about recovery is that it almost gives us a clean slate to work with. In other words, if we weren’t able to harvest assertive communication skills prior to sobriety, there is no better time to begin to adopt new perspectives and approaches to life that will serve us in a way we could not do while in active addiction.


Tree House Recovery of Orange County, California is a premier men’s addiction treatment facility that uses eight different modalities to help our men become the best versions of themselves they can be. We teach our men that every day of their journey is something to celebrate, and that recovery isn’t a sprint– it’s a marathon. To get started with Tree House Recovery, call us today at (855) 202-2138.

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