Learning by watching others … behaving assertively

The material in this series of 22 x blogs (of which this is number 16) with this similar format were originally published by the now late Ivan Sokolov and his wife Jacquie Pearson under the auspices of The Parent Network.  They are re-published with the permission of the authors for which I am most grateful…

Learning by watching others

Just watching other people, on television, in the street, the supermarket or at work, can give you a great deal more information about these two types of behaviour.

Watch with your heart as well as your mind and understand that most people are behaving the best way they know how, to get their needs met, whatever your own feelings and judgements about what they are doing.

Whether they normally behave  submissively or aggressively, people sometimes adopt the opposite behaviour in certain circumstances.  For instance the victim blows up and behaves very aggressively when they can’t take any more and the persecutor can switch into submissive behaviour when being confronted by someone behaving even more aggressively.

For many people it is the situation which decides which behaviour they choose.  For instance the man who behaves in a subservient way at work may rule his wife and children with a rod of iron.

Behaving assertively

We said earlier that there were three general types of behaviour we can use to get our needs met. The third one is behaving assertively which allows you to meet your own needs and express yourself fully and openly yet not violate the rights and feelings of others.

True assertiveness is “a way of being” in the world, at ease with yourself, and aware of both your own and other people’s value as human beings. In short, you like yourself and you like other people.  Behaving in an assertive way means that you respect yourself and others. If you are faced with someone who is interfering with your needs, you are prepared to confront them respectfully and firmly and at the same time help them if they feel upset at being  confronted.

Behaving assertively involves a large degree of compassion not only for yourself but also for other people as well.

The advantages of behaving assertively

People who behave assertively soon gain the respect of others.  They get most of their needs met in life and often feel fulfilled in what they do and how they are.  Other people are attracted to them as models of how to live and can often be empowered by their example to change the way they live too.  If it were common in our society at all levels from the personal to the political, true assertive behaviour would revolutionise the way the whole world operates.

The disadvantages of assertive behaviour


The difference between NEEDS and WANTS

One useful way to develop a practical understanding of assertive behaviour is to differentiate between needs and wants.  In thinking about John, Jill and Wendy’s needs earlier, you may have thought of several ways that they could all have satisfied them.  In nearly all cases it is possible to think of more than one way to meet the need we have.  And yet, how often do we get stuck thinking that there is only one answer to our needs?

When we are stuck like that it is because we are considering only our “wants” and not the underlying needs.


for example:-

Bill has a slight cold and wants to stay off work.  He probably feels he that he needs to stay at home.  The reality is that there are rumours of redundancies at work due to a decrease in the company’s market share.

Bill needs a sense of safety and security, and the thought of redundancy scares him.  At home he feels safe, so he uses his cold as an excuse to meet his need for safety and security.


Getting help to meet your needs

It’s not always easy to identify needs as opposed to wants, or to know how to go about meeting them.  We may also have needs that right now we cannot hope to get met.  Our financial and social situation may well limit us and it may well feel as if there is nothing we can do about it.  That may be the case and even taking small steps to change the way we behave can begin to shift things in the world in which we live.

Understanding clearly our needs and slowly learning to take into our own hands the power to get them met is an important first step.  Taking such a step is easier if we feel we are doing it with others rather than all alone.  It is important that we get emotional support to help us make the changes we want in life.

Give some thought to who can offer you this support in your life.  If you have no one, consider obtaining professional support.  Thankfully, there is no longer such a stigma attached to seeking the aid of a professional counsellor.

Modern counsellors are professional ‘listeners’ who, by their listening and support can help us clarify and prioritise our needs, and discover the means in our lives to fill them.



There are many things that will help you in Sue’s book “Peace of Mind – Pathways to Successful Living”.  Download chapter 1 free now!

There are helpful free downloads at: sue@suewashington.com

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