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5 Reasons Why Teaching Assertiveness will Prevent People from Being Bullies

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5 Reasons Why Teaching Assertiveness will Prevent People from Being Bullies

5 Reasons Why Teaching Assertiveness will Prevent People from Being Bullies

A post from our Assertiveness blog

      Written by Riley Mitchell
Assertiveness is a skill set that we often think of as lacking in the shy, quiet, types. Those who are at risk of being trampled in the boardroom meeting or criticized by their partners and friends for never making any decisions. But assertiveness can be just as absent in the senior manager—or the "one who wears the trousers" at home. And that's because their ‘confidence' and strong will can be wielded with such force that they start to undermine and bully those around them.

Once we've left the playground, bullying takes various forms. Some less obvious than others. But it can be generalized as a repeated aggressive behavior—mental or physical—which causes someone else to feel uncomfortable [1].

We're all guilty of crossing the line from time to time—when stress creeps in and we lose patience in the office, at the kitchen table, in the car—but aggression and bullying can become habitual if we don't learn to manage them.

Making an early start on assertiveness

Our behavioral traits develop early, in schools and at home. And Melbourne's Child Psychology & School Psychology Services believe that "Assertiveness is a skill that can (and should!) be taught to children… to enable them to stand up for themselves and build resilience [2]".

Childhood is where we do our boundary testing. And, yes, most of us learn pretty quickly that it's not OK to hit our siblings, but many kids battling with unfortunate home lives or low self-esteem don't know how else to channel their emotions. By the time we've grown up, we've learned our ways of being and it can be trickier to change them.

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The benefits, according to the Child Psychology & School Psychology Services, of teaching young children to be assertive are:

●        It helps them to identify their feelings.

●        It teaches them to speak up for themselves and others.

●        It helps children avoid reverting to aggressive (bullying) behaviors.

●        It helps them respond to being bullied.

●        They learn to disagree respectfully.

●        They learn how to negotiate with others, diplomatically.

●        They learn how to say "no" without feeling guilty—avoiding passive behaviors.

●        They build stronger relationships.

●        It builds confidence and self-esteem from a young age.

●        Children feel more in control of situations and themselves.

So if we can get to grips with assertiveness from the outset—through training at school and at home—there shouldn't be any need to resort to bullying others when we're adults. We'll be masters of diplomatic communication.

It's unlikely that you're still of school age if you're reading this, but it's never too late to start learning assertiveness. So here's how training might help to quash those negative behaviors before they get out of hand.

1. It teaches us to listen better

The problem of aggressive, bullying, behavior is that it makes those on the receiving end feel alienated. Assertiveness roots itself in the concern that "everyone's OK". And assertive people seek to understand that everyone's OK by asking questions—then really listening to the answers. We have more on how to overcome barriers to better listening, here.

When we start to listen actively, we begin to relate to people on their level instead of glaring down at them from a place of superiority.

2. It teaches us to be "present" in our relationships

Aggression and bullying usually comes from a place of disconnection—whether that's through not knowing someone very well or losing touch with a loved one. We might be more inclined to act aggressively towards others simply because we don't care enough about them.

Assertiveness considers the feelings of others, in equality with our own, even if we're not particularly close-knit. Assertive people are able to confidently articulate their needs whilst welcoming the needs of the other person in the scenario.

3. It develops mutual respect

Nobody respects a bully. We tolerate them out of fear of what they'll do if we don't. When we communicate assertively, we communicate respectfully—in turn gaining the respect of our peers—which means we're more likely to have others' support in the future.

This perpetuates a cycle, since we quickly learn that we don't have to bulldoze others into coming round to our way of thinking.

4. It encourages calm, instead of fight or flight aggression

Assertiveness is about communicating positivity, in large part. And those with a positive disposition are less likely to feel stress—the trigger for many an aggressive outburst.

When we're able to approach situations from a place of calm, we reflect before we respond. This helps us view things objectively instead of flying off the handle at the first mention of something we don't agree with.

5. It deepens our understanding of ourselves

A natural by-product of spending time really considering the feelings and opinions of others, instead of shouting everyone down, is that we start to questions things a bit more. Other people's points of view may begin to influence our own, and we're no longer acting from a place of arrogance or self-interest, so we're more inclined to adapt our thoughts and behaviors.

Many bullies are very confused about themselves, and we really only get to grips with who we are and what we want through the continual process of change.

"Through assertiveness we develop contact with ourselves and with others. We become real human beings with real ideas, real differences…and real flaws. And we admit all of these things. We don't try to become someone else's mirror. We don't try to suppress someone else's uniqueness. We don't try to pretend that we're perfect. We become ourselves. We allow ourselves to be there."

- Randy Paterson - The Assertiveness Workbook

Not only does learning how to be assertive in day-to-day life help prevent us from—inadvertently or otherwise—bullying our beliefs into others, it helps us negotiate those situations where we feel undermined by aggressive or passive-aggressive behavior.

It teaches us to fight fire with diplomacy and, even if the other person chooses not to hear us, to project our feelings in a positive and proactive way. Most of us would probably agree, we're better off in a world of respectful communicators than one of the loudest shouters.

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[1] 5 Ways That Adults Bully Each Other
[2] Teaching Assertiveness to Elementary Students
[General ref] 5 Tips to Increase Your Assertiveness
[General ref] 5 Ways To Improve Your Assertive Communication Skills

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