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PSY 2060 Assignment: Assertiveness Study

PSY 2060 Assignment: Assertiveness Study


Assertive behavior reflects an individual’s ability to stand up for their best interests without being excessively anxious. When effective, they are “exercising their own rights without denying the rights of others” (Speed, Goldstein, & Goldfried, 2017).

As humans, we are challenged daily to deal with a wide variety of situations in our lives, often having to choose between a mixture of approaches to handle each one.

Do we engage, compete, or show aggression?

Each behavior has a time and a place, appropriate depending on context and the importance of the outcome.

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PSY 2060 Assignment: Assertiveness Study

How we respond and judge our own and others’ behavior exists along a dimension known as interpersonal assertiveness. Too little or too much decides whether we let others’ needs take precedence or whether we push for our own desired outcomes (Ames et al., 2017).

The source and degree of assertive behavior come from aspects of our mental state, including our “motivations, expectancies, and failures of self-regulation” (Ames et al., 2017).

How does assertiveness affect our behavior?

When assertiveness goes wrong, it can lead to negative consequences. Pushing too hard or too ineffectually results in resistance and a failure to meet needs.

“Generations of scholars, in multiple areas, have examined these dynamics in various forms, ranging from cooperative to competitive behavior and from avoidance to aggression” (Ames et al., 2017).

Ames et al. (2017) consider assertive communication an aspect of our behavior, most relevant when our goals are instrumental (i.e., get us nearer to our final goals) and fail to align with those of others. When we avoid others’ needs or our own, we are displaying low assertiveness. And when we compete or show aggression, we are exhibiting a high degree of assertiveness.

Being overly assertive can be appropriate, for example, for a police officer who is moving people away from a dangerous incident but is ill advised when parenting a child who is lacking the confidence to complete their homework.

Balance and timing in assertiveness are everything.

PSY 2060 Assignment: Assertiveness Study

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3 Models of Assertiveness

There are several ways to investigate and understand assertiveness.

Some models seek to describe assertiveness directly, while other approaches focus on related behaviors such as positive leadership.

Assertiveness is a complex psychological construct, embedded and intricately linked to an individual’s beliefs, thoughts, and emotions.

Despite the importance of understanding its impact on human behavior, there are only a few assertiveness models within psychology’s academic literature.

We have included the following three, all referenced in recent articles:


1. Mental models of assertiveness

A lack of emotional awareness and the mental models we construct combine to impact our degree of assertiveness. Indeed, “how hard people push depends on the consequences they predict” (Ames, 2008).

Therefore, before we act, we typically imagine the outcome of our behavior.

If I am highly assertive, I may close the deal.
If I am low in assertiveness, I may get walked over.

While forecasting may be accurate, it can also be incorrect, misleading, and lead to mistakes.

Haven’t we all replayed our actions after getting annoyed or frustrated and regretted our response?

The optimal degree of assertiveness varies depending on the person, the situation, and past experiences. Someone lacking in assertiveness is likely to be pessimistic about the outcome if they consider pushing hard for what they want (Ames et al., 2017).

2. Model of leader attributes and leader performance

Stephen Zaccaro’s (2007) leadership model suggests talented leaders result from a balance of traits and attributes that integrate meaningfully rather than increased individual qualities.

We typically see the most respected leaders as assertive yet not aggressive. They also display stability and consistency across different contexts through a combination of traits linked to both the immediate situation (proximal) and more distant factors (distal; Zaccaro, 2007).

3. Model of assertiveness for purposeful conservation

Simon Black’s (2017) model of assertiveness comprises four types of responses. Each one appears at different points along the assertiveness scale, grouped under effective or self-defeating behavior:

  • Effective behavior
    • Assertive
    • Responsive
  • Self-defeating behavior
    • Aggressive
    • Passive

Being assertive or responsive enables the individual to influence others effectively; this could be as simple as providing information or an answer clearly, asking questions, backing up answers with solid reasons, or being persuasive.

Aggressive and passive behaviors such as sarcasm, being patronizing, putting yourself down, and avoidance are ultimately self-defeating. They damage the individual and the surrounding people.

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