A common source of stress centers on how we interact with others, according to Business Psychology Associates, the State of Idaho's Employee Assistance Program provider.
When we think of ourselves as of being pushed around, not listened to and not able to stand up for ourselves, it can be very draining on our self-esteem and level of stress, BPA suggests in its online tips for state employees ( http://www.bpahealth.com )
It also can be very stressful when we act in angry ways that drive people away from us and leave us feeling alone, misunderstood, and hostile.
The way we relate to others is vital to our happiness and level of contentment.
Assertiveness is the middle ground between passive behaviors and aggressive behaviors. There are three fundamental styles of interacting with others - aggressive, passive, and assertive.
AGGRESSIVE includes fighting, threatening, accusing, intimidating, venting and letting off steam without regard for others’ feelings. Although aggression may make us feel in control and can help us get our way, the cost to us is increased anger and stress, as well as strained relationships.
PASSIVE means letting others push us around, easily intimidated, and very avoidant of any type of conflict or uncomfortable situations. When we are passive, we may experience less direct rejection and conflict. In the long run, passive people experience more stress in terms of poor self-esteem and being taken advantage of by others.
We are being ASSERTIVE when we stand up for our rights and do not let others take advantage of us. At the same time, though, we are sensitive to other peoples’ feelings and needs. The advantage to being assertive is that you can often get what you want, usually without making others mad. Assertive behavior allows you to act in your own best interest without guilt.
In terms of developing more assertive communication, here are some tips:
Example: “I think we spend a lot of time talking about your interests, and I feel irritated that we hardly ever talk about mine. I want our conversations to be more balanced.”
Also, much of assertive communication involves listening to others in a way that shows you are paying attention and respect their opinion. Try to give your full attention and paraphrase what the speaker says. Ask for clarification if you do not understand something.
For more information on maintaining a balanced approach to mental health, please visit the BPA Web site.