Whether at work or in your personal life, I’m fairly certain that you’ve come across (and will continue to come across) someone with an assertive personality. Although sometimes having a bad rep, these people also possess a lot of qualities that can really be advantageous in certain contexts.
Perhaps your experiences with, what you know, or what assume to know about an assertive personality is clouding your judgment? Or maybe you’ve been labeled with an assertive personality yourself and are curious as to what this means exactly (and if this is the case, I’m sure you’ve already voiced your opinion about it anyways!).
So let’s break it down!
A more theoretical look on assertive personalities
When looking from a theoretical standpoint, such as the Big Five Personality Factor Model, there is an assertiveness facet under the major extroversion category, implying that people with high scores on this facet will likely take charge and be the leaders of the group.
The Big Five is a research-driven approach in psychology which derives from the notion that the most common personality traits can be captured by five core dimensions: Openness to Experience Conscientiousness Extroversion Agreeableness Neuroticism (O-C-E-A-N as a useful mnemonic).
Then again, if you have ever read the description of what being assertive means, one may also look under the Agreeableness factor and see assertive people obtaining lower scores in certain facets under this scale.
Ok. To make it simpler, and because the theory behind such a personality trait may leave you asking for more tangible information, let’s talk about what tendencies and behaviours an assertive personality might bring to the workplace.
Degrees of assertiveness
Now, some of you might not agree, but I like to look at the assertive personality on a scale, with varying degrees, as opposed to a simple black-and-white answer resembling “you are assertive” or “you are NOT assertive”.
I, myself, don’t find my natural reflexes as being assertive or not, but perhaps a “tendency” towards the assertive side, because naturally I am able to confront and claim my rights in a more direct way, yet there are still certain situations where I find it more difficult to give my point-of-view and will make concessions.
If you were to label me “assertive” altogether, I’m not sure I’d agree, as I know people that are FAR more assertive than I am and I, in no way, fall under the same category.
So I think it makes sense to look at it on a spectrum.
Assertive personality: Strengths uncovered
If you’ve had a bad experience with an assertive person, you may want to look at your own personality. Are you assertive too, thus capable of putting forth your views just as much as him/her, but in the end, your views were different therefore causing friction? Or maybe you are at the complete opposite end, a very conciliate person who dislikes confrontation but were met face-to-face with an assertive person who had no trouble expressing their thoughts?
Either way, remember that assertive doesn’t necessarily mean aggressive! They are different things.
An assertive personality has many strengths, such as self-assurance, confidence in expressing their views and disagreements, defending their rights and even taking the lead or directing. They are people that tend to take the reins of a situation, will likely be good negotiators, have the courage to speak up and clearly express their expectations, as well as defend their ideas.
In fact, you’ll probably appreciate someone with an assertive personality more if they are on your side.
Let’s face it, when you are spending 8 hours a day with the same colleagues, it’s not really their experiences or education that will determine what type of relationships you will have with them…it’s their personalities!
Assertive personality: The other side of the coin
I’m going to be real with you, there’s always a flipside to each personality trait, and the assertive personality is no exception.
In certain situations, they may need to develop their capacity to choose their battles, as everything is up for discussion. The way they communicate may also come across as direct to some colleagues, so they would benefit at times from learning how to soften their approach, suggest instead of impose, and accept to be told what to do. When assertive becomes aggressive, it can become counterproductive for all involved.
To be more effective, someone with an assertive personality should find that balance of being self-confident and influential, without being menacing. And not every assertive person succeeds at this.
Working with an assertive personality
If you have to manage or work on a project with a person who you think would score very high on the assertive personality scale, there are things you can do to benefit from this strength, and keep your sanity at the same time.
#1 – Remember that this person has no problem articulating their needs.
So you might as well make it a point to ask for their opinion, outlook and direction on the matter at hand, because you’ll probably hear about it anyways. At least this way, you have some control over WHEN.
And don’t assume that because they have an opinion about just about anything, that it isn’t valid. Assertive people can bring a lot of substance and interesting point of views, but some disregard them as being unnecessary because of the way it comes out.
#2 – Try not to take things personally.
With a high assertive personality comes the capacity to express negative thoughts, so just because you are on the receiving end of criticism or a disagreement, doesn’t mean that person is out to get you.
Of course, it’s all in the way he chooses to convey such a message. But the point is, he will convey it.
So you have to understand your own personality to determine how you will receive it. Are you one to explode in the moment? Accumulate your frustrations? Perhaps you fight fire with fire? The important thing is to explore your own fight or flight tendencies, because someone with an assertive personality might bring them out.
Personality, personality, personality! That seems to be the only word we hear when talking about human resources management. Whenever anyone talks about job-fit, cultural-fit, conflict resolution, and even team productivity, personality always ends up taking center stage. Sure, personality is important. It makes sense, anyway; certain personalities make an individual more suitable for a certain job, company, and team.
#3 – Sometimes working with someone to-the-point can save a lot of time
…and energy! If you think about it, it might be kind of refreshing knowing that assertive people will actually tell you when they don’t agree, when they don’t appreciate a certain work method or when they have an opinion to share. So it’s usually out in the open.
This type of transparency can sometimes be quite positive. You’re not likely going to need to guess with this person or shake him and say “come out with it, already!”. You can continue working knowing that he will not shy away from sharing with you what needs to be said, when it needs to be said.
A person with an assertive personality is not necessarily aggressive. There are different degrees of assertiveness, and depending on the situation, can be advantageous or less appealing. Remember that assertive people are self-assured and can give their opinions, take the lead and confront if necessary. Understand your own personality in order to determine your compatibility with such people, and try not to take things personally. Is an assertive personality ideal for the positions you are hiring for?
You may want to uncover such a trait early on in the process. You might save a lot of time and money!