Assertiveness – the power of it


Complaining is something many of us shy away from – but being assertive about what we are unhappy about/with can enhance wellbeing. Standing up for yourself can actually bring greater happiness.


A 2015 Survey in the UK found that, although 90 per cent of us believe that you should speak up if you are unhappy with a service, approximately only 1 in 3 of us actually do.

One school of thought says complaining is bad for our health, making it more likely that we’ll think negatively, and increase levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

And it’s not just our own complaining that can be detrimental.

Professor Robert Sapolsky, says that being exposed to just 30 minutes of complaining a day (including seeing it on TV) can cause your brain to have the same emotional reaction as being stressed.

On the other hand, complaining in the right way – that is, being assertive – may be beneficial to your health. A 2014 study by Professor Robin Kowalski found that those who complained – with the hope of achieving a certain result – that is, being assertive (and respecting themselves and the other person) – tended to be happier, more mindful people than those who simply complained for the sake of it.

This would seem to further highlight the importance of being assertive for our emotional wellbeing.

How to be more assertive

  • Have specific outcomes in mind. For example, if your partner lets you down, explain why you’re unhappy in that instance, listen to their reasons and, even if you don’t like their response, don’t dwell on it.
  • Turning your complaint into a nagging session will make you feel more aggrieved, plus they may ‘zone out’ and not hear you at all.
  • Change your view of the situation. For example, if a shop assistant rolls her eyes at you, consider why she may have done that. It could be that she’s having a bad day and is finding it difficult to be positive.
  • Think about your role before you complain. How have you contributed to the situation? Could you have communicated better?
  • Distance yourself from chronic complainers. Excuse yourself when negative conversations begin – if you can, go outside for a walk or find somewhere quieter. Before you go back in, think of something positive to help you deflect the negativity.

Source: Roberts, M. 2016


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