Assertiveness is not a 5-Letter Word

Drew Barrymore

When I hear the word “bitch” as it pertains to a woman who has just stood up for herself, said exactly what she expects or wants or needs, or has just let you know you cannot disrespect her, I cringe.

Assertiveness, after all, is not a 5-letter word.  It’s so much more.

And it takes a huge helping of energy for a lot of introverted women to engage with assertive behavior in their daily lives, often times, even with themselves.

Assertiveness in its most pure and designed form is really just about honest, direct, clear & respectful communication.

And while I admire leadership, I draw a fine line between that and a man, job, lawyer, manager, boss, director, CEO, or owner who loves to rule with an iron fist.  Put your fist down and chill – you aren’t the only one in the room with an opinion.

Please and thank you.

This is one conversation for women in general, but I specialize in helping the introverted woman with this part of her expression, because this is a form of self-expression many introverted women struggle with.

You’re standing there, getting reamed out by someone you work for, and your nerves are on EDGE.  Your blood pressure is rising, and all you can do is dove tail a string of profanities in your brain while they confront you in a disrespectful manner.

Trust me, I’ve been there.

When it’s all said and done, you feel a lost opportunity to say what you truly feel or want to say.  In retrospect, you’re always looking back thinking “dang – I wish when he said _____, I would’ve said ______.”

And whether you’re at work or it’s happening in a different relationship, you’re later forced to either a) call a one-off meeting with that person, which usually is really uncomfortable for you or b) “try” to ignore it, which is also uncomfortable because you can’t typically let things go in your mind.

Research shows that the neuropathways of the introvert brain are quite different from that of the extroverted brain.  We may seem to have things very “together” to outsiders, but inside our hearts could be in serious pain and agony, and our minds could be playing ping pong matches, all the way into the night, sometimes causing us to not even be able to sleep.

All this said, assertiveness, in my experience working with many many women concerning it, is that it’s just not easy for them.  They avoid assertiveness so as to also avoid the aftermath or consequences so associated.

What I have also observed, to my dismay, is that when a lot of women DO employ assertive communication, they’re often labeled as being “bitchy.”

There’s that 5-letter word again.

I’m sorry, but just because someone is direct and clear with you about what they need, they aren’t a bitch.  Please save the name calling for your dog (consider that an assertive request).

SO….if assertive communication is not a 5-letter word, what is it?  (You may be asking).

Why, when I want to speak up, do I feel like a bitch, even though I’m not one at all?

The answer lies in the social construct (or structure) we’ve built.   We have cultivated a history of societal expectations around when a woman can, should, and needs not to speak up for herself.  Yes, I said “we” because I think we all have to take some form of responsibility here – the more we avoid assertive communication, the more the girls after us will too.

If you want your daughters’, nieces’, grandbabies’ world to look different from yours, you have an opportunity.

To help you see assertiveness in a better light than maybe you do right now, and aid you in stopping the avoidance cycle, here are some things assertiveness IS.

Attractive.  Gosh, to an emotionally healthy bachelor or bachelorette looking for a mate, this can sometimes win them over without even trying.  (Notice I said emotionally healthy).  In other words, if this is the type of woman you want to be, BE IT.  Know that the right person will be attracted to it.  You don’t want to attract someone who things you are going to be their puppet for life and label it “love.”

Respectable.  People may not like you at the end of the day, but they will always respect you for asking for (and probably getting) what you want or need.  The best leaders I know are liked BECAUSE they are first respected.  Never lead with the “like me” factor.  Respect usually doesn’t follow.

Sustainable.  Assertive communication done well and consistently is able to be done over and over.  The more you do it, the more sustainable it becomes as part of your lifestyle and communication style.  People will dig someone who shows up consistently – there’s no surprises – they know what they are getting with you.

Individualistic.  No two women's assertiveness looks the same.  Yes, it's true.  Because we all have unique personalities, styles, and ways of communicating, your assertive communication may vary from mine, and that's more than okay.  In fact, it's the way it should be.

In the comments below, I'd love to know...

What is one experience you've had with feeling like or being labeled like a "bitch" because you spoke up or said what needed to be said?  How have you seen this affect other women or girls you know?

Please share - I'd love for us to look at some different scenarios.

Thank you for reading & contributing...


Photo by Ayo Ogunseinde on Unsplash