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Assessing Assertiveness: Avoiding Misunderstandings and Achieving Success

The art of assertiveness is a delicate balance of expressing oneself while recognizing the needs of others. It is a quality that can make a significant difference in both one’s personal and professional relationships.

However, assessing the degree of assertiveness can be complicated. People may overestimate or underestimate their proficiency in being assertive, which can lead to misunderstandings and conflicts.

This article discusses the difficulty in assessing assertiveness and the reasons for misjudging assertiveness.

Difficulty in Assessing Assertiveness

Being assertive means expressing your wants, needs, and opinions in an honest manner without infringing on other people’s rights. Assertiveness allows individuals to stand up for themselves while respecting others’ feelings.

However, it is not always easy to judge how assertive you are. According to a study by the Journal of Psychology, people’s self-perception of assertiveness does not always match up with objective measures of assertiveness.

It means that people may think they are more or less assertive than they are. Misconceptions about one’s own assertiveness level arise from several factors.

For instance, people tend to have a bias towards themselves, thinking of themselves as better than they are. Overconfidence causes people to overestimate their communication skills, including assertiveness.

On the other hand, a lack of confidence can make individuals underestimate their assertiveness. Additionally, individuals’ background and culture can affect their interpretation of assertiveness, leading to varied assessments.

Another factor that impacts self-assessment of assertiveness is the context in which communication happens. For example, one may feel confident and assertive when working on a project where they have expertise.

Still, the same person may struggle to convey assertiveness while in a conversation with a supervisor. Thus, the context of communication can pose challenges in assessing assertiveness.

Reasons for Misjudging Assertiveness

Human Tendency to Think Highly of Oneself

A common reason for the overestimation of assertiveness is the human tendency to think highly of oneself. People tend to think positively about their abilities, including their communication skills.

As a result, people may think they have been assertive when, in reality, they have not. This misconception can lead to situations where individuals cross the boundary between assertiveness and aggression.

Impact of Others’ Reactions on Self-Assessment

Another factor that affects individuals’ assessment of their assertiveness level is external feedback. Feedback can come verbally or non-verbally, like body language, tone, and other cues.

Positive feedback from others can enhance one’s confidence in their assertiveness and reinforce the positive self-perception. In contrast, negative feedback can damage individuals’ confidence and make them doubt their communication skills.

People tend to take negative feedback, especially criticism, more seriously than positive feedback. Thus, a few negative comments can have a significant impact on people’s assessment of their assertiveness.

This impact occurs because negative feedback tends to stick in people’s minds more than positive feedback. Consequently, people may perceive a lack of assertiveness even when they have been assertive in their communication.


Being assertive is a valuable communication skill that can enrich one’s personal and professional relationships. However, assessing assertiveness can be challenging, as individuals may not always have an accurate perception of their communication skills.

Factors such as bias, context of communication, and feedback from others can lead to misunderstandings of assertiveness levels. Therefore, individuals must strive to develop self-awareness by seeking feedback and evaluating their communication habits regularly.

By doing so, they can avoid the pitfalls of misjudging their assertiveness and enhance their communication skills. Being an assertive communicator is an essential skill in personal and professional settings.

Individuals who are confident and effective in expressing their opinions and emotions are often perceived as strong leaders who can handle difficult situations. However, misjudging assertiveness can have serious implications, leading to missed opportunities for career growth and damaged professional and personal relationships.

It is, therefore, necessary to put in place measures that promote accurate assessment of assertiveness and appropriate reactions to it.

Importance of Accurate Assertiveness Assessment

Career Growth and Leadership Skills

Accurate self-perception of assertiveness is critical for career growth and leadership success. In the professional world, individuals who can assert their opinions without being overbearing are often perceived as confident and competent.

On the other hand, those who struggle with assertiveness may face limitations in their careers. For instance, they may find it challenging to take on leadership roles where assertiveness is critical in decision-making.

In many industries, there exists a promotion pyramid where leadership positions are progressively more demanding, requiring stronger communication skills. Misjudging assertiveness can stall career advancement, as individuals may fail to take on roles that require higher levels of communication skills.

Need for Seeking Feedback and Practicing Assertiveness

Feedback can provide individuals with valuable insights that can facilitate accurate assessment of assertiveness. However, seeking feedback can be intimidating.

Giving and receiving feedback is a skill that requires practice, and individuals must learn to give and receive feedback constructively. It is essential to choose people to provide feedback who understand the context of communication and can give honest and objective views.

Practicing assertiveness is another important way to promote accurate self-assessment. The more individuals practice communication skills, the more they develop self-awareness and confidence in their abilities.

Regular practice in a range of scenarios can also help individuals identify triggers that lead to aggressive or passive behavior, allowing them to fine-tune their assertiveness.

Overreaction to Assertiveness

Common Tendency to Overreact to Assertiveness in Negotiations

Assertiveness can be particularly challenging in negotiation settings, where parties may have differing views on the value of goods or services. Individuals who express their opinions assertively in negotiations risk coming across as aggressive, causing overreactions from the other party.

The tendency to overreact to assertiveness is known as reactance, where individuals respond contrarily to what they perceive as a threat to their freedom or autonomy. Reactance is common in negotiation settings where individuals are wary of being coerced into making a decision that is not in their best interest.

Importance of Parsing Reactions for Accurate Assessment

It is essential to parse out emotional reactions in negotiations to determine the accurate level of assertiveness displayed. The reactions from the parties involved can be analyzed and used to evaluate the effectiveness of the communication and negotiation skills.

Understanding the underlying motivations behind the reactions can provide insights into the effectiveness of assertiveness in the negotiation process. Effective negotiators understand that using assertiveness to push their agenda must be balanced against the need to preserve a good relationship with the other party.

Careful analysis of reactions during a negotiation can also provide an opportunity to fine-tune communication and negotiation skills. For instance, if overreactions to assertiveness are frequent, individuals can practice softening their language or toning down assertiveness to reduce the negative reactions.


Being an assertive communicator is a necessary skill in personal and professional settings. However, accurately assessing assertiveness can be challenging due to factors such as human bias, feedback, and emotional reactions.

Misjudging assertiveness can limit opportunities for career growth and damage professional and personal relationships. It is, therefore, vital to seek feedback, practice assertiveness, and develop an understanding of reactions to assertiveness to promote accurate self-assessment.

Assertiveness is a valuable communication skill that requires accurate self-assessment to achieve effective interpersonal relationships and successful careers. Misjudging assertiveness can have negative impacts, like missed opportunities for personal growth and strained relationships.

Important factors that influence assertiveness assessment include biases, context, and external feedback, and regular practice and feedback-seeking can enhance self-awareness. Additionally, understanding individual reactions to assertiveness is crucial in negotiating without causing overreaction.

Practicing assertiveness and seeking honest feedback can provide valuable insights into communication and negotiation skills and foster healthy attitudes towards expressing oneself effectively while also respecting others. Ultimately, accurate assessment of assertiveness can bring many benefits and promote a positive impact on personal and professional relationships.

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