What is the relationship between assertiveness and emotional intelligence?


Jason Brien.

The ability to be assertive is a fundamental communication skill which can help you to express yourself more efficiently. Assertiveness respects the rights and beliefs of others whilst simultaneously allowing you to stand up for your own beliefs, values and views. Not everyone is naturally assertive and it takes time and conscious effort and control to become more assertive. It is important to note however that assertiveness only works if both parties understand and respect the concept. 

Since assertiveness is based on mutual respect, it is a highly effective way of communicating. Assertiveness displays respect for yourself because you are willing to stand up for your interests and express your thoughts and feelings without invalidating or dismissing the thoughts and feelings of others. Assertive communication is direct and respectful. Assertiveness is often viewed as the ‘healthy’ communication style. Assertiveness reduces your vulnerability and the ability for others to take advantage of you and can also prevent you from acting like a bully to others.

Assertiveness requires Emotional intelligence (EI). EI is defined as the capacity of individuals to recognise and differentiate between the emotions and feelings of themselves and others and to use their own emotions/feelings to self-regulate during times of stress, empathize with others, build strong familial and social relationships, communicate assertively, and positively regulate mental health. You can improve both your assertiveness skills and your emotional intelligence in the following ways;

Pay attention to your emotions/feelings and behaviours:

Keeping mood and behaviour diaries can really help improve your EI. Most mood and behaviour diaries require that you record your emotions/feelings and/or behaviours at least twice a day. This can be achieved by setting an alarm at the same time points twice a day or at random time points twice a day. Mood and behaviour diaries can help people to view themselves objectively and recognise any patterns in emotions/feelings or behaviours that they may have otherwise missed.

Learn to take responsibility for your emotions/feelings: 

It is very common to fall into the trap of disowning our emotions. Sometimes we blame others for how we feel rather than recognising that we are in control of our emotions. So, the next time you go to blurt out “you made me angry” or “its your fault I’m sad”, just remember that no one can make you feel anything. It’s your interpretation of events which ultimately dictate your emotions.

Learn emotional management techniques: 

This can be as simple as deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation or more complex and courageous methods such as meditation or yoga. These activities can assist you to stay calm and in control of your emotions. Not just negative emotions either. It is possible to become overwhelmed with feelings of happiness and joy.

Learn the power of “I” statements:            

“I” statements immediately puts the focus on you and allows others to know what you are thinking and feeling without putting people on the defensive by using “you” statements. For example, “I don’t agree with you about that” rather than “your wrong. How could you say that”? And no, it is not an I statement if you start off with “I think you are wrong”. Or maybe “I wonder if we could do something this way”? rather than “you need to do it this way”.

Body language is critical:         

Body language can be even more important that words when it comes to assertive communication. The effectiveness of assertiveness will be reduced if you are using assertive words and statements but you are communicating defensive body language. For example, if you were standing with your arms crossed, have a haughty or angry look on your face and fail to maintain eye contact, the other person will be confused as to why you appear to be hostile but your words are asking for solidarity. To help deliver your assertiveness, act confidently and make regular eye contact. Keep your body posture relaxed and open (hands by your side).

Research has indicated that individuals that are high in EI and also assertive tend to make better leaders, are more likely to gain and maintain employment, are better at schooling, have better mental health and are generally more satisfied in life. Additionally, people high in EI tend to be able to motivate themselves towards action internally rather than having their motivation being dependent upon external cues like money or friendships for example. 

Resources

Ames, D. R., & Wazlawek, A. S. (2014). Pushing in the dark: Causes and consequences of limited self‐awareness for interpersonal assertiveness. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 40, 775–790.

Ames, D. R. (2008). Assertiveness expectancies: How hard people push depends on the consequences they predict. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95, 1541–1557.

Campagna, R. L., Mislin, A. A., Kong, D. T., & Bottom, W. P. (2016). Strategic consequences of emotional misrepresentation in negotiation: The blowback effect. Journal of Applied Psychology, 101(5), 605.

George, J. M. (2000). Emotions and leadership: The role of emotional intelligence. Human relations, 53(8), 1027-1055. 

George, J. M. (2000). Emotions and leadership: The role of emotional intelligence. Human relations, 53(8), 1027-1055.

Petrides, K. V., & Furnham, A. (2000). On the dimensional structure of emotional intelligence. Personality and individual differences, 29(2), 313-320. 

Salovey, P., & Mayer, J. D. (1990). Emotional intelligence. Imagination, cognition and personality, 9(3), 185-211.

Ward, A., Disston, L. G., Brenner, L., & Ross, L. (2008). Acknowledging the other side in negotiation. Negotiation Journal, 24(3), 269–285.