Assertiveness: The Delicate Art Of Speaking Up There are many factors to consider when dealing with the subject of assertiveness, it varies from man to woman; older to younger; family to strangers and can be difficult waters to navigate for both outgoing and passive personalities. Assertiveness by definition is characterized by self confidence, determination and boldness in asserting opinions or in otherwise making ones presence or influence felt (Webster, 1986 ). Many people have difficulty being assertive in interpersonal situations…they become anxious at the mere thought of putting their foot down and refusing to comply… (Brehm, Kassin, Fein & Burke, 2008). In his book entitled Influence: Science and Practice, Robert Cialdini states that being able to resist the pressure of compliance rests, first and foremost, on being vigilant (Brehm et al, 2008). He describes four sequential strategy tactics people use to reel you in but, goes on to state that the trap may be set but you don’t have to get caught. Burke Leon is quoted as saying “Knowledge is power, and if you know when a clever technique is being used on you, then it becomes easier to ignore it” (Brehm et al, 2008).
Research suggests that women negotiate and are perceived differently depending on the context of the assertive bargaining. An important contextual variation is that of advocacy. Many instances of assertive bargaining come across as stereotypically masculine, such as when a junior manager marches in the boss’s office and demands a raise. Yet other instances are more often associated with feminine roles, such a haggling with the butcher or defending one’s falsely accused child( Amandullah, 2010). Whom the bargainer advocates for is pivotal in determining how assertive bargaining is interpreted. When a woman negotiates on behalf of herself it is seen as disagreeable to the feminine role. However, when a woman negotiates on behalf of others it is seen as congruent to femininity. Preliminary research shows perceivers engage in both social and financial backlash against self advocating women but not against other-advocating women( Amandullah 2010). ..Assertiveness (continued)
...Assertiveness (continued) There are, at least, two different explanations to why, in interpersonal conflicts, people come on strong, make bold demands, and concede little ground, whereas others give way, yielding to another person’s requests and surrendering their own interests(Ames, 2008). One of the answers to this question highlights the importance of values- tracing higher levels of assertiveness to “proself” (maximizing the difference between self and others) orientations and conflict styles and lower levels of assertiveness to “prosocial” (maximizing joint outcomes) orientations and cooperative conflict styles(Ames, 2008). In other words, tough people are tough because they care more about winning and soft people are soft because they just want to get along ( Ames, 2008).
...Assertiveness (continued) Another explanation is that of an older school of thought -that people’s behavior also reflects their expectations about the outcomes of their acts. People base their actions not only on what they want but also on what they expect their behavior will achieve. Behavior of one partner depends in part on the anticipated partner response. The results of several studies support the suggestion that a person’s expectations about the consequences of assertiveness predict behavior in conflicts above and beyond the effects of their values. In other words, sometimes tough people are tough because they expect they can be and soft people are soft because they believe they must be (Ames, 2008). When considering the assumption that social anxiety is associated with less assertive behavior and that effective anger regulation is influenced by social anxiety (Weber, 2004), the relationship between these behaviors and responses are interesting. Particularily, when focusing on the strategy of submission.
...Assertiveness (Continued) Anger is a frequently experienced emotion that occurs most often in interpersonal contexts…whether anger causes negative or positive consequences depends on the way these incidences are regulated and dealt with (Weber, 2004). Anger regulating strategies can be considered effective if they reduce the likelihood of future provocation and unjustified acts. There are two kinds of strategies for anger regulation that are effective. First, responses that openly, but non-aggressively address the wrongdoing with communication. A second way, is cognitive restructuring, or construing the incidence in a non-anger-provoking way. Examples would be ignoring the provocation or focusing on other things (Weber, 2004).
There are also three ineffective ways of responding to provocation. The first is rumination-focusing attention on the provocation and thinking about it over and over. Secondly, venting anger and reacting aggressively often fails to reduce anger (Weber, 2004). The last, and most interesting, ineffective way of regulating anger is submission, that is giving in, not asserting one’s position, and accepting blame rather than initiating an open debate. Submission is by definition ineffective in bringing about change for the better. It may also worsen negative feelings if submission is perceived as personal failure and inadequacy (Weber, 2004). Reacting to provocation by standing up for your position by communicating in an open, non-aggressive manner seems to be a constructive, assertive way to regulate anger and help reduce social anxiety.
According to Russel Cassel and John Blackwell there are three kinds of assertiveness: (1) positive, (2) negative and (3) absence of assertiveness. They suggest that it is essential that teenage youngsters understand the role of positive assertiveness in their future growth and development (Cassel & Blackwell, 2002). The selection of which one of the choices one makes impacts more favorably on the personal development and later success in life than anything else that one does. Positive assertiveness and negative assertiveness share the quality of ‘putting one’s self forward boldly and insistently’ however the difference is that positive assertiveness always involves the scientific process of decision making ( Cassel & Blackwell, 2002). Negative assertiveness on the other hand typically involves trying to live as an adult before one has reached the adult stage…the ‘get rich quick’ mode of operation. Finally, the absence of assertiveness too often involves fear of making mistakes and, such action typically creates excessive fear patterns (Cassel & Blackwell, 2002).
...Assertiveness (Continued) Being assertive is a necessary skill in interpersonal relationships and when making life decisions, when approached in a positive manner it becomes a useful tool when attacking the delicate art of speaking up. Are you assertive? Check out this Assertive Test online at www.discoveryhealth.queendom.com/assertiveness This test is not from a scholarly source…it’s just a fun test with relatively accurate results.
Obedience -When you think of the long and gloomy history of man, you will find far more hideous crimes have been committed in the name of obedience than have ever been committed in the name of rebellion.” (Snow, 1961, p.24, cited in Benjamin & Simpson, 2009). -Obedience is the “bane of all genius, virtue, freedom, [and] truth, [and it] makes slaves of men” (Shelly, 1829, p. 35, cited in Benjamin & Simpson, 2009).
-It would seem that obedience takes on a negative connotation, certainly when it comes to matters of inflicting pain upon others. How obedient a person is may depend on how they were raised from childhood. Children in Western cultures are more likely to disobey a command from an authority figure if that command steps into their personal boundaries (Yau, Smetana & Metzger, 2009). It has been found in Chinese, collectivist cultures that compliance to class rules and obedience to parents is more highly valued than in Western cultures. (Yau et al., 2009). Some research conducted in the United States also indicates that the mother’s level of education is the largest factor that influences children’s respect of authority (Tuma & Livson, 1962). When studying children’s respect of authority figures in a school, results showed that children would usually only respect a principal or teacher if they were giving them orders in their own school setting (Yau et al., 2009), which suggests that the concept of familiarity is very important for obedience to occur, and a concept that Stanley Milgram addresses in his famous 1969 study. Milgram
Milgram’s Obedience studies Milgram’s controversial study examined how long participants would continue to obey an order from a man in a lab coat to deliver electric shocks to a person in another room. Results showed that a startling 65% of participants obeyed (Milgram, 1962). However, when the man who was supposedly being shocked was moved outside to sit near the participant, obedience levels dropped by over half (Milgram, 1962). This makes it clear that when we can see the face of another human, and truly be able to relate to the pain we are inflicting upon them, we will stop. It makes our responsibility for our obedient actions become very real in our minds when close proximity to a man in pain is allowed.
...Milgram (continued) Twenge (2009), raises the issue of modern day personalities and values, and how they’ve changed since Milgram’s time. She claims that American’s nowadays have higher self esteem, higher levels of narcissism, and are highly individualistic (Twenge, 2009). These traits are all about the self, and would lead one to think that someone with these traits would be much less likely to obey another. She also mentions Jerry Burger’s 2009 replication of Milgram’s Obedience study, which yielded similar results to the 1969 version, but she claims that this was because the selection of participants for Burger’s study was from a wider variety of cultures which have collectivist values (Twenge, 2009). This all suggests strongly that cultural values and norms are the most prevalent factors which influence obedience.
Gender Stereotypes are in a category all their own in terms of stereotypes as they are prescriptive rather than descriptive; meaning they illustrate how the majority of people within a given culture believe men and women should act .(Brehm, Kassin, Fein, & Burke, 2008). Alice Eagly (1987) believes:
“that in front of others, people worry about how they come across and feel pressured to behave in ways that are viewed as acceptable within traditional gender-role constraints” (Brehm, Kassin, Fein, & Burke, 2008, pp. 227)
This worry can be repressing, encroaching and debilitating to an individual living within a conformist society .
…Gender Roles (Continued) Studies have been conducted looking at the attitudes of men in regards to seeking help for clinical depression . These studies indicate that men hold a more negative position towards help seeking for depression . ( Mahalik& Rochlen 2006) This finding implies that a reason for such attitudes is because the tasks involved with seeking treatment (eg. focusing on vulnerable emotions , admitting the need for help ) are non-conducive with the normal masculine gender roles.(Mahalik & Rochlen 2006) Results from Mahaliks’ and Rochlens’ study : Men’s Likely Responses to Clinical Depression, also show us these men often engage in self help strategies ( ie. working out or distracting oneself from the situation ) , helping maintain a “low profile” which is attractive , considering that it is common for men to view being depressed and receiving professional help non-normative masculine behaviour.
…Gender Roles (Continued) Gender Binaries are constantly being challenged and explored as we see even with the increase in Canadian womens’ involvement in tattooing over the last 10 years .Perhaps challenging the conventional relationship between masculinity and tattooing, the up rise in “feminine tattooing “ will allow society to reconform their notions about what is the norm. In Atkinsons observation based study , Pretty in Ink: Conformity , Resistance and Negotiation in Women’s Tattooing suggests that perhaps in the same way that punk rockers unified their marginalized social status by collectively adopting radical physical attire so too , may these tattooed women be inaugurating the tattooing practice as a feminine cultural norm . (Atkinson, 2006)
…Gender Roles (Continued) Sometimes a resistance to conformity can lead to physical or verbal assault . As was reported by many transgendered individuals who partook in the Gagne and Tewkbury interview Study. They reported a feeling of social erasure and community pressure to conform.( Gagne & Tewkbury , 1998)
In Hewlins Study in which antecedent and consequences of creating facades of conformity in the workplace are explored , it was found that emotional exhaustion resulted. (Hewlin, 2009)
To the question , whether people are conformists or non-conformists , there is no real answer. However there is within our society a constant pulling majority and minority influence. ( Brehm et al., 2008)
Compliance What is compliance? Compliance is changes that we make in our behaviour because of a direct request from another person. Advertisers, fundraisers, politicians, and business leaders can influence your decisions by using certain tactics to make you comply. .(Brehm, Kassin, Fein, & Burke, 2008 What influences my likeliness of complying? -“The nature of buyer–seller relationships has been changing for some time, away from simple transactions with a multitude of partners toward longer-term relationships with a select few.”According to Bradford and Weitz in their article Salespersons’ Management of Conflict In Buyer-Seller Relationships. -As time moves on, psychologists have been able to study the change in these relationships and uncover certain tactics used by both the buyer, and most importantly, the seller.
...Compliance (Continued) -Traps! Social psychologists have learned that people, such as fundraisers or salespeople, set up traps that can trick us into complying! Social Psychology .(Brehm, Kassin, Fein, & Burke, 2008) discusses Robert Cialdini’s techniques he discusses in his book Influence: Social and Practice. The techniques he defines include the following: Foot-In-The-Door #1 Low-Balling #2 Door-In-The-Face #3 That’s-Not-All #4
The foot-in-the-door technique (A two stage compliance technique where the influencer begins by getting the person to agree with a very small request before getting them to comply with the much larger request) (Brehm, Kassin, Fein, & Burke, 2008). -The first initial request must be one that can’t be easily refused by the target. -The reason this technique can be so useful is because the target observes their behaviour in the first situation, they identify themselves as someone who is cooperative and agreeable. Once they are targeted with the second request, they have a desire to maintain their new self image and want to remain that agreeable person that they saw themselves as.
...Foot-in-the-door (continued) -You have probably been using this technique with your parents since you were very young! You first started out by asking ‘Dad can I go to a movie with Shauna?’ Followed by ‘I have no money, can I borrow twenty dollars?...Can you give me a ride there?...Can we pick up Shauna on the way?...Can you give us a ride home too?’ By first asking your dad to commit to you going to a movie, he doesn’t realize the increasing list of things he needs to do in order to make it possible for you to go to the movie.
Low Balling (A two step compliance technique where the influencer secures a request and then increases the size of that request by revealing hidden costs) (Brehm, Kassin, Fein, & Burke, 2008). -In Influence Of Low-Balling On Buyers’ Compliance, Motes and Woodside define low-balling as “Making an offer more than possible to deliver and revoking a central part of the offer after the target subject accepts.”(1979 p. 219)
...Low Balling (continued) -The reason the customer continues with the deal is because they feel committed and now they feel responsible for being unreliable if they are the one who backs out. People make decisions and validate them by concentrating on all of the positive aspects and once those initial positive aspects are removed, they feel like they are already committed. -The most typical situation where you would observe this technique at work is with a car salesman. He makes you an offer so low that you can’t refuse, you accept, and then he comes back saying that his manager couldn’t approve the deal that low and he had to increase it by $500.
Door-in-the-face technique (A two step technique where the influencer starts off by making a request that is so large it is immediately rejected, then following it with the real request that now seems minute).(Brehm, Kassin, Fein, & Burke, 2008). -When the individual backs down from the first request, to a more reasonable request, we feel the need to comply. This technique would not be effective if there is a different person making you the first offer and the second offer. -A great example would be when your friend asks you, ‘Can you help be finish landscaping my backyard?’When you seem intimidated by this huge request, he then asks, ‘Can you just help me build the deck?’ Now you immediately agree to the building of the deck because it seems minimal compared to the first request he approached you with.
That’s-not-all Technique (A two step compliance technique in which the influencer begins with an inflated request, then decreases its apparent size by offering a huge discount or bonus.) (Brehm, Kassin, Fein, & Burke, 2008). -Somewhere that this technique is very commonly used is on infomercials. They start out by announcing the price of the knife set, for example, and then tell you that if you call right now, you will get fifteen dollars off, and they will throw in an extra mini-knife, and a cutting board, and a keychain! -How many times have you found yourself shopping when you spot the perfect item, yet it is too expensive or ‘Not worth the price they are asking!’. Then as soon as you find out it is 20% off and you get the second one for half the price, you find yourself buying 2 of them! Did you ever think about the possibility that the price you paid is actually the initial value of the items, and the storeowner jacked up the price and put it on sale so that you feel like you are getting a great deal and can now afford it? Or how many times have you justified a shopping spree with ‘I got everything on sale though!’
In Greg W Marshall’s review of “Conscious and Unconscious Processing of Priming Cues in Selling Encounters” (Stafford 2001), he discusses priming factors typically used by salespeople (1995). He examines the salesman’s ability to convince you that the car is right for you, your budget, your career, your image, oh and lucky you, he has that exact car in the colour you want coming in tomorrow! “It is not difficult to imagine how an adept salesperson could combine accumulated knowledge and skill in priming with effective reading of a buyer’s cues in order to increase considerably the likelihood that the approach will evoke a favourable decision rule from the buyer based upon the prime.”(1996, p. 45) Marshall explains how well trained salespeople are in being able to detect exactly what needs to be said to a potential customer in order for them to make a decision that will positively affect the salesperson. However, quoting from the original article by Stafford, “when the buyer becomes aware of such influence attempts, entirely different outcomes are predictable.”(1996, p. 38) This shows that the very few people who have an insider knowledge of the tactics used.
Assertiveness References Amanatullah, E., & Morris, M. (2010). Negotiating gender roles: Gender differences in assertivenegotiating are mediated by women’s fear of backlash and attenuated when negotiating on behalf of others. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 98(2), 256-267. Ames, D. (2008). Assertiveness expectancies: How hard people push depends on the consequences they predict. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95(6), 1541-1557. Brehm, S. S., Kassin, S., Fein, S., & Burke, T. (2008). Social Psychology Boston: Houghton Mifflin. Cassel, R. & Blackwell, J. ( 2002). Positive assertiveness begins with character education and includes the abuse of cigarettes, alcohol and drugs. Journal of Instructional Psychology, 29(2), 77-79. Retrieved from PsychINFO database. Weber, H., Weidig, M., Freyer, J. & Graller, J. (2004). Social anxiety and anger regulation. European Journal of Personality, 18(7), 573-590.
Gender Conformity References Atkinson, M., (2002). Pretty in ink: conformity , resistance, and negotiation in women’s tattooing. sex roles : A Journal of Research, 47, 219-235. Brehm, S. S, Kassin, S., Fein, S., & Burke, T. (2008). Social Psychology Boston: Houghton Mifflin. Gagné, P., & Tewksbury, R. (1998). Conformity pressures and gender resistance among transgendered individuals. Social Problems, 45(1), 81-101.. Hewlin, P. (2009). Wearing the cloak: Antecedents and consequences of creating facades of conformity. Journal of Applied Psychology, 94(3), 727-741. Mahalik, J. R., & Rochlen, A. B. (2006). Men’s likely responses to clinical depression: what are they and do masculinity norms predict them? Sex Roles: A Journal of Research, 55, 659-657.
Obedience References Benjamin, L., & Simpson, J. (2009). The power of the situation: The impact of Milgram's obedience studies on personality and social psychology. American Psychologist, 64(1), 12-19. Milgram, Stanley (Producer). (1969). Obedience [Motion Picture]. Pennsylvania, Media Sales. Tuma, E., & Livson, N. (1960). Family socioeconomic status and adolescent attitudes to authority. Child Development, 31387-399. Twenge, J. (2009). Change over time in obedience: The jury's still out, but it might be decreasing. American Psychologist, 64(1), 28-31. Yau, J., Smetana, J., & Metzger, A. (2009). Young Chinese children's authority concepts. Social Development, 18(1), 210-229.
Compliance References Bradford, K.D. & Weitz, B.A. (2009). Salespersons’ Management of Conflict in Buyer-Seller Relationships. Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management 29.1, 25-42. Retrieved March 14, 2010 from PsycINFO database. Brehm, S. S., Kassin, S., Fein, S., & Burke, T. (2008). Social Psychology Boston: Houghton Mifflin. Marshall, G.W. (1996). I’ll Prime You If You Assimilate For Me: A Comment on Conscious and Unconscious Processing of Priming Cues in Selling Encounters. Journal of Personal Selling and Sales Management 16.2, 45-47. Retrieved March 14, 2010 from PsycINFO database. Motes, W.H. & Woodside, A.G. (1979). Influence Of Low-Balling On Buyers’ Compliance. The Journal of Psychology, 101, 219-221. Stafford, T.F. (1996). Conscious and Unconscious Processing of Priming Cues in Selling Encounters. Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management 16.2, 37-44. Retrieved March 14, 2010 from PsycINFO database.