What is being assertive?  In the simplest of terms, it refers to making one's point of view clear, without offending the other person, or persons.  

In other words, it is assumed that every human being has a right to be heard, and to given some scope to grow, and to make himself heard.  It is most important in offices and in manufacturing, service or just about any organization. It is important, so that the individual feels empowered, he does not feel helpless, and he does not make a meek surrender under any circumstances.

Imagine this real world situation.  The subordinate is already loaded with work, and the boss comes running.  He wants the subordinate to concentrate on the finer aspects of his presentation, and help him in getting the presentation ready.  The subordinate is IT-savvy and would be happy to really help.  However, the boss also adds, " please concentrate on this work, but get the audit work also completed by tomorrow morning".  The subordinate has a pregnant wife to take care and the boss is fully aware of this.  Yet, he imposes the tasks on the subordinate, knowing fully well, that he would have to work right up to 2 AM the next day morning.

The subordinate turns around and says" Sir, much as I appreciate the urgency of the tasks, I urge you to understand that I cannot complete the audit work, as preparing for the presentation would keep me busy right up to 9 PM tonight.  Hence, kindly bear with me.  You know, I have a wife who is sick and I have to take her to the doctor, even at 10 PM, before she closes her clinic"

The subordinate is being assertive, as he has already stated the facts.  If the boss is a good and wise boss, he would rather say that he would depute someone else to do the audit work.  In fact, most organizations do have people who do multitasking. It is a fact of life that assertiveness is needed in such situations.

At the society level, we need assertiveness to get things done from Government officials, who take our own money collected as taxes and keep us running from pillar to post to get things done.  Only being assertive will help the tough individuals to act and to get the society moving in the right direction.

Assertiveness is needed to send the right messages as well.  Assertiveness is also needed to keep the society tuned to the latest advanced technologies.  For example, the late Prime Minister was really assertive when there was the initial resistance to computerization.  It was the late Mr Rajiv Gandhi who woke up to the need for massive computerization of all Government records.  Reportedly it is still on, but the direction was right.  But for his empowering Mr Sam Pitroda to get the telecom reforms in shape, the cell phone revolution would not have happened.  It was the firm and assertive stand of the Government of the day, that gave the country, a real chance of making it big in telecom usage.

Similarly, the advent of massive computerization has helped the railways to provide much better services not only in ticketing, but even on matters like security.  All these have been the results of assertiveness, shown by the Government.

Mr Anand Mahindra had a very tough situation when a business process re-engineering exercise was on in his manufacturing plants some years ago.  The trade union threatened to go on strike.  Mr Mahindra stood his ground, he was very much assertive, even while explaining his position.  Finally, the Union gave in.

What we need to understand in assertiveness is the basic idea, which is not to give the individual unlimited rights to verbally abuse anyone or go about vehemently presenting his case.  Far from it.  He or she is trained to do what he or she deems fit in a particular situation.  Being assertive, then, is the art of communicating his or her point of view in a very clear and forthright manner, and to ensure that the people who receive the message really understand what is being said, and why.  

Assertiveness is different from aggressiveness.  An aggressive person would attempt to literally run roughshod over any other person, dominate him or her, and show no mercy for emotions or feelings of the other person.  Such a person would exhibit an "only me" behavior at any point in time.  He or she would never care about the impact his or her behavior would have on others.  

Aggressive persons tend to have behaviors that closely resemble those commonly found in Indian cinema.  For example, there are heroes or villains who try to tell the heroine that she should "compulsorily" love them.  This sort of aggressive behavior is really damaging as it conveys very wrong messages.

Assertiveness is the opposite of aggressiveness.  In fact, many experts feel that assertiveness is the first step towards empowerment.  The former is a step that re assures the individual some amount of freedom and rights, within limits, in any given situation.  It is becoming very clear that unless assertiveness is put into action, modern organizations will not progress.

In the IT industry, for example, the entire behaviors of people, at various levels, would reflect assertiveness as a way of life.  Even in the manufacturing organizations, a big movement is going on, to give employees the right kind of training on assertiveness.

As already stated, at the society level, we need to be very vigilant to take assertiveness to the next level.  As people, we have all the power.  Any social action, like blocking of roads or even trains, has to be seen as a signal that the society is being more assertive, and not aggressive.  In fact, social action is a vital aspect of modern life, which should in fact, be encouraged more than ever before.

The need for assertiveness is more acutely felt even in homes, where the younger generation are rapidly catching on to the idea. Parents need to understand the ramifications of the new kind of assertiveness, even in matters of career choices or in maters of the methods of study, exploring one's natural talent and so on.  

Well, today's wives, particularly those who are employed ( majority of them are), tend to be more assertive towards their husbands.  The role reversal is already in place.  Household chores are no more the exclusive preserve of women.

Such are the changes all around us.  So, let us all understand the basics of assertiveness and take to it, for our own sake and for that of the larger society.  We just do not have any choice. 

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