Non-assertiveness refers to the state of mind where an individual experiences conflict in the mind (the individual is bothered, upset, uncomfortable with the given situation) but chooses not to show any reaction to it. This reaction is evident when the opinions expressed or the emotional reaction of a person is indirect and difficult to identify because it lacks any form of external manifestation.
This reaction finds application in most instances of my individual life because I often find myself listening and executing the needs of other people without giving my personal opinions or thoughts. In most cases, I would agree to do task requested before I express my personal feelings of whether or not the task should be done or not (Goodboy & McCroskey, 2007).
The non-assertive reaction is however only expressed in situations in which I am the least in rank, size monetary capacity or social status. I tend to be more assertive when in the company of peers or other people who are my juniors, this is unfortunately not always the case because I rarely find this company as often as I find the “seniors” company. Given a task within the context where I am the least, I take it up without questioning.
This always helps to avert the notion that I may be insolent or disobedient to the seniors; I may also be unwilling to provide meaningful alternative solutions or insights to a problem; this however shall depend largely on how my opinion or personal ideas will be perceived. Such a reaction has significantly assisted me in demonstrating total submission and respect to authority and hierarchy (Papa & Daniels, 2008).
Research in human behavior and psychology has shown that non assertive individuals are often taken advantage of by colleagues or peers who capitalize on this trait. This often portrays them as being helpless. They tend to give in to the demands of everyone and are easily swayed taking their opinion to be of least importance.
Because a majority sees them as indecisive, they are usually given unrealistic demands and because they cannot speak for themselves, they end up becoming the silent victims of oppression. The body language of a non assertive individual may be characterized by the absence of direct eye contact while being addressed or the general feeling of inferiority complex and unease; their speeches will always be punctuated by hesitation and a clear absence of self confidence ( Wolpe,1958).
Studies carried out on the reasons for the emergence of this trait reveal that, passivity may be due to character formation and behavior inherited from childbirth or circumstances surrounding the growth and development of a person from the time when they are small children. People who were born in environments characterized by suppression may often end up becoming non assertive with no self confidence.
My own non assertive character may be traced to a childhood incident when my toy was taken away by a certain village bully; my efforts to reclaim it were thwarted by colleagues who advised me otherwise telling me that the bully would be most dangerous if I provoked him with my demands for the toy.
This personal childhood experience made me appreciate the virtue of passivity. Sometimes it is helpful to be non assertive and this should not always be regarded as an act of cowardice, non assertiveness may in certain situations be the only sober way to avoid conflict.
Aggression and exchange of words may certainly end up being the physical exchange of blows. Under some circumstances, non assertiveness and non aggression may help bring out the individual trait of selflessness and individual subordination for the good of the organization.
One shelves their personal or self interests or ideologies and perpetuates the common ideology of the organization. One serious danger of this trait however is the cumulative build up of resentment and dissatisfaction; the moment the patience of a non assertive person runs out an unpleasant volcanic eruption of emotion may be very undesirable (McCroskey & McCroskey, 2005).
Goodboy, A. & McCroskey, J. (2007), Human communication . NY: Sage Foundation.
McCroskey, L. & McCroskey, C. J. (2005). Applying organizational orientations theory to employees of profit and non-profit organizations. Communication and mass media complete, vol 53, p. 21-40.
Papa, J. M. and Daniels, D. (2008). Organizational Communication perspectives and trends. Los Angeles: Sage publications.
Wolpe, J. (1958) Psychotherapy by Reciprocal Inhibition. California: Stanford University Press.