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Forgotten soft skills: Episode 3/3

To be assertive is to dare to be yourself! To be assertive is also to gain more and more self-respect, to respect others and to be respected.”
-Sylvie Grivel, author of the book “Être soi dans ses relations”

We are already at the end of our series on forgotten soft skills. Our goal was obviously to offer you a broader vision & to show you that soft skills are everywhere, even where we don’t expect them! Often we don’t take the time to discover our strengths & areas for improvement, even though we are all rich in soft skills! We hope that you will become aces of equanimity, humility and with today’s episode of assertiveness!

Back to the point: be assertive! Yes but how? What is it exactly? Assertiveness has found its place in the corporate world for a few years now, without the average person understanding its definition. A rather aggressive-sounding word with a mysterious definition, assertiveness has not yet been accepted by the French Academy… It is not easy to understand how to use it in everyday life!

Nevertheless, it has a common acceptance:
The ability to express one’s feelings and assert one’s rights, while respecting the feelings and rights of others.
So to do a little etymology & better understand its meaning, this soft skill comes from the English word “assertiveness”, made up from the verb “to assert”: to assert, assert oneself, defend one’s rights, defend one’s opinion.
Today we are going to learn how to tame ourselves, express ourselves & understand what assertive communication is.

What does “being assertive” mean?

A huge question! When many people like to call it self-confidence or assurance, it is ultimately two reductive attributes compared to the complexity of the subject. This concept was initiated in New York in the 20th century by the psychoanalyst Andrew Salter. Starting from Pavlov’s theories according to which a certain number of reflexes are pre-programmed, Salter deduced that certain psychic blockages could have as their origin these innate reflexes, which did not always allow us to behave according to our conscious desires. In other words, we censor ourselves because we have always been taught that such and such a thing is bad or would have an impact on the way people look at us. For example, not daring to ask, not daring to challenge, having difficulty giving or receiving feedback, not telling or not expressing to colleagues or managers the difficulties we encounter, not daring to say no… and the list is long!
The concept was then gradually introduced in France by a number of specialists, notably Dominique Chalvin and Eric Schuler, who have published on the subject. Dominique Chalvin translates it as follows:
“To be assertive is to be able to express one’s own personality without arousing the hostility of one’s environment, it is to know how to say “no” without feeling guilty, it is to have self-confidence and to know how to make difficult or unpopular decisions.”
Assertiveness today would translate as the ability to assert oneself freely, without disturbing emotions, in communication and behaviors, while respecting others. This is a good way to summarize the quality of our communication style, which is essential for management as well as for all other situations in our lives, whether personal or professional. To achieve maximum assertiveness, we must also take into account our emotions and control them so that in delicate situations, we are able to manage them & not create unnecessarily tense situations. Assertiveness pacifies communication and allows a person to be more authentic in his way of being.

Assertiveness or aggressiveness?
Often the two behaviors are confused. Because indeed defending one’s ideas & opinions can quickly turn into a fiasco if we don’t show equanimity! (the ultimate combo 😜).
Being assertive is not being aggressive. In fact, in aggressiveness there is a negative tendency, a harmful behavior that harms mutual respect. That is to say, where assertiveness implies respect for the other person, aggressiveness aims to hurt or harm. This is the key to differentiating the two concepts. Aggressiveness will create unnecessary tension. An anonymous quote tells us that assertiveness allows us to be :
“neither doormat nor hedgehog.”
That is to say, not to crush but also not to show the fangs (or spikes here) at every criticism, or every unexpected event. Moreover, those who are subjected to aggressive behavior will tend to avoid the aggressive individual, quite naturally. This is an attitude that has everything to lose in the long run, for a more sustainable strategy, we must think ASSERTIVITY!

How to develop your assertiveness?

✅ Having an honest look at ourselves: doing a self-critique, knowing our strengths & weaknesses to understand our functioning.

✅ Acceptance: accept the look of others, constructive feedbacks to bounce back & grow in our daily posture.

✅ Showing benevolence & empathy: in connection with the respect that assertiveness induces, we must know how to look at things fairly and without malice. Think about the other person, his frame of reference and adapt to his interlocutor.

✅ Dare to say NO: assert yourself, ask, make sure you are heard!

✅ Show authenticity: false pretenses stay in the locker room! Stay authentic, you will have more to gain from being real on a daily basis as much in business as in your personal life!

As you can see, being assertive can help you in your daily business life as well as personally. This soft skill, easy to qualify but difficult to put in place, helps to gain self-confidence and assertiveness. To summarize, assertiveness is: asserting oneself without aggressiveness, having the right distance and saying things while respecting the person in front of you.

Assertiveness is used to better integrate into the group, to make things evolve “in the interest and respect of oneself, but also of others”: it is the optimal way to assert oneself and to express one’s personality (reduction of conflicts… and stress.).”
-David Servan-Schreiber


  • RH infos (
  • Orange – Tripôle assertivite_global.htm (
  • Human resources management (Assertivity (