What does it mean to be assertive? A basic definition describes being "assertive" as "having or showing a confident and forceful personality."

Oh my, "forceful?" That word itself has a somewhat negative connotation, depending on how you were raised. However, it depends on what we mean by it, of course.

Although I wasn't told as much, the message that was imparted to me growing up, at home and in the world-at-large, was to be "nice." Now, to be fair I like being "nice." Being mean is not something I aspire to be--ever. However, this concept can be taken too far to the point where you begin to live life in a passive manner. You don't feel comfortable speaking up about what you want and what you will and won't tolerate. If it goes too far, you may start to forget what it is you even want in the first place.

Of course, this can be taken to the other extreme--"aggression." We've all been around people who have taken on the role of "aggressor." Usually, these aren't people we enjoy being around for too long or very often.

Thankfully, though, assertiveness offers us a balance. Think of it as the "middle ground." When you're assertive it means you are comfortable with the notion of speaking your mind, calmly, and asserting your rights and standing up for justice. It does NOT mean you tromp around alienating those around you or belittling your boss. That's not going to go well for you. It offers a way of staying in control of the situation and, with a clear, decisive mind, making choices about the actions you take in your life that are in your best interest--but not at the expense of others.

Looking for some practical scenarios that might help you practice assertiveness? You may find this list helpful.