The definition of assertiveness (as witnessed by me last week on the subway):
A woman hurries onto a subway car and slices between two well-dressed businessmen in order to get to a seat before the doors close. She fidgets with her bags, looks at her arm then asks one of the men, "Do you have the time?"
Man 1: It's about 5:10.
Woman (matter-of-factly): It can't be "about".
Man 2 (quickly): It's 5:17pm.
Woman: Thank you.
Like, wow. I sat there stunned. And by the looks on the mens' faces, they had no idea what just hit them either.
That moment gave me an Assertiveness Wake-Up Call for I'm quite sure that I, as well as most other women, would have accepted the first man's response (and thanked him for it!). I would have preferred the second man's response but would not have dared demand it. Is it because they are men? Is it because they were businessmen? As i think on those two questions, i'd answer no to both. I think it's simply a matter of women not being taught to be assertive like that. I'd have accepted that response from anyone.
A couple weeks ago, I attended a seminar and one of the subjects was How To Be Assertive Without Being Pushy. The speaker (a female) talked at length about the differences in the way men and women communicate in positions of power. We found that women are more likely to passively ask for things that should be demanded (i.e. "When you get a minute, would you mind printing that cost report for me?" as opposed to "Please print the cost report before the end of the day") Of course, i'm generalizing and not all women are shrinking violets...at least not as adults. And i can't help but wonder how the assertive ones got that way. Were they taught as young girls or was it learned life experience?
For me, i'm assertive in situations that seem to clearly call for it. But it's definitely not knee-jerk. Its something i have to consciously remind myself of. On some "ok if you really want this or if you don't like this you must speak up or else". And the only reason why is because i've had situations where i've missed out on opportunities or was taken advantage of because i kept quiet or didn't ask the right questions or didn't make myself visible enough, etc.
I'm sure there are many men who are not assertive as well...maybe it's just not as noticeable because men seem to garner a certain amount of respect and attention just from being male. But yeah, ladies. We need to step our game up. Cuz as you can see, sometimes all it takes is a few well-placed words and a confident attitude.