Contemporary Hygienists – the importance of being assertive

Establishing the hygiene department as a practice cornerstone

How assertive are you? This month Claire Berry and Faye Donald discuss the benefits of developing an assertive communication style as a hygienist. 

Our first study club kick started with a mindset topic and we focussed our attention on assertiveness.

Why? Because assertive people get ahead, are found to be less stressed/anxious and are happier.

Being assertive allows you to do things like tell other people what you think (respectfully), say no when you have been met with an unjustified demand, request the resources you need to do your role and, most importantly, value yourself and your time.

We realise that being assertive isn’t easy. Especially for someone who is not like that by nature.

However, everything can be learned, so we decided to help our members work on developing a more assertive personality.

At Contemporary Hygienist HQ, we also appreciate the need to be assertive as a profession, to be able to push forward the way we know we can.

What is assertiveness?

In short, it is the quality of being self-assured and confident without being aggressive.

In the field of psychology, it is a learnable skill and a mode of communication. Psychologists recognise that we can build on this particular communication style.

Assertiveness is defined as the ‘ability to declare and express ones owns opinion and to defend it by any means necessary, without dominating, humiliating or degrading others while doing it’.

To make the change to being more assertive, we need to start by identifying all the basic types of behaviour used in interaction with others:

  • Aggressive
  • Passive
  • Assertive.

Aggressive communication style

Someone who exerts this communication style expresses thoughts, feelings and beliefs, but in a way that seemingly ‘threatens’ another person.

A subconscious goal of the aggression may be to establish control over a situation, or to demonstrate power or dominate.

Their communication is usually along the lines of:

  • ‘This is how I think – you’re wrong if you think differently’
  • ‘I want this – what you want is irrelevant’
  • ‘This is how I feel – your feelings are not important’.

Passive communication style

People who exude this communication style may have a weakness in setting boundaries. Their goal is to avoid conflict at any cost.

The passive person avoids discussion, does not express their opinion confidently and apologises for everything.

The conscious (and often subconscious) communication message of a passive personality type may be:

  • ‘My feelings are not important, only yours’
  • ‘What I think is irrelevant – you are the only one worth listening to’
  • ‘I am nobody important – you are superior’.

Assertive communication style

This person knows how to interact with others!

They respect everybody’s opinion as well as respecting themselves. They protect their energy and they expect this same treatment from others.

The assertive person speaks directly and clearly, never running away from expressing their feelings.

They know how to control their emotions, how to avoid or deal with stress. They believe in the possibility of resolving conflict in a calm manner.

In addition, they are not afraid of articulating their disagreement and display a confidence in themselves. They understand avoiding an aggressive or passive style, and behaving more assertively is much more constructive.

What are the benefits of the assertive behaviour?

  • Increased self-confidence
  • Better self-control (no impulse response)
  • Healthier relationship with others
  • More productivity
  • Greater success in achieving goals
  • Increased level of satisfaction with yourself
  • Personal growth.

How assertive are you?

So now you know the personality styles…how assertive are you?

If you want to be more assertive, try to be as direct, honest and as open as possible with how you feel, what you think and what you want.

It is sometimes necessary to learn to say ‘no’ to unjustified demands that others might put in front of you. If someone has the right to ask something of you, you have the right to say no if you want to.

An assertive person aims to avoid conflict, but is aware the characteristic of a healthy relationship in or out of work. It’s not the complete absence of conflict.

What can actually distort the quality of a relationship is unresolved conflicts and inadequate methods of conflict resolution.

Let’s bring this back to the Contemporary Hygienist. Why learn how to develop your assertive communication style?

A sense of personal value is crucial for assertive behaviour. This is because that is what gives you an understanding that we deserve what is ours. With that attitude, we will assertively fight for it.

We believe, in order to be happy at work and with the treatment you carry out, you need to be given the space, time and resources to be able to deliver your best work.

An assertive attitude is more likely to get you these things and improve your work life. And in order for the profession to keep moving forward, we must also stand assertively as a collective.

Read previous Contemporary Hygienist columns:

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