Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

STRIKING the perfect balance in communication is important for everyone’s social skills development. Author Steph Vermeulen says assertiveness is often mistaken for overconfidence, but the two are very different things.

"Assertiveness comes from our authentic self. And overconfidence is something that we can act."

She says people who are overconfident are probably putting on an act to overcompensate for an insecurity, which can also come across as being arrogant.

"Assertiveness is really important in the development of healthy relationships because assertiveness is about boundaries and if we want to have any form of healthy relationship it requires boundaries," she says.

The ability to be assertive means learning to say no to things you do not want to do. This in turn will reduce your stress levels. Vermeulen says the most stressed people are those who cannot say no and end up taking on more than they want to. Resentment and anger eventually creep in and this shows up in tantrums and losing your temper.

This is why it is important in your relationships with people to create boundaries, says Vermeulen. "One of the things that alerts us to a boundary issue is irritation … The moment you start getting irritated notice it, because it’s a message from your system."

Being assertive does not mean being rude and "belligerently" saying no, it’s a process of negotiation, Vermeulen says. "…If we get into a negotiation we can often come to a solution that neither one of us has thought about before." The problem is that many people avoid conflict and will do anything to avoid creating conflict — something which is likely to arise from being assertive.

Overconfidence and arrogance make people overly aggressive, rather than assertive. Arrogance comes from insecurity that makes people act more powerful than they really are, says Vermeulen. "People don’t learn to negotiate. We grow up seeing people manipulate one another, not negotiating. Most corporate politics is just straight manipulation and that’s when overconfidence can come in."

Vermeulen tells Masterclass how to be assertive, rather than overconfident in the workplace and explains how soft-spoken people can also learn to be assertive.


Masterclass airs on Business Day TV channel 412