Writen by M'Hamed Cherif

Gentle assertiveness is founded on tolerance and respect for others. It entails the need for envisaging the possibility that others may have good reasons to see things differently. Truly assertive people are creative and accommodating, while aggressive people transgress the rights of others. Gentle assertive people assert their opinion, but they also recognise the importance of carefully listening to others. When confronted with assertive people, it is also important to remember that are good reasons not to be subdued and to let others push you over. These reasons can be summed up by 'you have your views, I have mine'. In any event, assertive behaviour denies others the monopoly of holding the truth without questioning, while permitting the free expression of your opinion with tolerance and constructive dialogue.

In her acclaimed book, entitled 'Mapping the Mind', Rita Carter draws on the latest in brain imaging to give extraordinary insights into how the brain works. I vividly remember a shocking point made by the author who asserts that reality is a construction of our mind. She says, "There is no definitive picture of 'out there', only a construction in our heads triggered by the external elements we are best equipped to register". So, an individual's perceptions, views and thoughts are formed by their genes and by how their brain has been modelled by experience. People have elaborate recognition systems to identify, imagine and name things.

Our relationships with things, even quite simple things, are multifaceted and subjective. Each facet of a memory of a thing may be stored in a separate, appropriate area of the brain. Recognition of that thing rolls off the end of a long and complex assembly line. So, what you have in mind is not a faithful reflection of the outside world, but rather a unique construction of you own mind. In other words, your conscious imagining of a thing is probably different my own view of that same thing. For concepts, ideas and thoughts, these have most probably different meanings for different people. Hence, some humility is in order in accepting differences of views. In turn, you have the right to expect others to recognise the legitimacy of varying views. In general, such a state of mind is conducive to enhanced assertiveness, as you find it natural to have own views.

The illusions of thought and prejudices that pollute our unconsciousness are yet another reason why you should expect others to respect your right to have own views. Our brains hold pre-programmed theories about the world. They are to some extent hard-wired into our brains. They have been engraved in our brains because they had served some useful purpose. So, these prejudices help us deal quickly and practically with complex challenges. If your throw a dice six times, the probability that you get six times the same face is the same as any other combination of faces. Yet, you choose 'six times one' for your bet? I really doubt it ! These prejudices are like sensory illusions, like a knee jerk. Our essential prejudices are created by the layout of our brain, the bulk of it laid down during our lifetime, bearing the fingerprints of our own experience. You ought to keep in mind that the views of the other person reflect to a large extent their past. An assertive person is usually conscious of this relationship between own views and own heritage.

Sarah and M'Hamed CHERIF are part of the Cutesolutions' team. Cutesolutions is a Belgium-based provider of innovative training (i.e. e-learning & CBT) on personal development and business management. Available online courses cover assertiveness, leadership, communication, speaking with impact, creativity, project management and other topics. For further information, please contact us at:

30, rue Josse IMPENS
1030 Brussels - Belgium
Tel. +32-2-2155157 Fax +32-2-2156416
http://cute4u.net:8082 or http://www.cute4u.net


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