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Assertiveness - Just how nice are you?

Aug 17, 2007
It is important for you to define where you find your behaviour beneficial and where you find it a liability. See where you fit into the wide spectrum of our definition of nice behaviour.

Below is a list of some of the things that adaptive people do. It will help you identify for yourself the areas where you find it difficult to be anything but accommodating and the areas where you feel you are in balance and have a say in the outcome of the transaction.

This is a chance for you to self-assess the degree to which you modify your natural inclinations and to identify some of the feelings you get when you do modify your behaviour when you don't want to. We can't stress forcefully enough that none of the behaviours listed below are right or wrong. Only if you recognise it as a liability is it one.

For instance, avoiding conflict at any cost might be perfectly all right for some people and never cause them any problems at all. While for others, avoiding conflict means they never get to disagree, never get to stand up for themselves, never have the experience of achieving a successful conclusion to a confrontation and then they end up feeling bad.

We are often too hasty to put a judgement on our actions: this is good or that is bad. If you personally identify something as a problem then it is a problem for you. It may not be a problem for someone else. Therefore, to declare that all overly nice behaviour is wrong would be a mistake on our part.

This quiz is for you to determine where you have difficulties and what you can do to alleviate them. It is not to make a whole new set of rules about the correct way to run your lives!

Here are our self-assessment questions.

Mark each question

1 for Never
2 for Occasionally
3 for Often
4 for Always

Do you:

Apologise even when you haven't done anything wrong?

Ask for permission when getting permission is unnecessary? For instance: "Is it OK if I make a cup of tea?"

Worry about what other people think, even if you don't even know them?

Find it impossible to say no?

Smile when you are giving or receiving bad news?

Believe people don't want to hear what you have to say?

Ask redundant questions such as: "Can I ask a question?" or "Would it be all right if...?"

Agree to things because they're expected of you?

Go on holidays you don't want because everyone else wants to go there?

Lend money and then are unable to ask for it back?

Have friends that overstay their welcome?

Seek confirmation when you make a suggestion. For example: "Is that all right with you?"

Get asked to stay late at work or do work nobody else wants to do?

Find it impossible to take the initiative at meetings?

Find yourself saying "Whatever you want to do is fine with me" when someone asks you what you want to do?

Wait to be offered a raise instead of asking for one?

Eat food you don't like rather than send it back?

Put up with unwanted noise rather than ask someone to stop using their mobile phone, personal stereo, etc.?

Feel you're not allowed to have an off day?

Evaluating your responses:


If most of your answers are 1s and 2s ( Never or Occasionally), then you probably are a good judge of the appropriate behaviour for the appropriate situation. You may sometimes do things you'd rather not or mentally kick yourself for altering your behaviour when you wish you hadn't.

But in general, your life probably works the way you'd like it to. You're not afraid of being disliked because you know it's impossible for everyone to like everyone and therefore it is unlikely you feel compelled to alter your behaviour to make others happy.

You are well integrated, which means that your inner and outer worlds match. You don't edit your thoughts and actions to such a degree that you diminish yourself. It would be useful for you to fine-tune those few uncomfortable areas of your life you'd like to be more in charge of.


If most of your answers are 2s and 3s (Occasionally and Often) then there are most likely some areas in your life that don't work as well as you'd like and where things feel like they are in someone else's control.

For you, niceness doesn't rule your life, but it exerts a fairly strong influence on it and you'd like to be able to readjust those parts of it that are stopping you feeling truly comfortable with yourself.

You may feel that your life is made up of contradictions: at times you have no problems sticking up for yourself, getting what you want, going against the status quo and feeling comfortable doing so; and then there will be other times when you buckle under, feel paralysed to do anything and/or get angry without voicing your feelings.

Since you know there are times when you can affect the outcome of tricky situations in your favour and other times when you seem completely powerless to change anything, it will be the contradictions which are most puzzling.


If most of your answers are 3s and 4s (Often and Always), then you already know how serious this is for you. You know you feel compromised and let down a lot of the time.

Your head says "No" but your mouth says "Yes". You're afraid of offending and you continually adapt your behaviour to what you think other people want. You are probably a people-pleaser because you fear that not pleasing could somehow land you in a great deal of trouble.

You play the game of life by rules you've made up. Not only that, you really do believe these rules are in other people's control. You feel bad a lot of the time: uneasy, unsure, anxious, frustrated and worried.

And then you think you ought not to feel bad; that's it's silly or pathetic and that you ought to pull yourself together. Your level of compassion for yourself is often nil and you imagine other people think you're pathetic as well.

Time to get some help.
About the Author
Jo Ellen and Robin run Impact Factory a training company who provide Assertiveness Training, Public Speaking, Presentation Skills, Communications Training, Leadership Development and Executive Coaching for Individuals.
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