If you’re in social work or thinking about it, assertiveness is a trait that will help you enormously. While there is some uncomfortableness with the word in society, confident assertiveness is a good thing for your career. Moreover, it will help you empower the people you serve.
If you’re just starting out in your career, an online MSW program like the one offered by Spalding University can provide you the confidence to be assertive about your work. The more confident you feel about what you know, the better you can advocate for yourself and others.
So, let’s explore the idea of assertiveness. For starters, what does it mean, really? Assertiveness is the ability to confidently and directly express your needs and ideas while being respectful of the rights and boundaries of others. Being assertive in a social work career is essential to your professional growth. It doesn’t mean being rude or aggressive. It simply means expressing your needs and feelings directly instead of passively backing away from conflict or hiding behind passivity.
Why being assertive is essential for your social work career
Assertiveness shows that you’re open, direct and confident, which is essential for your clients and coworkers to trust you as a professional. It demonstrates that you can stand up for yourself (and them) without being aggressive or passive-aggressive. It also demonstrates your ability to listen to others while maintaining boundaries. Not being assertive can indicate a lack of confidence and openness, which can negatively affect your job performance and client relationships.
Why assertiveness is vital for the people you serve
Being assertive is essential if you want to help your clients. For one, it enables you to model behavior for your clients. In turn, it motivates them to feel more confident in themselves and their choices. Most importantly, it can help them find their voices to make the changes they need in their lives. If you can’t be decisive in your social work career, you may unintentionally take away your client’s autonomy and choice. Your passivity may prevent your clients from growing and feeling confident in their abilities. Therefore, assertiveness is vital to a career in social work.
Here are five motivational techniques to help you be more assertive in your line of work.
1. Ensure you have the right attitude
Perspective and the right attitude are the first step to assertiveness in a social work career. Many people think of assertiveness as aggressive or rude. It’s not. Instead, it’s vital to remember that it’s about openness, confidence and clarity about what you want. For example, if you feel timid, anxious or hesitant to speak up, you should work to overcome it. Anxiety is like a shield that keeps you from being open and confident. Accepting that you have the right to speak and have your needs met is essential. It’s not being “too pushy.” It’s just being assertive.
2. Know your boundaries
One of the most common reasons people aren’t assertive is they don’t know their boundaries. What are your limits, and what are your non-negotiable needs? Circumstances will constantly push you past your limits if you don’t know your boundaries. An example might be, “I can’t work past 3 pm on Wednesdays because that’s my class time.” It’s crucial to speak-up in such a situation. Be sure to let your supervisors know what you need to be effective at work. You have the right to do this, and by being assertive, you’re demonstrating you can advocate for yourself and others.
3. Communicate directly to ensure clarity for everyone
Many people sweep their frustrations under the rug, but this only causes resentment and poor communication. For example, a social worker afraid of being assertive will likely make mistakes or burn out too quickly. You have the right to speak up if something makes you uncomfortable. You can say, “I feel uncomfortable with the direction of this case.” Speaking up and developing good communication skills are vital for any job. And that’s especially true in the case of a thriving career in social work.
4. Empower others to also be assertive
You’ll be more effective and happier in your job if you empower others to be more assertive. Moreover, this is especially true for your client work. Let’s say you have a client who’s frustrated at constantly getting interrupted. Of course, you don’t want to make them feel bad, but you want to empower them. Perhaps you can suggest that they communicate with the person who interrupts them to allow them to speak fully. In reality, people who use social work services often need skills to empower themselves, and confidently advocating and speaking for themselves is vital.
5. Network and build relationships for mutual benefit
Another way to be more assertive in your social work career is to build relationships with others in your field. Doing so helps you grow your network of contacts and allows you to become more assertive in your career. When you meet new people, don’t focus on what you want from them. Instead, focus on what you want to give them. Your focus should be, “How can I help this person?” rather than “How can this person help me?” When you approach your relationships this way, you’ll empower yourself. By helping others, you increase your confidence.
Assertiveness is a positive trait
In conclusion, assertiveness isn’t aggressive or rude. Moreover, it’s essential for your social work career. Remember, assertiveness simply means expressing your needs and feelings directly and proactively. Following the above techniques will make you feel more confident when dealing with coworkers and clients and embolden your social work career.
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