This very important EI factor is defined as our ability to effectively and constructively express our feelings and ourselves in general, which is based on effective self-awareness. This is the ability to express feelings, beliefs and thoughts as well as our ability to defend our rights in a nondestructive manner. This is based on self-confidence, straightforwardness and boldness. Assertiveness, or “emotional-self expression” as it is often referred to, is thus composed of three key elements:
(i) the ability to express our feelings on an emotional level;
(ii) the ability to express our beliefs and opinions on a cognitive level; and
(iii) the ability to be stand up for our rights and not to allow others to bother us or take advantage of us.
Assertiveness powers decisiveness. As such, this is an important characteristic for leaders, needed in making decisions with resolve and authority.
Assertive people are not overly controlled, shy or submissive, and they are able to express their feelings, often directly, without being aggressive, abusive or destructive. They are able to get their point across without creating disruptive disturbances while interacting with others. Additionally, these people are often guided by their principles, are bold and cable of affirming themselves. These are all important qualities for managers and leaders.
Emotional self-expression (assertiveness) and emotional self-awareness are two the most important factorial components of emotional-social intelligence and strategically important for all conceptual and psychometric models of this construct. Assertiveness, as it relates to the expression of emotions, was first scientifically studied by Charles Darwin from 1837 until 1872; and he authored the first publication (Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals) in 1872 that describes this EI factor and its vital importance for survival and adaptation among human beings as well as animals. Based on fairly recent research findings, moreover, an important part of assertiveness depends on one’s ability to understand emotions which makes sense. Simply put, how can we effectively express our feelings if we are unaware of what we want to express? Additional findings suggest the possibility that those suffering from anxiety-related neurotic disorders may have difficulty in more freely expressing their feelings, perhaps because they feel ashamed of doing so or are fearful of the reaction and possibly rejection that they will face from others if they do. A high correlation between the EQ-i™ Assertiveness scale and measures of depression suggests that depressed people may find it difficult to mobilize the emotional energy required to be assertive and express themselves openly. Additional findings suggest that some individuals who lack assertiveness may even run the risk of converting these deficiencies in self-expression into psychosomatic disturbances.
It is also recommended to look at one’s Assertiveness score in addition to the Emotional Self-Awareness score on the EQ-i™, in order to help asses one’s ability to benefit from counseling, coaching and other forms of intervention such psychotherapy.