Is assertion and assertive behaviour interpreted differently for men and women?
Yes it is. And, from my experience, it has been so for a long time.
In fact, well before I stepped into my work of sharing voice strategies and insights with people in business and professional contexts.
Assertiveness in men is appreciated and praised. Labels attached to assertive men are ‘strong’, ‘capable’, ‘direct’, ‘having leadership qualities’.
Assertiveness in women draws critique. The language used is negative, damning, destructive and derogatory. Think ‘mean’, ‘pushy’, ‘bitchy’, ‘aggressive’, ‘a slave-driver’ and similar.
One reason why these discrepancies exist is because men and women have been socialised differently. Since childhood, they have been encouraged to use particular behaviours which are deemed to be socially acceptable as masculine or feminine behaviours in adults.
It is important to keep in mind that in each culture and every country these social conventions differ. Sometimes slightly, sometimes significantly. In multi-faceted, multicultural Australia, people in business and the professions constantly come up against these variations.
No wonder we are sometimes confused, disappointed and angry with how others are behaving towards and responding to us.
The next time you are thrown by unexpected responses, pause for a moment and consider why this may be so.
Then, choose how you will explore the reply, address the behaviour and question the attitude that has presented itself to you.
Being assertive means that, no matter who you are and independent of gender, you are able to calmly, clearly and confidently hold the space in a conversation, share different views and arrive at a conclusion.