This investigation aims to evaluate the usefulness of being assertive in different situations. Assertiveness is the characteristic of being confident and self-assured in a non-aggressive way. By researching the topic, the investigation will benefit individuals who wish to improve their communication and social skills, as it accesses the appropriateness of applying the quality assertiveness in various scenarios. In order to investigate the topic, the research question of “Is assertiveness a useful personality trait?” is proposed.
The investigation will be conducted using a qualitative design, as such research design allows the collection of in-depth subjective quantitative data of the topic. The method of the focus group will be implemented. After separating the participants into two focus groups, each group will be asked to discuss the question “outline some situations or examples where being assertive is useful. Are there situations where being assertive may be disadvantageous?” Members of the groups were encouraged to contribute to the discussion by describing the experience and expressing personal insights. A mediator will be allocated to keep the conversation going, and a scribe will be present to record the responses. The sample of this investigation consists of twenty-five year 12 students from a suburban high school in Adelaide.
A content analysis will be utilised to collect data produced by the focus group. A content analysis identifies the core themes based on commonalities in data. A table will be established to demonstrate core themes with a frequency value, sorting the verbal responses into quantitative data that allows systematic interpretation. Finally, frequencies of core themes will be converted into a percentage value displayed in a pie graph for visual comparison. If the pie graph demonstrates that the advantageous core themes are considerably higher than the disadvantageous core theme, the research question will be supported.
Core Themes Example Frequency
– In the workplace Asking for a pay rise 22
– In the position of power Team captains 87
– Co-curricular Sports 21
– Social situations Stating one’s feeling 38
– In compromising situations Resolving conflicts 21
– Group activities Organising events 16
– In social situations When talking with friends 107
– In the workplace Being too authoritative 6
– Personal attributes Being in a relationship 25
– In sensitive situations Being robbed 29
– Total: 167
Figure 1: Frequency of core themes
Figure 2: Frequency counts of core themes in a percentage value
Assertiveness is a fundamental communication skill that allows individuals to express oneself openly in a confident and non-aggressive manner. Over the last 10 to 15 years, there has been a growing interest in achieving personal development through assertiveness training in public. However, with such popularity, the usefulness of such characteristic in different kinds of situations is yet to be determined. Therefore, this investigation aimed to answer the question of “is assertiveness a useful personality trait?”
The research question was explored using the qualitative research design of the focus group, as it allowed the collection of in-depth subjective data. The sample of twenty-five Year 12 students were separated into two focus groups. Members in each group were asked to participate in a discussion regarding assertiveness. While participants were providing personal insight into the topic, a mediator and a scribe were present, respectively leading the discussion and recording all the responses.
After obtaining raw verbal responses, a content analysis was used to identify core themes in the gathered data. After constructing a table that represents each core theme with a frequency count, it was converted into a percentage value displayed in a pie graph, which allowed easy comparison. The results demonstrated significantly higher frequncy counts of advantageous core themes than those of disadvantageous core themes, indicating that assertiveness is a useful personality trait.
The results indicated assertive behaviour has more advantages than disadvantages, supporting the research question that assertiveness is a useful personality trait. Figure 1 demonstrates the core themes of the focus group discussion with a frequency count. As advantageous core themes have a total frequency counts of 205, it exceeds total disadvantageous counts of 167. With 38 frequency counts of difference, it suggests assertiveness is more advantageous than disadvantageous. Figure 2 shows that out of all core traits of assertive behaviour, 54% of them are advantageous, whereas only 46% are disadvantageous. Although the 9 % difference is not substantial, it does demonstrate having assertiveness as a personality trait is useful, supporting the research question.
Figure 2 demonstrates the most prevalent advantageous core theme is “Position of Power”. The core theme consists 23% of the results, which equated over one-fifth of all participants’ responses, suggesting one in five people believe being assertive in authoritative positions such as police officer is useful and advantageous. The second significant advantageous core theme is “Social Situations” with 10% of the participants agreeing on the viewpoint. It indicates about one in ten people consider assertive behaviour can benefit individuals on various social occasions and activities. Core themes “Workplace”, “Co-curricular”, and “Compromising situations” all respectively attributes 6% of the results, demonstrating approximately one in 16 people regard being assertive is an advantage in those situations. Lastly, the least represented core theme is “Group Activities”. With the attribution of only 4%, it suggests one in twenty-five people believe assertiveness is a useful trait when performing collective or cooperative activities.
Further analysis suggests as the most significant disadvantageous core theme “Social Situations”, 29% of responses, which is equivalent to nearly one-third of people, believe being assertive in social situations is disadvantageous. It is the most prevalent core theme in all results. The core theme of “Sensitive Situations” attributes 8 % of the responses, followed by the core theme”Personal Attributes” with 7%. The least frequent disadvantageous core theme “Workplace” only attributes 1% of data, suggesting one in a hundred people consider assertiveness as a negative trait in the workplace.
By analysing data, it can be concluded that being assertive is more advantageous than disadvantageous. Therefore, individuals should be more assertive in the majority of the situations as it is more useful and beneficial.
The sample of twenty-five Year 12 students are considered highly limited, the conclusion drawn using this sample can’t be generalised to the whole target population. As all the 25 participants are aged 17-18 years old teenagers who go to the same suburban Adelaide high school, the extremely limited sample size and lack of diversity suggest it is not an accurate representation of the target population, reducing its external validity. With the age of the sample group limited from 17 to 18 years old, it could produce biased results. As most teenagers lack social experiences and inferior interpersonal skills compare to adults, which consist the majority of the population, they may act and think less assertively, therefore, skew the responses. Furthermore, since the sample consists mostly of females, the disproportionate gender ratio may impact the results, as female genders tend to behave less assertive than male. To improve the external validity and reduce bias, it is suggested to expand the sample size. Additionally, random sampling should be applied in the target population to ensure equal representation of age, gender and cultural diversity, making the sample more representative of the target population.
Several strengths are found when evaluating the research procedure. Firstly, the use of focus group discussion produced in-depth data regarding the advantages and disadvantages of assertiveness. Not only the participants were able to share insights that were not initially considered by the researcher, but group members could expand on the ideas of others as well, improving the richness of data. Also, as focus groups are inexpensive and easy to organise, the investigation procedure can be easily replicated by other researchers, increasing the reliability of data. Furthermore, three focus groups with 8-10 people in each group were conducted under the same condition. The consistent and similar results produced by the groups indicated the reliability of data to a considerable extent. Lastly, the use of content analysis converted language rich responses into subjective quantitative data, it allows easy and systematic interpretation of the results.
The investigation has multiple weaknesses, which decreased the validity and the reliability. Subjective data were gathered through focus group discussion. Although it provides more in-depth knowledge of the advantages and disadvantages of assertiveness, results are completely based on participants personal experiences and opinions. With no way to directly verify them, the responses are not factual, and their accuracy and validity are not guaranteed.
In a focus group, some participants may not feel comfortable sharing particular experiences or opinions in front of other people. This could lead to a reduced number of responses, decreasing the richness of data. One major issue with the use of a focus group is that the discussion could be dominated by the more extroverted and outspoken members. The presence of outspoken participants may cause the opinions of other participants ignored or omitted. Furthermore, due to social desirability, participants with low self-esteem may mirror the dominated viewpoints within the group to avoid judgement. As a result, participants might alter their own responses or perceptions of the question in order to conform to the group norm. The dishonest answers could reduce the validity of data. It is suggested to improve the validity and the richness of data in future investigations, a more-experienced facilitator should be allocated to ensure the equal chance of contribution and encourage every group member to communicate about their ideas freely.
Several ethical guidelines were breached in this investigation. The safeguard of Voluntary Participation was compromised, as the participants were informed that their grade would be negatively affected if they chose not to join the focus group, making the participation compulsory. The researcher adhered to the ethical guideline of Informed Consent. All participants were provided with a consent form which stated the nature and the procedure of the research prior to agreeing to participate. Although participants were supposed to retreat from the discussion if they wanted to, The Right to Withdraw was breached due to social desirability. Fearing that they would be judged by the teacher and the peers, participants may have conformed to the group norm and kept participating even they wanted to withdraw. Additionally, the safeguard of Confidentiality was compromised. Every participant were provided with a three-digit identification code for anonymity. However, the codes were not given out privately, instead they were read out in the classroom so that people could identify who the code belonged to, jeopardising the right of confidentiality of every participant. Furthermore, the guideline of Debriefing was breached, as the participants didn’t receive an opportunity to be informed of the purpose of the investigation.
It is concluded that there are more situations that being assertive is advantageous than situations it serves as a disadvantageous characteristic, thus supporting the research question that assertiveness is a useful personality trait. As the sample group is small and unrepresentative, the conclusion drawn from this sample cannot be generalised to the entire population. This investigation is beneficial to people who intend to utilise assertive behaviour on occasions such as in the position of power, in the workplace, as well as in various social situations