Assertiveness Expectancies: How Hard People Push Depends on the Consequences They Predict

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Abstract

The present article seeks to explain varying levels of assertiveness in interpersonal conflict and negotiations with assertiveness expectancies, idiosyncratic predictions people make about the social and instrumental consequences of assertive behavior. This account complements motivation-based models of assertiveness and competitiveness, suggesting that individuals may possess the same social values (e.g., concern for relationships) but show dramatically different assertiveness due to different assumptions about behavioral consequences. Results clarify the form of assertiveness expectancies, namely that most people assume increasing assertiveness can yield positive social and instrumental benefits up to a point, beyond which benefits decline. However, people vary in how assertive this perceived optimal point is. These individual differences in expectancies are linked in 4 studies to assertiveness, including self-reported assertiveness, rated behavioral preferences in assorted interpersonal conflict scenarios, partner ratings of participants' behavior in a face-to-face dyadic negotiation, and work colleague ratings of participants' assertiveness in the workplace. In each case, the link between expectancies and behavior remained after controlling for values. The results suggest a place for expectancies alongside values in psychological models of interpersonal assertiveness.

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