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Assertiveness:

Expressing your thoughts, feelings, and opinions and standing up for your rights is
important. You are your first and biggest supporter, so it's important that you speak up for
yourself.

Whether your behavior is unassertive (passive) or overassertive (aggressive), it is


possible to change. But it is also important to understand the difference between
expressing yourself in a self-confident manner (being assertive) and forcing your ideas on
others and intimidating them (being aggressive).

Making the Change

Assertion is not a trait that people are born with. It is something that is learned and
developed over time. It is also dependent upon the individual and situation - people react
differently to different situations. The same incident may cause one person to respond in
an aggressive manner, while someone else may be passive, while yet another person may
be assertive.

Even if you think that you are 'too passive' or 'too aggressive' and don't know how to be
assertive, chances are, you do respond assertively to at least some things in your life. For
example, you may feel comfortable speaking up when a cashier in a store gives you the
wrong change, but you may not say anything if a waiter in a restaurant brings your food
late or cold. The trick is to recognize those areas where you are assertive, identify your
skills, and apply them to other areas of your life.

Everyone can expand upon their assertiveness skills, no matter how limited they think
they are. You just need the desire to change your behavior and value yourself more. Ask
yourself these questions:

• Do I want to change my behavior?


• Do I believe in myself, as well as others?
• Am I willing to set reasonable goals and take reasonable risks?
• Am I open to new ideas?
• Can I accept the facts that things may not change overnight and not everything
will always go my way?
• Am I willing to make the effort, practice, and have patience while building my
new skills?

If your answers to the questions above are "Yes", then you are already on your way to
being a more assertive person

What is Assertiveness and why be Assertive?


TO ASSERT -- To state an opinion, claim a right, or establish authority. If you assert
yourself, you behave in a way that expresses your confidence, importance or power and
earns you respect from others. - From the Oxford English Dictionary

Assertiveness is standing up for your right to be treated fairly. It is expressing your


opinions, needs, and feelings, without ignoring or hurting the opinions, needs, and
feelings of others.

Because people want to be liked and thought of as 'nice' or 'easy to get along with', they
often keep their opinions to themselves, especially if those opinions conflict with other
people's. But this sometimes leads to being taken advantage of by people who are not as
nice or considerate. Asserting yourself will stop others from cheating you and you from
cheating yourself out of what you deserve.

Assertive behavior includes:

• Starting, changing, or ending conversations


• Sharing feelings, opinions, and experiences with others
• Making requests and asking for favors
• Refusing others' requests if they are too demanding
• Questioning rules or traditions that don't make sense or don't seem fair
• Addressing problems or things that bother you
• Being firm so that your rights are respected
• Expressing positive emotions
• Expressing negative emotions

Assertive Versus Unassertive and Aggressive Behavior

Many people are concerned that if they assert themselves others will think of their
behavior as aggressive. But there is a difference between being assertive and aggressive.

Assertive people state their opinions, while still being respectful of others. Aggressive
people attack or ignore others' opinions in favor of their own. Passive people don't state
their opinions at all.

The chart below gives some examples of the differences between passive, aggressive, and
assertive behavior.

Differences Between Passive, Aggressive, and Assertive Behavior. Passive Behavior


(The Passive Person) -- Aggressive Behavior (The Aggressive Person) -- Assertive
Behavior (The Assertive Person).

Passive Behavior: Is afraid to speak up


Aggressive Behavior: Interrupts and 'talks over' others
Assertive Behavior: Speaks openly
Passive Behavior: Speaks softly
Aggressive Behavior: Speaks loudly
Assertive Behavior: Uses a conversational tone

Passive Behavior: Avoids looking at people


Aggressive Behavior: Glares and stares at others
Assertive Behavior: Makes good eye contact

Passive Behavior: Shows little or no expression


Aggressive Behavior: Intimidates others with expressions
Assertive Behavior: Shows expressions that match the message

Passive Behavior: Slouches and withdraws


Aggressive Behavior: Stands rigidly, crosses arms, invades others' personal space
Assertive Behavior: Relaxes and adopts an open posture and expressions

Passive Behavior: Isolates self from groups


Aggressive Behavior: Controls groups
Assertive Behavior: Participates in groups

Passive Behavior: Agrees with others, despite feelings


Aggressive Behavior: Only considers own feelings, and/or demands of others
Assertive Behavior: Speaks to the point

Passive Behavior: Values self less than others


Aggressive Behavior: Values self more than others
Assertive Behavior: Values self equal to others

Passive Behavior: Hurts self to avoid hurting others


Aggressive Behavior: Hurts others to avoid being hurt
Assertive Behavior: Tries to hurt no one (including self)

Passive Behavior: Does not reach goals and may not know goals
Aggressive Behavior: Reaches goals but hurts others in the process
Assertive Behavior: Usually reaches goals without alienating others

Passive Behavior: You're okay, I'm not


Aggressive Behavior: I'm okay, you're not
Assertive Behavior: I'm okay, you're okay

Tips for Behaving More Assertively

If you want to be more assertive, but aren't sure how, here are some tips to get you
started. But remember, the best way to become more assertive is through practice. Visit
the Role Playing and Sample Situations section of this course for some test cases and try
practicing with friends, family, or counselors.

Speak up when you have an idea or opinion.

This is one of the biggest steps toward being more assertive and can be easier than you
think. It may be as simple as raising your hand in class when you know the answer to a
question, suggesting a change to your boss or coworkers, or offering an opinion at a party
(even if it's just your opinion of a new movie or book.)

Stand up for your opinions and stick to them.

It can be a little harder to express opinions and stick to them when you know that others
may disagree, but try to avoid being influenced by others' opinions just out of the desire
to fit in. You may change your mind when someone presents a rational argument that
makes you see things in a new light, but you shouldn't feel a need to change your mind
just because you're afraid of what others may think. Like as not, you'll gain more respect
for standing up for yourself than you will for not taking a stand.

Make requests and ask for favors.

Most people find it hard to ask for help when they need it, but people don't always offer
without being asked. As long as your requests are reasonable (for example, "Would you
mind holding the door while I carry my suitcase to the car?" as opposed to "Would you
mind carrying my suitcase to the car while I hang out and watch TV?") most people are
willing to help out. If your requests are reasonable (meaning, would you agree or respond
kindly if someone asked the same of you?), don't feel bad about asking.

Refuse requests if they are unreasonable.

It's perfectly appropriate to turn down requests if they are unreasonable or if you don't
have the time or resources. For example, if someone asks you to do something that makes
you feel uncomfortable or you think is wrong, it's fine to simply say no ("I'm sorry but I
don't feel right doing that" or "I'm sorry but I can't help you with that.") It's also fine to
turn down someone if you feel overwhelmed. If you are concerned that you aren't being
fair to others, ask if their favors are fair to you (would you ask the same of them? would
you expect them to say yes every time?) You can always offer to help in the future or
help in another way ("I'm sorry but I don't have time to help you with that today, but I
could help you tomorrow" or "I won't write your report for you, but I'd be happy to talk to
you about it and read it over when you're done.") As long as you don't turn down every
request that comes your way, you shouldn't feel guilty.

Accept both compliments and feedback.

Accepting compliments seems easy, but people often make little of them because they are
embarrassed ("Oh it was nothing" or "It's not a big deal".) But don't make less of your
accomplishments. It's fine to simply say "thank you" when people give you compliments
-- just don't chime in and begin complimenting yourself or you'll lose their admiration
pretty quickly! ("You're right, I AM great!") Similarly, be prepared to accept feedback
from others that may not always be positive. While no one needs to accept unwarranted
or insulting advice, if someone gives you helpful advice in the right context, try to accept
it graciously and act upon it. Accepting feedback (and learning from it) will often earn
you respect and future compliments.

Question rules or traditions that don't make sense or don't seem fair.

Just because something 'has always been that way' doesn't mean it's fair. If you feel a
tradition or rule is unfair to you or others, don't be afraid to speak up and question why
that rule exists. Rather than break a rule or law, find out the reasoning behind it. If you
still think it's wrong, talk to friends or coworkers, work with counselors and legislators,
and see if there is a way to change it. While some rules are less flexible and should be
respected (for example, a family's decision not to allow cigarette smoking in their house
or the state laws about drunk driving), others may be open to debate (for example, why a
public place doesn't have wheelchair access or your school computers aren't compatible
with assistive technology.)

Insist that your rights be respected.

While you want to choose your battles carefully (the right to equal pay in the workplace
is probably more important than your right to wear your Hawaiian T-shirt to work on
Fridays), you do have basic rights that you should feel comfortable standing up for. Some
of these rights may be guaranteed you under law, such as your medical, employment, and
educational rights. Other rights may involve basic courtesy - such as the right to be
treated fairly, equally, and politely by friends, coworkers, and family.

Asserting Yourself in Important Situations

Everyone has rights, some of which are protected by law, others that are basic courtesy.
Asserting your rights is important, especially when they may affect your health, career, or
relationships. Some things to remind yourself when faced with important decisions:

Healthcare

You have the right to:

Ask questions.

Don't be afraid to ask a doctor, nurse or counselor, about a diagnosis, recommended


treatment, or prescribed drug. You may worry that their time is important but so are your
time and your health. You have a right to ask and receive a full explanation about
anything pertaining to your health.
Get a second opinion.

Doctors, nurses, and counselors are not infallible. If you are concerned about a diagnosis
or recommended treatment, even after a healthcare professional has explained it to you,
it's your right to go see someone else. (Although you may have to discuss this with your
insurance company before doing so.) If the information you're being given could
drastically affect your life, don't feel as though you have to rely on one person's word.
Healthcare professionals are right more often than they are wrong (otherwise they
wouldn't be practicing), but it doesn't hurt to see other professionals for their opinion.

Refuse treatment and/or seek alternative treatment.

This is often a scary and difficult decision, but if you are a competent adult, you do have
the right to refuse medical treatment. You may choose to do so because you have
received a different opinion from another expert in the field; you may do so because you
are afraid the drawbacks of the treatment will outweigh the benefits (for example,
undergoing chemotherapy when there's only a small chance your cancer will spread); or
you may do so for other, personal reasons. Deciding to refuse treatment or seek
alternative treatments against your healthcare professional's advice can be very risky and
should be considered very carefully. If you have doubts about a treatment or diagnosis,
even after getting a second opinion, consider doing research (focusing on reliable
resources!), talking to others who have experienced the treatment or diagnosis, and
getting even a third or fourth opinion.

Stay Informed.

Some of your options may be limited by time, availability, or what you or your insurance
is willing and able to pay, but your right to be informed doesn't have to be limited. Your
local library, the Internet, health care and community centers, and advocacy groups are
all good places to look for more information. Just remember to assess the validity of the
information you find -- ask questions like, "Who is distributing this information?"; "What
is their agenda?"; "What are their credentials?"; and "What are they not addressing?"

Work and School

You have the right to:

Equal opportunity

No matter what your race, gender, or abilities, the law guarantees you equal access to
jobs and an education. You cannot be turned down for a job or be rejected from a school
based simply on your physical attributes. You cannot be denied the same opportunities
available to others.
Equal rewards

Just as you have the right to the same opportunities, you have the right to the same
rewards. If you perform as well as others at work or at school, you deserve the same
compensation (be it in the form of a grade or a paycheck.)

Family and Friends

Sometimes, asserting oneself around people you care for can be harder than asserting
oneself elsewhere in life. That's because these are people you care for and depend upon.
However, that doesn't mean you don't deserve to be treated fairly by them. Just as you
expect fair treatment from your boss, coworkers, or teachers, you should expect the same
from those who care for you. That includes:

Equal treatment

You deserve to be treated the same as other family members and friends when it comes to
responsibilities (such as doing chores, sharing, or taking turns) and rewards (such as
choosing which movie you'll see with your friends or the right to time on the family
computer.)

Respect

Just like everywhere else in your life, you also deserve to be treated with respect. While
family members and friends may be casual around each other (that's part of the comfort
that comes with friendship), if their actions or behaviors offend you or hurt your feelings,
you have the right to tell them and ask them to change those behaviors.

Role Playing and Sample Situations

The best way to learn assertive behavior is through practice. But not everyone is ready to
practice in real life.Below are a number of experiences people may run into that require
assertiveness. Try practicing your responses to the situations below with a relative,
friend, or advisor who you feel is assertive..

Asserting Yourself With Friends and Family

• You lend a friend one of your books. She returns it with pages missing.
• Your friend always asks to borrow a few dollars when you go out, but he never
repays you. You begin to resent that he does this all the time.
• A relative calls you late at night just to talk. You are tired and have to get up early
in the morning.
• Your friend comes to you with a problem you don't know how to handle. You
know your friend has a counselor that she likes and you recommend that she talk
to them, but your friend keeps asking you what she should do.
Asserting Yourself in Medical and Personal Safety Situations

• Your doctor prescribes a medicine but doesn't tell you what it is for or if there are
any side effects.
• You are eating lunch and the person next to you smokes throughout the meal; this
really bothers you.
• You went to a party with some people but the person who was driving had too
much to drink and refuses to let anyone else drive.
• You are walking home with a friend and realize it is getting late. A car pulls up
and asks if you want a ride. Your friend is tired and wants to take the ride but you
think it's too risky.

Asserting Yourself in Social and Everyday Situations

• Someone in the van you are riding in decides to sing and does so for 15 minutes.
It begins to get on your nerves and you politely ask her to stop, but she doesn't.
• The new shoes you bought three weeks ago are already starting to fall apart. You
take them back to the store where you bought them.
• You bring your car to a garage for service. You ask the mechanic to call and let
you know how much it will cost before doing the work. He doesn't call and when
you call him he tells you he has already done the work and your bill is $250.

Asserting Yourself in Work and School Situations

• A counselor at the school you want to attend is interviewing you. The counselor
notices that you haven't worked or taken any special courses for the last two
summers and asks why.
• Someone in your class asks you to work with him on his homework after the
teacher has specifically told the class that the assignment should be done without
any help.
• You are being interviewed for a job in a new field and the director asks, "Why
should I hire you when you have no experience?"

Assertiveness Techniques

While it may be true that some people are naturally more assertive than others, this
doesn't mean that assertiveness skills can't be learned. Here are ten top assertiveness
techniques that if practiced often will lead you towards becoming more assertive.

1. Distance and personal space

No one likes someone else invading their space. It's important not to let someone you
don't know very well invade your space (known as passive aggressive behaviour and is a
form of manipulation). You know when your space has been invaded because you'll feel
uncomfortable - it's important to set boundaries there and then, either verbally or non-
verbally, e.g stepping back to give yourself more space or using another form of non-
verbal assertive behaviour.

2. Good time management

Books have been written on this 'subject'. Being consistently late for meetings or
appointments nearly always points to a lack of self-worth. This also goes for giving other
people too much of your time - to value one's time is to value oneself.

3. Broken Record Technique

Sometimes difficult to do but when used correctly the Broken Record Technique can be
very effective. You state clearly what you want (or don't want) and when you meet with
resistance repeat again and again and...A good time to use the Broken Record Technique
could be when a salesman calls and presses you for a sale, try something like "I'm not
interested, thank you." A disadvantage with the Broken Record Technique is that the
more you use it the weaker its effect will be.

4. Disclosure

A disclosure can be very effective when you want to honest and upfront about something
you feel the listener may not fully be aware of or understand. An example of this could be
a person who is a hard of hearing asking the other person to speak up a little because they
are a little hard of hearing. It's sometimes amazing how much better you can feel when
using the disclosure method, something that was once seen as a handicap can be seen in a
more positive light.

5. Fogging

You agree with your 'critic', and like a clear fog you let the criticism go in through one
ear and out the other. When someone criticizes you you agree by saying something like
"You're right, my dress doesn't really match my purse," or "You know, you probably
have a point there, my hair is a little messy, I like it this way though." When you use the
fogging technique it's best to see all criticism as feedback. You let it ride over you and
don't get involved with what's being said. It can be a fantastic way to defuse a verbal
attack and shows your critic just how assertive you are.

6. Maintain eye contact

Good eye contact does two things - it makes the listener feel that you respect them and it
makes you look more confident to the other person. Too much looking down or looking
away will make you come across as either nervous or worse still as if you don't respect
what the listener is saying. Another thing to remember is that too much eye contact and it
may look as if you are staring them out and so can appear quite aggressive.

7. Stand upright
When you slouch you can appear less confident to the observer, you may also appear lazy
or shy. Of course, standing too erect and military-like, among other things will probably
lead to an aching back. Stand upright and walk slowly when entering a room and you will
look assertive.

8. Sit up

When you sit make sure you are sitting upright. Don't cross you legs or fold your arms -
two signs of nervousness. Sitting up makes you look more alert, interested in the listener
and interesting to the listener.

9. Active listening

Repeating briefly what the other person has said when appropriate is a good assertiveness
skill to learn. Make sure you keep it short and don't interrupt the speaker when they're in
full flow. You can use phrases like "So if I'm hearing you correctly your view is..." or "So
you're saying... is this correct?"

10. Tone of voiceWhen we are nervous we tend to speak higher, softer and quicker. If
you have a tendency to speak quickly in stressful situations then mentally counting to two
each time before you speak will help. Taking a few deep breaths before you speak helps
has a calming effect. If your voice tends to get higher pitched then imagining the sound
coming out of your chest will help to keep it at a deeper tone making you sound more
confident.