|What is assertive behavior?
Assertive behavior is:
* Standing up for one’s rights no matter what the circumstance.
* Correcting the situation when one’s rights are being violated.
* Seeking respect and understanding for one’s feelings about a particular situation or circumstance.
* Interacting in a mature manner with those found to be offensive, defensive, aggressive, hostile, blaming, attacking or otherwise unreceptive.
* Direct, upfront–not defensive or manipulative–behavior. Those using assertive behavior confront problems, disagreement, or personal discomforts head-on, and their intent is unmistakable to others.
* Verbal “I” statements, where individuals tell others how they feel about a situation, circumstance or the behavior of others.
* Taking the risk of being misunderstood as being aggressive, abrasive or attacking.
* Being able to protect one’s rights while protecting and respecting the rights of others.
* Risk-taking behavior that is not ruled by fear of rejection or disapproval, but is directed by the rational belief that “I deserve to stand up for my rights.”
* Rational thinking and the self-affirmation of personal worth, respect and rights.
* A healthy style in which to conduct interpersonal relationships.
* Finding a “win-win” solution in handling problems between two individuals.
The “you win and I lose” solution is a passive solution where one individual gives up his rights to another. The “you lose and I win” solution is an aggressive solution where one individual ignores the rights of another in order to get his way. The “you lose and I lose” solution is a total passive solution where both individuals give up their rights. A healthy resolution is impossible. The “you win and I win” solution is an assertive solution where the rights of both parties are recognized, respected and utilized in reaching a healthy compromise.
Ten Assertive Rights of an Individual
Assertive Right 1: I have the right to judge my own behavior, thoughts and emotions and to take the responsibility for their initiation and consequence. The behavior of others may have an impact upon me, but I determine how I choose to react and/or deal with each situation. I alone have the power to judge and modify my thoughts, feelings and behavior. Others may influence my decision, but the final choice is mine.
Assertive Right 2: I have the right to offer neither reason nor excuse to justify my behavior. I need not rely upon others to judge whether my actions are proper or correct. Others may state disagreement or disapproval, but I have the option to disregard their preferences or to work out a compromise. I may choose to respect their preferences and consequently modify my behavior. What is important is that it is my choice. Others may try to manipulate my behavior and feelings by demanding to know my reasons and by trying to persuade me that I am wrong, but I know that I am the ultimate judge.
Assertive Right 3: I have the right to judge whether I am responsible for finding solutions to others’ problems. I am ultimately responsible for my own psychological well-being and happiness. I may feel concern and compassion and good will for others, but I am neither responsible for nor do I have the ability to create mental stability and happiness for others. My actions may have caused others’ problems indirectly; however, it is still their responsibility to come to terms with the problems and to learn to cope on their own. If I fail to recognize this assertive right, others may choose to manipulate my thoughts and feelings by placing the blame for their problems on me.
Assertive Right 4: I have the right to change my mind. As a human being, nothing in my life is necessarily constant or rigid. My interests and needs may well change with the passage of time. The possibility of changing my mind is normal, healthy and conducive to self-growth. Others may try to manipulate my choice by asking that I admit error or by stating that I am irresponsible; it is nevertheless unnecessary for me to justify my decision.
Assertive Right 5: I have the right to say “I don’t know.”
Assertive Right 6: I have the right to make mistakes and be responsible for them. To make a mistake is part of the human condition. Others may try to manipulate me, having me believe that my errors are unforgivable, that I must make amends for my wrongdoing by engaging in proper behavior. If I allow this, my future behavior will be influenced by my past mistakes, and my decisions will be controlled by the opinions of others.
Assertive Right 7: I have the right to be independent of the good will of others before coping with them. It would be unrealistic for me to expect others to approve of all my actions, regardless of their merit. If I were to assume that I required others’ goodwill before being able to cope with them effectively, I would leave myself open to manipulation. It is unlikely that I require the goodwill and/or cooperation of others in order to survive. A relationship does not require 100 percent agreement. It is inevitable that others will be hurt or offended by my behavior at times. I am responsible only to myself, and I can deal with periodic disapproval from others.
Assertive Right 8: I have the right to be illogical in making decisions. I sometimes employ logic as a reasoning process to assist me in making judgments. However, logic cannot predict what will happen in every situation. Logic is not much help in dealing with wants, motivations and feelings. Logic generally deals with “black or white,” “all or none” and “yes or no” issues. Logic and reasoning don’t always work well when dealing with the gray areas of the human condition.
Assertive Right 9: I have the right to say “I don’t understand.”
Answer the following questions in your journal. They are designed to help you assess your level of assertiveness.
A. How can I keep myself and others from being judgmental? Why is it so easy to judge another? How does my fear of judgment reduce my assertiveness?
Myth 1, Anxiety: Some people believe that overt signs of anxious behavior indicate weakness or inadequacy. These individuals assume that if they were to exhibit anxiety, they would be ridiculed, rejected or taken advantage of by others. This is self-defeating, for the harder people try to camouflage anxious feelings, the harder it is to conceal the accompanying symptoms of trembling, sweating, flushing, etc.
One method of reducing anxiety is to acknowledge that anxious feelings are present. One may discover that others experience similar feelings under certain circumstances. If people can disclose their feelings of discomfort safely, they will find it unnecessary to expend so much energy disguising them; therefore, the anxiety will no longer interfere with the task at hand or impair their ability to cope in life.
Myth 2, Modesty: This myth consists of three parts:
(1) The inability to acknowledge or say positive things about oneself.
Some people fear that positive self-statements seem egocentric. They fail to discriminate between the accurate representation of accomplishments and over exaggeration. Additionally, they may fear that once asserting themselves, they will have to live up to these expectations 100 percent of the time. Inability to self-disclose positively may hinder their opportunities. If they don’t believe in themselves, it is unrealistic to expect others to believe in them.
People who are unable to receive compliments are indirectly damaging their self-respect. After several unsuccessful attempts, most people trying to give genuine compliments will hesitate, feeling uncomfortable in giving positive feedback. The intended recipient of the praise, no longer hearing positive feedback, may begin to question their self-worth.
Sometimes others may use insincere praise as a manipulative tool (“You are such a great worker; by the way, could you cut the lawn.”) However, assuming that all positive feedback is insincere, manipulative or misleading will hinder both the development of a healthy lifestyle and a positive self-concept. Positive feedback is a powerful tool in this sense.
Some people are unable to provide others with positive feedback. They may be unaware of the potential positive effects, e.g., greater rapport or satisfaction in life. Sometimes others have difficulty delivering praise because they fear making themselves vulnerable. They may be unable to elicit feelings easily and openly. Perhaps this is an alien behavior because they have never received positive feedback themselves. Or, maybe there is a risk involved in developing more honest, open relationships.
For whatever reason, modesty does not enhance mutually satisfying, spontaneous interpersonal relationships.
Myth 3, Good Friend: This myth assumes that others can read my mind based upon our past relationship, e.g.: “She should have known how I felt” or “My husband should have known how hard I have been working and given me Saturday morning free.”
Lack of good, facilitative communication is apparent here. One must remember that individuals don’t always respond in the same manner to the same situation.
This type of expectation will undoubtedly lead to guilt, resentment, hurt feelings and misunderstanding within a relationship, assuming that others have known you long enough to know your mind or how you are thinking.
Myth 4, Obligation: This myth indicates that some people disregard their personal needs and rights due to a belief in personal obligations to others. These people put others ahead of themselves. Obviously the others’ needs cannot always be met; however, those who routinely neglect to express their needs and rights, and who find themselves imposed upon quite frequently, are being restrained by this belief in the myth of obligation. They are often unable to make requests of others they project that others feel the obligation to meet their needs, too.
This myth, along with the others, facilitates neither self-respect nor the development of open, healthy relationships.
Myth 5, Gender role myths: Sometimes people behave in a particular manner due to various gender role expectations. This has been especially true for women. Is it feminine to be assertive or outspoken? The myth of obligation fits into this category, too. Due to erroneous expectations, many women are unable to refuse requests, even unreasonable ones. This may be true regardless of whether the request would interfere with their needs and rights.
Men have been encouraged to act upon their needs and rights aggressively, to fill the “macho” or controlling role in a relationship. Gender role expectations can color behavior, often to the opposite extreme. Some men may be inappropriately passive, while social pressures often call for men to take an aggressive stand.
Gender role expectations limit people’s options for acting appropriately upon their beliefs, needs and rights. They close the door to spontaneous, sincere interactions.
Myth 6, Strength of an issue: It is sometimes risky to take a stand, even on issues about which people might feel quite strongly. It may be interpreted as pressuring others to accept one’s beliefs, especially when discussing a controversial issue. People may not choose to take the risk of alienating themselves from others.
People who cannot discuss their beliefs assertively are closing the door to honest expression. The opportunity for a potentially stimulating exchange, which may afford them an opportunity for self-growth, will not happen.
Step 1: Read the material in this chapter. Study the following behavioral strategies involved in self-assertion training.
Three types of individual behavior are listed.
1. Non-assertive behavior: The act of withdrawing from a situation. This is a passive approach to a situation (life), resulting in:
2. Aggressive behavior: The act of over reacting emotionally to a situation. Aggression can also take the form of a lie or a misrepresentation of the facts. This is a self-enhancing, egotistical approach to a situation (life) resulting in:
3. Assertive behavior: The act of declaring that this is what I am, what I think and feel, and what I want. This is a non-egotistical, active, rather than passive, approach to a situation (life) resulting in:
1. Make known your desires and feelings. Don’t be side tracked by others. Make a short, clear, assertive statement of your goal, taking into account what others are saying by persistently repeating your goal: Yes, I understand [other’s response] but I still want [state your goal].
2. Express feelings about a situation without threatening others:
3. Make a non-assertive person open up. The topic should be pursued in a gentle, probing manner: “I don’t understand why you are so up tight.”
Body language as related to assertive behavior:
1. Eye contact and facial expression: Maintain direct eye contact, appear interested and alert, but not angry.
Further tips on assertiveness:
1. Assertive responses are characterized by the use of “I” statements instead of “You” statements.
Step 2: Read the following sample situations and record in your journal whether each of the three responses given is aggressive, non-assertive or assertive (the answer key is at the end of this step).
Situation 1: Cousin Jessie, with whom you prefer not to spend much time, is on the phone. She says that she is planning to spend the next three weeks with you.
Situation 2: You have bought a toaster at a local discount house, and it doesn’t work properly.
Situation 3: One of your children has come in late consistently for the last 3 or 4 days.
Situation 4: You are at the dinner table and someone starts smoking, which offends you.
Situation 5: You are across the room and someone is talking to you but not quite loud enough for you to hear.
Answer Key for Step 2:
Step 3: Read the following role-playing situations and play a role in the various self-assertion techniques with a friend or your significant other. Give yourself plenty of time to complete this step.
Ten role-playing situations for assertion training:
Each of these situations involves a need for assertive behavior. Role play each of these situations. Be sure to spend at least 5 minutes on each role.
Step 4: After you and your partner complete the role play activity in Step 3, answer the following questions in your journal:
a. How comfortable am I in being assertive?
Step 5: If after completing Steps 1 through 4 you still lack healthy, assertive behavior, return to Step 1 and begin again.