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Assertiveness Skills
Presented by: Dr. Dawn-Elise Snipes
Executive Director, AllCEUs
Podcast Host: Counselor Toolbox and Happiness Isn’t Brain Surgery

Find CEUs for this podcast on the Counselor Toolbox CEU spreadsheet

~ Define Assertiveness
~ Overcoming the Stress Barrier
~ Overcoming the Social Barrier
~ Overcoming the Belief Barrier
~ Reality Check
~ Nonverbal behavior
~ Giving your opinion
~ Giving constructive (not critical) feedback
~ Making requests without trying to control
What is Assertiveness
~ Assertiveness means stating your feelings, wants and needs
~ Clearly
~ With ownership
~ With conviction…. (but…I don’t know…)

~ Assertive behavior may not be appropriate in all workplaces. Some organizational and national cultures may view assertive behavior as rude or even offensive.
~ Research has also suggested that gender can have a bearing on how assertive behavior is perceived, with men more likely to be rewarded for being assertive than women.
Advantages of Assertiveness
~ Assertiveness helps us feel good about ourselves and others
~ Assertiveness leads to the development of mutual respect with others
~ Assertiveness increases our self-esteem
~ Assertiveness helps us achieve our goals
~ Assertiveness minimizes hurting and alienating other people
~ Assertiveness reduces anxiety
~ Assertiveness protects us from being taken advantage of by others
~ Assertiveness enables us to make decisions and free choices in life
~ Assertiveness enables us to express, both verbally and non-verbally, a wide range of feelings and thoughts, both positive and negative

Why is Assertiveness Important
~ When people are passive or aggressive, their feelings wants and needs are often not heard
~ Direct aggression: bossy, arrogant, bulldozing, intolerant, opinionated, and overbearing
~ Indirect aggression: sarcastic, deceiving, ambiguous, insinuating, manipulative, and guilt-inducing
~ Submissive: wailing, moaning, helpless, passive, indecisive, and apologetic
~ Assertive: direct, honest, accepting, responsible, and spontaneous
~ This lead to feelings of:
~ Isolation
~ Resentment/Anger
~ Depression/Helplessness
The Stress Barrier: Fight, Flee or Freeze
~ Becoming assertive is stressful
~ You have to change the way you interact with others
~ Others have to change the way they interact with you
~ In the past when you were in a stressful situation did you withdraw? Become aggressive? Shut down?
~ The stress response is designed to protect you
~ Ignoring the urge to fight or flee is extremely difficult until assertiveness has proven itself.

The Social Barrier
~ People in your social circle expect you to act and react a certain way.
~ Changing your behavior confuses other people
~ Our egocentric society leads people to expect that if you change your behavior, it has to do with THEM
~ People strive for consistency.
~ If you used to be aggressive, they may interpret the change as depression, disengagement or exploitable weakness
~ If you used to be passive, they may interpret the change as rejection and push away
The Belief Barrier
~ Reality is 90% perception and 10% fact
~ Our interpretations greatly influence our reactions
~ What influences interpretations
~ Vulnerabilities (pain, exhaustion)
~ Prior learning experience
~ Transference and overgeneralization
~ The other person’s nonverbals
Why Not Be Assertive?
~ Failure to be assertive stems from:
~ Prior efforts to be assertive being punished
~ Fear of rejection
~ Need for external validation
~ Assertiveness requires
~ Confidence
~ Emotional control
~ Effective verbal and nonverbal communication skills

Staying Calm
~ Checking your automatic or current beliefs against reality
~ What is my perception of what is going on?
~ What evidence do I have for and against this perception?
~ What were the words?
~ What were the nonverbals?
~ How valid is that evidence?
~ Am I reacting to feelings or FACTS?
~ Am I magnifying or catastrophizing?
~ Have I stated my feelings and needs objectively and clearly?

6 Characteristics of Assertiveness
~ Eye contact: Demonstrates interest, shows sincerity
~ Body posture: Congruent body language will improve the significance of the message
~ Gestures: Appropriate gestures help to add emphasis
~ Voice: A level, well modulated tone is more convincing and acceptable, and is not intimidating
~ Timing: Use your judgement to maximize receptivity and impact
~ Content: How, where and when you choose to comment is probably more important than WHAT you say

Assertive Behaviors
~ Being open in expressing wishes, thoughts and feelings and encouraging others to do likewise.
~ Listening to the views of others and responding appropriately, regardless of whether you agree
~ Accepting responsibilities and delegating to others.
~ Regularly expressing appreciation of others for what they have done or are doing.
~ Being able to admit to mistakes and apologize.
~ Maintaining self-control.
~ Behaving as an equal to others.

Assertive Behaviors
~ Acknowledging that you cannot control other people’s behaviors but you can control how you react to them
~ Being open to criticism and compliments
~ Expressing yourself in a positive way
~ This is a stupid idea. That is one way of doing it. Let’s look at the benefits and drawbacks…
~ You are the laziest employee I have — I know the work can a seem overwhelming. In order for the department to bill, I have to have your reports within 72 hours of service.
~ I hate that restaurant— I would prefer to go to….

Giving Your Opinion
~ We all have opinions.
~ Opinions are qualitative (good, bad, fair, helpful…)
~ Opinions are a combination of the current situation PLUS prior learning
~ Own your opinion
~ Good opinions are based in fact. (…because…)
~ Support your opinion with evidence
~ Did you like that movie?
~ Yes (or no), because…
~ If the opinion is negative, identify what you would change
~ Respect other’s opinions
I Statements
~ Three specific elements:
~ Behavior
~ Feeling
~ Tangible effect (consequence to you)

Techniques for Becoming Assertive
~ Behavioral rehearsal
~ Repeated assertion (stay focused/avoid getting side tracked)
~ Fogging allows you to receive criticism comfortably
~ acknowledge the criticism, agree that there may be some truth to what they say, but remain the judge of your choice of action
~ Workable compromise
Constructive Feedback
~ Constructive feedback is objective and measurable.
~ Lazy vs. has failed to complete his assignments for the past 3 weeks
~ Stupid vs. Has difficulty with following basic instructions for opening his register
~ Provides information that a person can choose to address and/or presents an actionable problem
~ Provide possible solutions and develop an action plan.
Making Requests (win/win)
~ State the reason for your request
~ “I am feeling exhausted and overwhelmed trying to manage all of these tasks.”
~ “I recognize that as a result my work product has gone down.”
~ “I am having difficulty prioritizing”
~ State what you need in the situation
~ “I need help prioritizing which of these tasks is most important to you.”
~ “Or, I need some assistance so I can produce a quality product in a timely manner.”

Say “No”
~ Poor time management leads to stress and irritability and the downfall of assertiveness
~ Get in touch with what is important
~ Rich and meaningful life
~ At work
~ Learn how to say “No” assertively
~ No—I’d rather not
~ No– But yes if it is an emergency
~ No under any circumstances
Group Activities
~ Ask someone who you feel is fairly assertive to sit on a chair in the middle of the room.
~ Select 4 other people and assign them a behavior type – assertive, aggressive, passive, passive-aggressive and advise them that their task is to persuade the person on the chair to relinquish the chair.
~ A variation on this is to give the person in the chair a box of chocolates and have people take turns getting them to share those.

Group Activities
~ Rehearsals: Create a passive, passive aggressive, aggressive and assertive response for each situation.
~ Situation: The waitress brings you the wrong drink
~ Situation: A new colleague, with whom you share an office, smokes continuously. You dislike the smell of smoke.
~ Situation: You are feeling put upon at work and decide to ask for a raise.
~ Situation: You are waiting to pay for some shopping but the two sales assistants are deep in conversation and appear to be ignoring you.
~ Situation: Your employer expects you to take on extra work but your existing work load is already very heavy.
~ Situation: You make a mistake at work and your supervisor tells you off in a very abrupt and angry manner.
Steps to Being Assertive
~ Know your human needs
~ Biological needs
~ Safety and security
~ Creation, participation, contribution
~ Love, belonging, understanding, significance
~ Self-Esteem, growth, autonomy
~ Pay special attention to those universal needs that you think are not important to you.
~ Explore if you are using self-deception or denial and why (I didn’t want that promotion anyway.)
~ Connect your severe negative emotions (anger, anxiety, depression, envy etc.) to the fear of your specific needs not being met
Steps to Being Assertive
~ Identify areas where you are and are not assertive.
~ Example: You might be very assertive intellectually, but very passive when it comes to talking to the opposite sex
~ Areas
~ Physical space
~ Making new relationships
~ Intimate activities
~ Setting boundaries
~ Public or large groups
~ Authority figures
~ Money matters
~ Creativity

Steps to Being Assertive
~ Face your fears and practice being assertive with moderate self-exposure
~ Example of practicing assertiveness with the opposite sex:
~ Ask a person you like what time it is
~ Ask ten people of the opposite sex what time it is
~ Ask 3 people of the opposite sex for directions and their opinion on what to do in town
~ Ask ten people of the opposite sex the same thing
~ Ask 10 people of the opposite sex for their email/phone number

Steps to Being Assertive
~ Face your fears cont…
~ Example 2
~ Join a meetup and introduce yourself to a few people
~ Say your first no
~ Ask for a raise when you complete a demanding project
~ Don’t run away from conflict, but try to manage it (plan ahead)
~ Find one thing you like about someone you dislike and compliment it
~ Smile the next time somebody cuts you off

Steps to Being Assertive
~ Develop your social skills to improve your self-confidence
~ Read 10 different books in an area where you are not assertive
~ Join a public speaking course, if you’re terrified of public appearances
~ Practice negotiating with a friend, if you’re afraid of heated discussions
~ Learn how to manage difficult people and conflict resolution skills, if you have difficult people in your life (aggressive, martyr, borderline, narcissistic)

Dealing with Guilt and Shame
~ After doing an assertive act, you may feel shame or guilt, especially if you’re rejected.
~ You may assume it’s not okay to have your needs met, or you think you don’t deserve it.
~ With every small exposure will realize that it feels good to meet your needs and that it’s okay to do so. Be patient and persistent.
~ Reinforce the healthy belief that you have needs like everyone else and that it’s your basic right to meet them in a healthy and respectful manner.
~ Dig deep why you really feel guilt or shame; what kind of errors were made in your upbringing that put a tough emotional burden on your assertiveness.
~ It’s a great chance to talk back to your inner critic and consciously decide to take good care of yourself and your needs.
~ Acknowledge guilt or shame, make room for it, write down why it’s so tough, talk to other people and then let it go.
~ Assertive communication means stating your feelings, thoughts and needs in a respectful, but owning manner
~ Social barriers are those created when you start acting differently than those in your social circle expect.
~ Belief barriers are those automatic thoughts and schemas that help interpret events based on past learning
~ When being assertive, it is best to provide your opinion or observation supported by facts.
~ When making requests, it is ideal to create a win/win by pointing our what is currently wrong, what needs to happen and how that will benefit both parties.