Assertiveness: The 2 edged sword!

Covers the following:
... Evaluate your Assertiveness Level
... Exemplar behaviors in Assertiveness
... Specific Techniques for Assertive Communication
... Long-term approach to developing Assertiveness

This material was collected and put together by Swati Hede.


Indicate whether each of the following statements is mostly true or mostly false as it applies to you. If in doubt about your reaction to a particular statement, think of how you would generally respond. When you answer is 'Yes' or 'True' - please add one point to your overall score.

1 = True
0 = False

1. It is easy for me to turn down a sales representative even when he or she is a nice person.

2.. I express criticism freely.

3. If another person is being very unfair, I bring it to that person's attention.

4. It is OK to let your feelings show at work.

5. Only those who ask for it, are given their due!

6. Business is not the place for tact; say what you think.

7. If a person looks as if he or she is in a hurry, at least I would not let him get in front of me in a supermarket line.

8. Only weak people are nice people!.

9. If my restaurant bill is even 2 Rupees more than it should be, I demand that the mistake be corrected.

10. If the mood strikes me, I will laugh out loud in public.

11. People would describe me as too outspoken.

12. I am quite willing to go back to the store, if a piece of furniture they sold to me, was found scratched upon delivery.

13. If needed, I can express my anger toward a co-worker.

14. Anyone would seldom say about me, "I'm too reserved and emotionally controlled".

15. Nice people finish last in business.

16. I fight for my rights down to the last detail.

17. I have no misgivings about returning an overcoat to the store if it doesn't fit me right.

18. After I have an argument with a person, why should I try to avoid him or her later?

19. I insist that my spouse (or roommate or partner) do his or her fair share of undesirable chores.

20 It is not difficult for me to look directly at another person when the two of us are in disagreement.

21. I have seldom cried among friends.

22. If someone near me at a movie keeps up a conversation with another person, I ask him or her to stop.

23. I am able to turn down social engagements with people I do not particularly care for.

24. It is just fine to express what you really feel about another individual.

25. I sometimes show my anger by swearing at or belittling another person.

26. I am seldom reluctant to speak up at a meeting.

27. find it relatively easy to ask friends for small favors such as giving me a ride to work while my car is being repaired.

28. If another person is talking very loudly in a restaurant and it bothers me, I inform that person.

29. I often finish other people's sentences for them.

30. It is relatively easy for me to express love and affection toward another person.

The Assertiveness Scale:

0 - 15 Nonassertive

16 - 24 Assertive

25 + Aggressive

Do this exercise again about thirty days from now to give yourself some indication of the stability of your answers. You might also discuss your answers with a close friend to determine if that person has a similar perception of your assertiveness.

Section II :Immediate Help
This section is designed to give you tips to work upon your assertiveness skill in everyday work situations. Before we begin let us look at some of the exemplar behaviors for each level of competency.

Confident / Assertive

Ability to be assertive with confidence and yet sound polite in day to day work and even in a crisis

Exemplar Behaviors

Level 1:
Speaks with self confidence and behaves like a mature individual
Is assertive about urgency of work
Does not yield to pressures and makes practical commitments
Does not hesitate to ask client to repeat

Level 2:
Does not say "yes" to everything to the customer due to fear of displeasing him.
Puts forward his / her issues and does not push decisions to his / her supervisors
Polite and does not lose cool if client is rude or unreasonable

Level 3:
Does not get agitated even in a crisis but talks coolly

Self Help Tips

Specific Techniques for Assertive Communication

Be as specific and clear as possible about what you want, think, and feel. The following statements project this preciseness:
I want to..."
I don't want you to..."
Would you...?"
I liked it when you did that."
I have a different opinion, I think that..."
I have mixed reactions. I agree with these aspects for these reasons, but I am disturbed about these aspects for these reasons."
It can be helpful to explain exactly what you mean and exactly what you don't mean, such as ,"I don't want to break up over this, but I'd like to talk it through and see if we can prevent it from happening again."
Be direct. Deliver your message to the person for whom it is intended. For example, if you want to tell Ravi something, tell Ravi ; do not tell everyone except Ravi; do not tell a group, of which Ravi happens to be a member.
Own your message. Acknowledge that your message comes from your frame of reference, your conception of good vs. bad or right vs. wrong, and your perceptions. You can acknowledge ownership with personalized (I) statements such as "I don't agree with you" (as compared to "You're wrong") or" "I'd like you to finish this task by this evening" as compared to "You really should finish this task by this evening, you know". Suggesting that someone is wrong or bad and should change for his or her own benefit when, in fact, it would please you will only foster resentment and resistance rather than understanding and cooperation.
Exercise Purpose – To practice usage of "I" statements
Step One- Plan to use the following pairs of statements as often as you can
" I like what you said" "I don’t like what you said"
"I want you to ….." "I don’t want you to…."
Step Two – Make a chart where you track how many times you used these phrases in a day. Complete this chart for each day of the week and monitor your usage for a week.
Step three – Once you know your ability to use these phrases, set goal to increase the usage in the following week. Monitor your progress and you can continue this for successive weeks until you feel comfortable in using "I" statements.
Ask for feedback. For example, "Am I being clear? How do you see this situation? What do you want to do?" Asking for feedback can encourage others to correct any misperceptions you may have as well as help others realize that you are expressing an opinion, feeling, or desire rather than a demand. Encourage others to be clear, direct, and specific in their feedback to you.
Body language plays a vital role in assertive behaviour.Check your bodylanguage for the following
Tone of voice – a firm, confident and appropriately loud voice marks assertive behavior
Eye contact – look at the person when you speak to him/her
Facial expression- Suit your expression to what you say and feel. Do not smile when you are expressing anger or dislike. Similarly do not look hostile or indifferent when you are praising someone.
Body expression - Use gestures if you are comfortable. Your posture should be straight and as relaxed as possible.

Section III: A longterm approach to developing assertiveness skill

"Human beings want a life of dignity and self – fulfillment. Yet living leaves scars that distract us from these goals. Society teaches us to act in ways incompatible with these aims" – Herbert Fensterheim, Author of "Don’t say yes when you want to say No"

What is Assertiveness?

Assertiveness is the ability to express yourself and your rights without violating the rights of others. It is appropriately direct, open, and honest communication which is self-enhancing and expressive.

Acting assertively will allow you to feel self-confident and will generally gain you the respect of your peers and friends. It can increase your chances for honest relationships, and help you to feel better about yourself and your self-control in everyday situations. This, in turn, will improve your decision-making ability and possibly your chances of getting what you really want from life.

Assertiveness basically means "the ability to express your thoughts and feelings in a way that clearly states your needs and keeps the lines of communication open with the other" (The Wellness Workbook, Ryan and Travis). However, before you can comfortably express your needs, you must believe you have a legitimate right to have those needs.

In order to enhance your assertiveness skill, you need to do the following over the next few months.It is essential that you take the Assertive ness Score using the test given at the beginning of this page. Repeat after thirty days to track changes.

Step One : Analyze your assertiveness problem.

Step Two: be clear about the concept of assertiveness. It is important that we do not confuse aggression with assertiveness. Aggression is an act against others. It hinders the rights of others. Assertion is appropriate standing up for your self without hurting others.

Step Three: Realize you may be assertive in one area of life for example with your spouse but not in another area like with your subordinates. You may apply assertiveness techniques that work in one area to another.

Step three: Examine your behavior and determine where you would like to be more assertive.

Step Four: Set up Goals and Sub Goals for yourself.

"Let us think of life as a process of choices….At each point there is a progression and a regression choice . There may be a movement toward defense, toward being afraid…..but over on the other side, there is a growth choice. To make the growth choice,instead of a fear choice, a dozen times a day, is to move a dozen times a day toward self-actualization."-Abraham Maslow, Propagator of Self Actualization theory.

In order to make a "growth choice", you could set the seris of sub-goals and goals.

Subgoals will help you see the progress and encourage you to move towards your Goal .

A step by step guide on how to set goals
Conjure up an idealized self image and ask yourself"What I would like to be?"
Elaborate on this. Write at least ten outstanding charecteristics of your idealized self
Know your limitations.Do not set impossible goals for yourself.

Reference – Refer to the book"Don’t say yoe when you want to say no" by H.Fensterheim and Jean Bear,Chapter III-The assertion labortary for details on Goal Setting .

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