Assertiveness training has been around since behaviorists Andrew Salter and Joseph Wolpe (separately) in the 60s first identified the passive –> assertive –> aggressive continuum of habitual relationship styles. Passive or submissive people do not demand or expect regard for their own rights. Aggressive people have no regard for others’ rights. Assertive people, on the other hand, are able to
- express their feelings,
- ask for what they want,
- and say no to what they don’t want.
Edmund J. Bourne adds two additional styles to the list: passive-aggressive, and manipulative.
The following (very brief) overview of assertiveness training techniques is excerpted and summarized from Bourne’s book The Anxiety & Phobia Workbook.
Personal Bill of Rights
- I have the right to ask for what I want.
- I have the right to say no to requests or demands I can’t meet.
- I have the right to express all of my feelings, positive or negative.
- I have the right to change my mind.
- I have the right to make mistakes and not have to be perfect.
- I have the right to follow my own values and standards.
- I have the right to say no to anything when I feel I am not ready, it is unsafe, or it violates my values.
- I have the right to determine my own priorities.
- I have the right not to be responsible for others’ behavior, actions, feelings, or problems.
- I have the right to expect honesty from others.
- I have the right to be angry at someone I love.
- I have the right to be uniquely myself.
- I have the right to feel scared and say “I’m afraid.”
- I have the right to say “I don’t know.”
- I have the right not to give excuses or reasons for my behavior.
- I have the right to make decisions based on my feelings.
- I have the right to my own needs for personal space and time.
- I have the right to be playful and frivolous.
- I have the right to be healthier than those around me.
- I have the right to be in a nonabusive environment.
- I have the right to make friends and be comfortable around people.
- I have the right to change and grow.
- I have the right to have my needs and wants respected by others.
- I have the right to be treated with dignity and respect.
- I have the right to be happy.
Sometimes a non-assertive person has the most difficulty in knowing what she or he feels, and what she or he wants.
Identify your problem situation. Specify the who, when, what, and how of the situation, the fear that keeps you from being assertive, and your goal for change.
Develop an assertive response via the following:
- Evaluate your rights within the situation at hand.
- Designate a time for discussing what you want.
- Addressing the main person involved, state the problem in terms of its consequences for you.
- Express your feelings about the particular situation.
- Make your request for changing the situation.
- Tell this person the consequences of gaining (or not gaining) his or her cooperation.
This is much easier said than done, especially if the other person in your relationship is non-assertive as well–if they are submissive, aggressive, passive-aggressive, or manipulative. Practicing with your therapist can be a great help in changing difficult relationships and becoming more assertive.