This episode was pre-recorded as part of a live continuing education webinar. On demand CEUs are still available for this presentation through ALLCEUs. Register at ALLCEUs.com/CounselorToolbox I’d like to welcome everybody to today’s presentation on assertiveness skills now This is one of those things that I’ve always struggled with trying to figure out. How exactly do I teach assertiveness skills? I know that a lot of my clients need them, but how do I go about teaching it? How do I go about making it relevant to them? So we’re going to talk a lot about that today and really look at some things that you can do in order to facilitate your clients learning assertiveness skills a lot of what we’re going to talk about are the activities and stuff our design that so they can be used in group but most of them can be used just in individual if you know with the therapist if that’s the situation that you’re in so we’ll define assertiveness we’ll talk about the different barriers to becoming assertive including the stress social and belief barriers we’re going to look at reality check or how to help people kind of keep their calm because one thing that keeps people from being assertive is either fight or flee if they get scared they may become passive or they may become aggressive but or if they become angry they’re more likely to become aggressive in their communication style we’ll talk briefly about nonverbal behavior and what that communicates because a lot of times clients I’ve worked with have been better about using assertive verbal communication but their nonverbals were still really closed off and angry so we’ll talk about those we’ll explore how to help clients learn how to give their opinion give constructive not critical feedback and make requests of others without trying to control them so making assertive requests so when I start these groups with people we talk about what is assertive ‘no sand a lot of people know the term passive-aggressive but other than that it’s just kind of a term and they know it when they see it but I have a hard time defining it so we start defining these terms so people can start categorizing and saying that’s sort of that’s aggressive that’s passive-aggressive a great way to start teaching about the different communication styles is to take little snippets from TV from sitcoms from soap operas dr. Phil anything that you can find in order and play it and have clients identify whether it’s passive passive aggressive assertive or aggressive so assertiveness hopefully we come to the agreement that the definition means stating your feelings wants and needs clearly with ownership saying it’s it’s my stuff you know I need this or I would like this and with conviction you want to not tag on the but I don’t know but so if you believe something I believe this to be true you don’t want to tack on that disclaimer at the end but I could be wrong or but I don’t know so and then there are times obviously we all have worked where we’ve tried to hedge things for one reason or another especially when talking with a client you know I’m wondering if this might be going on but you’re the expert on you so that’s what kind of be one of those things that you want to steer away from in assertive communication but encouraging clients to just start paying attention to their words when they disqualify themselves when they minimize their own feelings assertive behavior and this is kind of a warning or whatever you want to say 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 so does that mean women shouldn’t be assertive or you shouldn’t be assertive in your workplace not necessarily but we want to make sure that people know that assertiveness isn’t necessarily just readily embraced by everybody out there so there are some caveats that they need to pay attention to especially cultural caveats most organizations assertiveness is accepted you know sometimes they want to keep a

paramilitary structure but even in that paramilitary structure you can assertively communicate with your direct supervisor so advantages of sort of assertiveness and you know once we’ve defined it and defined you know why we want to be assertive I have them make a list of things or reasons why they might want to start being a sort of how can this help them feel better feel less depressed feel less anxious feel less overwhelmed so assertiveness helps us feel good about ourselves and others because and you know if they don’t come to this you know I’ll try to elicit it and we talk about the fact that when we’re asserting we’re saying my feelings and needs matter and your feelings and needs matter passive means your feelings and needs matter not mine and aggressive means my feelings and needs matter but not yours so assertiveness is the one that’s right in the middle and it says both of our feelings and needs matter so that helps us feel good it helps us feel empowered and not you know walked on or forgotten or a sort of litmus leads to the development of mutual respect with others if we’re being assertive we are not invalidating somebody else’s opinion even if we don’t agree we can accept their opinion as their opinion and potentially valid in their eyes assertiveness increases our self-esteem helps us achieve our goals minimizes hurting and alienating other people can often reduce anxiety if we’re talking about what our needs are then we’re more likely to get the met which means we’re less likely to feel anxious that we’re gonna have be rejected or have some need go unmet assertiveness protects us from being taken advantage of by others when you can put your foot down so to speak your proverbial foot and say this is what I need right now and be okay saying no and we’ll talk about that at the end of the presentation encouraging clients to learn how to say no and be ok with it not have to make excuses not have to feel guilty about it but be willing to say you know what that’s just not something I can do right now assertiveness enables us to make decisions and free choices in life if we’re being passive then we’re expecting other people to make decisions for us if we’re being aggressive then we’re keeping other people from potentially making decisions and free choices so assertiveness allows us to control our lives so we can live authentically and it enables us to express both verbally and non-verbally a wide range of feelings and thoughts both positive and negative when people learn assertiveness skills it’s easier to communicate even about the stuff that’s unpleasant that stuff that makes them angry or just makes them feel disappointed because they are able to control their emotional reaction and present it in a way that owns their stuff and that is not overpowering to other people when people are passive or aggressive their feelings and wants and needs are not heard so we talked about different in group we talk about different examples of what direct aggression looks like and you know if I’m being aggressive and that’s what we generally think of as direct aggression what does it look like and what kind of behaviors might you see and some of the suggestions that I’ve gotten have been bossy arrogant bulldozing and tolerant opinionated and overbearing and some people are extremely opinionated however they can alt you can be opinionated and also accept other people’s opinions so it’s finding that line where you’re validating the other person as having you know their valid opinions in direct aggression or passive aggression if you want to call it that sarcastic deceiving ambiguous insinuating manipulative and guilt inducing so indirect aggression can be kind of the martyr play there are a lot of different ways that people can express their displeasure and try to control another person without being overtly aggressive submissiveness can look like wailing moaning helpless PAP passive indecisive apologetic or just not well I guess it kind of goes along with passive not even having an opinion about things you know whatever I don’t care whatever you want people have opinions you may not have opinions about everything I mean sometimes we’ll be trying to figure out what we want for

dinner and oh my god yeah I don’t care I just want food at that point I really truly don’t care I’m hungry enough to do everything short of eat paint off the wall so you know we’re good but other times I do have a clear opinion about where I want to go so encouraging people to be able to feel comfortable stating their opinions and we’re going to talk about what holds people back in a minute and assertiveness is direct honest accepting responsible and can be spontaneous a slogan that Carl offers to clients that many use appreciate us say what you mean and mean what you say but don’t say it mean I love that I’ve heard the first part but not the last part that’s awesome say what you mean and mean what you say but don’t say it mean so that’s something you guys can take out of this right away when people are aggressive or passive at least the feelings of isolation because they don’t feel like anybody understands them well no because they can’t read your mind so yeah you may feel isolated because nobody can get past that wall resentment and anger if you’re not feeling like you’re getting your needs met for one reason or another either because you’re being passive or because you’re so aggressive that you kind of pushed people to the outskirts you can start feeling angry and depression and helplessness can also come out of ineffective communication styles so becoming assertive is stressful you’re having to change the way you interact with others and others have to change they the way they interact with you most of your friends and you know I just kind of look at the group and I’m like you know most of your friends are used to you behaving in a certain way so if you’ve always been passive and you suddenly start having opinions they may be like trying to figure out what’s going on and they may take a minute to adjust to it sometimes not all the time but sometimes people who are really passive tend to be in relationships friendships with people who tend to be on more on the aggressive side because you know it’s kind of yin and yang and then when the passive person starts becoming assertive the aggressive person may not know how to deal with it so it’s a matter of negotiating and and working into a new method of communicating I encourage people to think about past when they’re in stressful situations what do they typically do do they become aggressive or do they shut down or do they handle business but generally if we’re there in a group on assertiveness it’s kind of one or the other so this helps us see you know when you feel threatened what is your go-to method of solving the problem because your the behaviors generally mimic or parallel the communication Styles the stress response is designed to protect people so we talk about you know why how anger is protective and we talked about how anxiety is actually protective you know fight or flee your body is going there’s a problem and I want to survive so we need to handle it so they can start understanding why their heart races why they get flushed why they have you know sweaty palms and understand the physiological reaction and that’s just a physiological reaction it doesn’t mean there’s necessarily a threat ignoring the urge to fight or flee is extremely difficult until assertiveness is proven itself so until people can say all right now I’m feeling stressed but let me take a breath and I know how to handle this situation you know that’s when we’re starting to move into to assertiveness but up until then they’re going to go to their de facto method of handling things which is either getting aggressive or getting passive or running away or withdrawing so it’s going to take time for the person to and and maybe I shouldn’t have said ignoring but to recognize that urge to fight or flee and go okay my brains telling me that there’s something I need to check out here there may not be a threat but there’s something to check out here so barriers to becoming assertive as I said earlier people in your social circle expect you to act and react in a certain way they’re used to you behaving in a

certain way so all of a sudden if you change that might you upset them because they’re used to you being passive if you tend to be more aggressive and then all of a sudden you become more assertive there tends to be less uproar but people do tend to notice it but changing your behavior often can confuse other people they may if you tend to be aggressive or very opinionated and all of a sudden you’re not so much people may be like hey hey you feel it okay is everything is everything going alright and it just takes a while to for everybody to adjust to this new normal our egocentric Society leads people to expect that if you change your behavior it has to do with them so other people may think that you know whatever reason you’ve become more assertive or less aggressive might have to do with them or whatever for whatever reason that you’ve gone from being passive to being assertive you’re being offensive to them intentionally so we want to make sure that it’s communicated effectively and that people don’t take offense to you stating your opinions a lot of times people and I’ve seen this in in IRL in real life as well as in social media where people don’t know how to communicate assertively and if somebody states a differing opinion the sky is falling and it’s and it’s taken as a personal affront that oh my gosh you have an opinion that’s different than mine so helping clients recognize that other people will have opinions and that’s okay it doesn’t mean that yours is any less valid is important people strive for consistency if you used to be aggressive they may interpret the change as depression disengagement or an exploitable weakness if the person used to be passive then their friends may interpret the change as rejection and a push away you know all of a sudden you don’t want to hang out with us anymore well didn’t ever want to hang out with you before but now I’m just telling you no not to that extent but as you start stating opinions people may start shirking away a little bit until they get used to it and it’s important I agree with Carl it’s important to be assertive and to educate people around you about what you’re trying to do and why it’s helpful and you know maybe even engage them in practicing with you so if you’re getting ready to maybe you want to ask your boss for a raise or something practice with one of your friends so they get used to it and guess what they’re probably going to become more assertive by practicing with the person so it’s a double bonus the belief barrier can also keep people from getting from being assertive reality 90% perception 10% fact so if you take five people who witness a crime and you take their statements all of their statements are going to be different and they vehement will vehement ly believe in the statement that they gave so they’re going to hold on to that opinion because that’s their perception of what happened and their interpretation of what happened and if you come up and go well no you know Jim over there gave a very different account of what happened then John who gave the first statement may go so you’re saying I’m lying and become very aggressive and offended it’s important to negotiate or navigate differences in opinion and help people realize that everybody has different perceptions based on their life experiences their vulnerabilities at the certain a certain point if they’re in pain or they’re exhausted they may be more sensitive I know I am I tend to be more irritable and grumpy when I’m not feeling well so I may interpret something as being snitty or disrespectful or or whatever when I’m in that state when I’m already in a negative state whereas if I’m in my normal no gregarious state if you will I just kind of let it roll off on my clothes somebody’s having a bad day today prior learning experiences influence project influence perceptions so again what I believe the situation to be may be very different if you had a boss for example or let’s take it you know to the homefront if you grew up in a home where there was an active angry alcoholic and

they came home and if they were angry it was not safe to be happy or to make noise then in the future when that happens you know your spouse comes home and you’re just conditioned so when that person comes in that now’s not the time to have an opinion now you need to blend into the wall so the belief that it’s not safe to state my opinions or have an opinion different than yours can be part partly learned over generalization can keep us from being assertive we may have transference reactions with other people so if somebody reminds me of my mother or an authority figure and you know I’m not okay standing up to those people if somebody reminds me of them then I might kind of back away a little bit and not be assertive with that person so assertive is not across the board you know people are generally assertive in certain areas of their life and not so much in others so it’s important for us to encourage people to look at what areas do you tend to not be assertive in and what areas are you assertive in and how can you transfer those skills over to the other areas and other people’s nonverbals can influence a certain asipi r2 sun body and you’re expressing your opinion and even doing it assertively and they start closing off and giving you a weird look you might feel criticized or you know not feel so good about the situation which can lead to an escalation from assertiveness to aggression or passiveness if you see somebody’s nonverbals closing off you may go well but you know that’s just my opinion I don’t know and back up so moving more towards that passive thing if the other person’s nonverbals are not accepting then you may in an effort to keep things calm or for whatever reason you may back off so yeah non verbals are gonna play a huge part in in assertiveness failure to be assertive stems from prior efforts to be assertive being punished and maybe it was in a classroom you know you raised your hand and you had this great idea and you shared it and the teacher was like no that’s a dumb idea or at home or from prior prior relationships whatever and you tried to be assertive and it caused fights you know the person maybe the other person was aggressive or couldn’t wasn’t willing to take listen to your opinion or validate it so that could cause people to fail to be assertive fear of rejection can be another reason and that’s I mean everything from where to eat dinner to what your opinions are on political topics and you know whatever there are opinions involved in all of those things and if you people fear rejection if they’re needing external validation they may be more chameleon-like in order to get that validation so they may just be like well whatever you want or you know what are you thinking always asking the other person’s opinion and then suddenly echoing it assertiveness requires confidence you know people have to have a certain amount of self-confidence to say you know what I have very valid opinions and my thoughts feelings and opinions matter have emotional control if they get into a situation where they’re needing to be assertive and they’re feeling scared or angry they’re probably not going to be as easily be able to be assertive they need to be able to get back into their wise mind so to speak and not be being pushed and communicating through their emotions and they need effective verbal and nonverbal communication skills and this is one of the reasons that group can be really fun to do it because you can do skits and you can freeze in the middle of a conversation and you can just say freeze and then have people identify what’s going on with the nonverbals and what their body might be saying even if they’re not hearing the lips and that can give you an idea and that can also help people become more cognizant of their own nonverbals when they’re talking so they realize what they’re doing you know I’ve never really

paid much attention to it before I got into counseling but now you know after after going through counseling classes and stuff when I cross my arms you know and I get cold really easy but if I’m talking to somebody and I crossed my arms I know that’s a closed-off stance and can be considered hostile so I try not to do that or if I have to because I’m just freezing you know I’ll rub my arm I’ll go I’m sorry I’m really really cold so they don’t interpret what I’m doing as being rejecting or aggressive encouraging clients to stay calm so when they get that fight-or-flight feeling have them go through in their mind a couple of questions what’s my perception of what’s going on and the example that I usually use is going to return something at the customer service desk I don’t know anybody who really loves doing that and you know sometimes you have to be assertive to get it returned sometimes you can get away with not being but generally you don’t need to be aggressive but a lot of times I see people being aggressive with customer service so what’s my perception of what’s going on if I’m up there and the customer service person says you know I can’t take this back without a receipt what does that trigger in me does that was I already anxious and then that triggers anger because I’m not getting my way what’s going on what’s my perception of the situation am i perceiving that that person doesn’t want to help me or what and that’s just identifying the perception it’s not saying it’s true or false or anything then we go to what evidence do I have for and against this perception what were the person’s words and what were the person’s nonverbals and the way somebody says something you know if they say you know I’m sorry I really need a receipt to take that back that comes off very different than you know you need to have a receipt to return this even my verbals are very different there but you know if I were standing up I could do more non verbals and this is something else we can model in group you know show me an aggressive customer service manager response so looking at the evidence for and against this perception that the person is just trying to be as unhelpful as possible how valid is the evidence am i reacting to feelings or facts we try to return something and if they don’t want to take it back right away we may have that real quick feeling oh this is not going my way okay you know but that’s a feeling you’re assuming that you’re not going to be able to return it you’re assuming that the person doesn’t want to help you or whatever a my magnifying or catastrophizing am I making this a bigger deal than it really has to be and a lot of times with customer service you just ask to speak to the manager or you know you come back later with the receipt whatever there are ways to get around it that you know you just have to follow the rules have I stated my feelings and needs objectively and clearly so if you come up and you just kind of put it on that I need to return this they may be like well what’s wrong with it and or you know do you have a receipt well those are the first two questions they’re supposed to ask it’s not that they’re questioning you or you know trying to be unhelpful they have to ask those questions so helping people understand the communication as it goes through so they can stay calm and not take it personally be able to state their needs and figure out okay if I state my needs and I don’t get my needs met what’s the next step how do I resolve the situation six characteristics of assertiveness eye contact demonstrates interest and shows sincerity so you don’t want to look down and be looking at the ground and failing to make eye contact you also don’t want to like stare and bore your eyes into the soul of the next person you know that’s can be considered aggressive so but having good eye contact smiling when at all possible body posture congruent body language will improve the significance of the message so if you’re open you know you have that solar position what is it sitting open leaning forward attentive and I don’t remember the acronym from from counseling but when you’re talking to people you know be squared off with them don’t be turned this way you know pay attention even

some cultures will pay attention to which direction your feet are turning and if your feet are pointing towards them it’s considered insulting but that’s a whole different class gestures appropriate gestures can add emphasis to things so if you say you know I really need this that’s a gesture that you know you’re grabbing your heart you really need that so when you’re being assertive you know it made me so happy that this happened it can communicate more of a message and kind of underscores it it’s like verbal bold italicized and all caps voice a level that’s well modulated in its tone is more convincing and acceptable and is not intimidating so if somebody’s too loud or too soft or kind of wavering up and down people get messages from that like the person’s not being sincere or they’re trying to bully or people interpret a lot of different things just from nonverbals based on their prior learning experiences timing it’s important to encourage people to use their judgement to maximize receptivity and impact so going to that customer service manager again you know you don’t walk in and from the very GetGo go I need to see the manager you walk in you try to resolve it with that person if that person can’t help then you talk to the manager same thing if you’re going to talk to your boss or your significant other your roommate about something you don’t want to do it right after they’ve had a really bad day you know assertiveness also takes into account the other person’s mental state so to speak and doesn’t kind of kick them when they’re down we want to make sure that that person is good for the conversation here at the office you know I’ll walk into somebody else’s office and if they’re in the middle of something and I need to have a conversation I might say when you get a second if you could come over then we’ll talk so I’m not pulling them away from something which may irritate them on top of whatever I’ve got to say and content how where and when you choose to comment is often more important than what is said you know encouraging and this is true for parents for friends for anybody you know it’s important not to call people out or be aggressive in public you know if you’ve got some sort of constructive feedback to provide pulling the person aside somewhere quiet or somewhere more private is definitely better than hollering across the room or or not saying anything at all assertive behaviors mean being open in expressing wishes thoughts and feelings and encouraging others to do likewise you don’t encourage others to do likewise that’s kind of aggressive and you may not think of it that way but if it’s like you need to hear my stuff but I’m not really interested in yours that’s sort of an indirect aggression listening to the views of others and responding appropriately regardless of whether you agree my mother and I for example our polar opposites when it comes to some of the big issues politics religion that kind of thing so you know we have to be assertive or just not talk about the subjects but when we the subjects do come up it’s important that we are assertive and sort of agree to disagree accepting responsibilities and delegating to others people who are too passive often take on too much and they feel overwhelmed and burdened people who are aggressive may put too much stuff off or they may not accept responsibilities they’re like no that’s your problem I’m not helping so assertiveness is really kind of being in there and being the glue that keeps teams and families and relationships together assertive people are willing to delegate to others though but they own it you know at the farm we have a ton of stuff to do and so I communicate with the children and I’m like you know it’s really important that we get these you know eight things done this weekend so I can handle these however I really need you to do these other things because I’m just not going to have the time to do it so I own it I say you know I need it to happen and if need be I expressed to them why but

you know they’ve gotten to the point where they’re pretty good about under standing that but we need to be able to communicate to others and ask and us asking and saying no their to interpersonal effectiveness skills that we talk a lot a lot about and dialectical behavior therapy or and talk about them in a couple slides regularly expressing appreciation of others for what they have done or are doing you don’t really often think of this as assertive but it’s true because it’s we’re kind of making our selves ulnar Abul and we’re saying you know what I really appreciate you helping me with this or you’re doing a really good job with whatever so it’s important when being assertive not just to only say things when there’s something negative to say again that’s aggressive and passive is not saying anything at all good or bad so assertive says you’re doing a great job I appreciate your help being able to admit mistakes and apologize that’s a hard thing and it makes people feel vulnerable people who are aggressive tend to have difficulty doing this because they it makes them feel vulnerable and weak people who are passive a lot of times not always but a lot of times apologize too much you know I’m sorry I’ll take care of that just to keep the peace and make everybody calm maintaining self-control is another assertive behavior not operating from that revved up emotional mind but being able to de-escalate a little bit and get into a wise mind sort of state where they can think about okay what is the best option for improving the moment and behaving isn’t equal to others not being better than not having smarter opinions or whatever acknowledging that you cannot control other people’s behaviors but you can control how you react to them and we’ll talk about this one in group for awhile and I have people give examples of times when somebody said something that has triggered either a passive or aggressive response and we’ll talk about why it triggered that response and how else they might have chosen to react to that situation in the future being open to criticism and compliments most of us are open to compliments you know we’re like okay we could we can take that some people have difficulty handling compliments because their self-esteem is kind of lower they don’t know what to do with them so we’ll talk about how to handle that but also being open to criticism not everybody is gonna like what you do all the time nobody is gonna like what you do all the time pretty much I’m willing to go out on a limb and say that periodically even your greatest fan is gonna say you know what no no that’s okay you know criticism if it’s constructive can help you learn and grow from something it’s not necessarily designed to make you feel less than or to be rejecting it may be designed to help you improve and assertive people express themselves in positive ways instead of saying this is a stupid idea you might say well that’s one way of doing it let’s look at the benefits and drawbacks and that’s one I use with my kids a lot when they want to do something and I don’t think it’s probably gonna actually work but I’m like okay you know let me hear ya let me let’s talk about the benefits and drawbacks how this might work sometimes they convince me sometimes I hold true to my own opinion but it’s an idea and I want them to continue to want to be creative another example would be saying you’re the laziest employee I have it probably not going to get you anywhere and that’s pretty darn aggressive and ugly instead saying something like I know the work can seem overwhelming but in order for the department to bill so stating why it’s important I have to have your reports within 72 hours of service so it helps people understand why you’re asking this of them why it’s important and you’re not calling names you’re just saying here’s a behavior here’s what I need here’s the end part that I need the third one is somebody saying you know where do you want to go to dinner and somebody else saying I want to go to XYZ BBQ and the first person saying I hate that restaurant well that’s kind of negative and that also doesn’t propose any solutions so instead of saying I hate that restaurant saying hmm that’s one choice but you know what I’d really prefer to go to or I’ve had a hankering for whatever asserts your opinion and if

states it in a positive way without having to be negative if you really have a reason for not liking that restaurant you can state that too so for example I can’t have caffeine anymore which Oh such a downer but when we go to restaurants and we go to places for lunch or whatever for fast food there aren’t a lot of places that have drink options besides water and huh I know I should drink more water but I digress so I will state my opinion yeah I’m happy going to you know these three places because they’ve got things they’ve got something I can drink there do I always get my way no but it’s it’s definitely I must I’m stating my opinions and why I want to go there giving your opinions we all have them and you know well they’re sayings about opinions but your opinions are important opinions are qualitative they can be good bad fair helpful you know and generally we think our own opinions are good and fair and helpful but you know some people may look at our opinion to go now you know I know that that’s a bad opinion and they don’t agree with it they have a different opinion but that’s okay you know they have a right to it so if we’re talking about restaurants for example you know you may think a restaurant is good somebody may think a restaurant is bad you both may be right you know opinions are a combination of the current situation Plus prior learning so we’ll stay with the restaurant example right now if I’ve been to this restaurant before and I’ve had a really bad service experience or really bad food then I might think that you know what that’s a bad restaurant I don’t want to go there my opinion is that that’s a bad restaurant but on the other hand if I’ve been there 20 times and it’s been great I might have a very different opinion and we both could be going to the same restaurant we just had different ordered different meals or have different taste preferences it’s important that we own our own opinions when we give one you know I like this restaurant good opinions are often based in fact so you say I like this restaurant because they have the best manicotti that I’ve had in years or yeah give a reason support your opinion with evidence if somebody asks you like did you like that movie if you say yes or no then put it because after it you know I liked it because or you know my common for responses yeah the first three quarters of it were really good but I thought they could have cut off the last thirty minutes of it because it was redundant you know I get bored easy so my family’s kind of learned to expect that from me but it’s fine I mean we go to the movies and everybody enjoys it I’m not unhappy it’s just they asked my opinion I offered it if the opinion is negative try to identify what you would change so if you have you know that restaurant every time I go there my food is cold you know if they had you know better service so it got out before the food was before the food was cold you know I love going there or you know if somebody asks your opinion on their clothing try to identify instead of going oh that looks awful go you know what I’m wondering if maybe you want to put a blazer on with that though it’s more constructive and respect others opinions I statements have three specific elements and I think we’ve all taught these to our clients a behavior of feeling and a tangible effect I would like you to do this it would make me it would make me happy if you would do this because then I wouldn’t have to yada-yada so with my son for example it would make me happy or I would appreciate it if you would bring down your laundry every Friday because it’ll make it easier for me to do laundry on Saturday morning when I get up you know give them what it is how it’s gonna benefit them and how it’s gonna benefit me techniques for becoming a certain this is what y’all been waiting for behavioral rehearsal can’t say it enough encouraging clients to be assertive when they make appointments at your office if they’ve got an issue with you know something that we’re doing if they like it or they don’t like it and anything else and I encourage clients to pay attention during the week to times when

they could have been more assertive and then we will rehearse that either an individual if it’s an individual client or in group repeated assertion and I encourage people to think about this because sometimes they’ll get into a discussion will call it with someone else and the other person tries to switch topics on them and one of my rules for fair fighting is to pick one topic at a time and resolve it you know I don’t want to litany a dummy runks we’re gonna start with one thing and we’re gonna get all the way through so if you’re talking about somebody leaving the toothpaste cap off the toothpaste we’re gonna stay with that until we’ve resolved that issue we’re not going to go to leaving clothes on the floor and the toilet seat up and you know my daughter’s favorite when her brother leaves whiskers on the counter she’s like uh-huh but we’re gonna talk about one thing at a time we’re not gonna sidetrack if we you know until we finish that so staying focused fogging is another technique that we can help clients learn to use that will allows them to receive criticism comfortably by acknowledging the criticism agreeing there may be some truth to what they say but remaining the judge of your own actions so you know maybe they have roommates that don’t clean up after themselves very much or maybe their roommates are upset that they don’t clean up after themselves and the roommate says you know you don’t ever clean up after yourself and the person assertively responds you know you’re right I have a bad habit of getting a collection of dishes in my room I’ll try to bring them down once a day now something like that so acknowledging that there may be some fact there you know we all could use it we can all grow from constructive feedback and even if it’s not presented constructively just taking that breath and acknowledging the parts that are right and and then letting the rest go finding a workable compromise is another assertiveness technique you know you want to go to this restaurant I want to go to this restaurant how can we make that work can we get takeout from both and go have a picnic what’s going to work here nonverbals the body language project.com great site they have a downloadable PDF that goes through a ton of different nonverbals and it’s a great reference point for a lot of people especially I feel so old the younger generation who has spent a lot of time texting and not as much time face-to-face it can help them become more aware of their nonverbals and read people a little bit easier so key points in helping clients learn about nonverbals is baselining when my husband was in law enforcement he took interview and interrogation and he’s like yeah if you if you look up and write it means something if you look down and left it means something else I don’t remember what it was and I started thinking about it and paying attention to it the thing with baselining is you’ve got to figure out how often somebody normally does that because I will avert my gaze down and left when I finish talking to somebody and that’s just kind of my cue of okay your turn to talk but it’s not necessarily that I’m being deceptive or accessing memories or whatever it is so you need to know what a person normally does how fast their eyelids blink you know some people when they’re talking to someone of the opposite sex for example their eyelids blink more frequently because they’re excited so that doesn’t necessarily meaning that mean that they’re being disingenuous or manipulative so get a baseline on what that person’s normal body posture is another one my daughter comment comments on periodically and I had a client say the same phrase the other day and kind of struck me interesting but resting bitchface when I’m working on my tablet when I’m playing Scrabble when I’m not engaged with somebody I guess I have this resting look on my face and it’s not that I’m trying to be grouchy or anything that’s just the way the corners of my mouth go and so I try to pay attention when I’m around other people to make sure that I’m making good eye contact and keeping more of a smile on my face but baselining for people so because when I do that 99% of the time I’m not in a bad mood I’m just deep in thought congruence with nonverbals making sure that their words and their actions kind of mimic if they’re going

sure no problem I’ll take care of that obviously incongruent so we’ll roleplay different examples of in congruence and then move on from there cue clusters and the rule of four you know you want to look for four different cues that something’s going on if somebody is unhappy about something if they just look kind of down they could be tired maybe they don’t feel well so you don’t want to go just by necessarily there facial expression you want to look at their body the rest of their body language have at least four cues before you start drawing a conclusion that they’re angry or they’re anxious or whatever we mirroring is another thing for non verbals encouraging people to mirror each other’s behavior so if I close my arms it’s more likely the person I’m talking to is going to close off too if we’re in a discussion and it starts to get heated and I stand up and the other person is probably going to stand up likewise if I sit down the person’s probably going to sit down so you can control some of the momentum of the conversation through your nonverbals a fun activity is having people display a closed posture and like mannequins around the room and then identifying going around and trying to identify what they’re thinking what does this closed posture mean and a lot of times we’ll do the closed arms to start out with because that’s the easiest because closed arms can mean I’m angry it could mean I’m scared it could mean I’m really cold or go ahead I’m in pain I’m really trying to hold it together so I can I can listen to you so you know I have them try to figure out you know what the nuances are between those four postures constructive feedback is objective and measurable and I encourage people and my staff included instead of saying you know he’s not progressing in treatment that doesn’t tell me anything he doesn’t know how to progress in treatment if you don’t tell him what he needs to do so you know if you say somebody’s lazy oh sorry I don’t know how to fix that but if you say they failed to complete their assignments for the past three weeks that gives them something to look at and say okay how can I start getting my assignments completed stupid horrible word but I hear it sometimes versus you know what is it that’s making you say this if the person has difficulty following basic instructions for opening is register then okay so that’s what we need to focus on teaching this person or maybe is just not something that they’re going to grasp because there’s too many steps provide information that the person can choose to address and that presents an actionable problem instead of telling your roommate you are such a slob tell your roommate what is it that you don’t like you know it bothers me when you don’t clean your whiskers off the counter or pick your clothes up off the floor that is something that they owning it it bothers me when this happens or I would appreciate it if you would pick your clothes up or whatever it would it would make me happy and provide possible solutions and develop an action plan so instead of just saying you know it drives me crazy when I walk into your room and there are glasses everywhere and dishes and you know this and that and picking apart things and go and fix it continuing with the feedback and going what’s a strategy we can use or to fix this with roommates it’s a little harder obviously with kids and with employees you can do a little bit of the same thing if you walk in and you say you know what I’m noticing that your paperwork has started to get really behind so let’s talk about what we can do to help you get caught up and definitely constructive feedback Karl points out labels the behaviors not the person because the person you know it’s like saying Johnny’s a good boy or Johnny’s a bad boy Johnny is a boy Johnny does good and bad behaviors or behaviors that we don’t like so we want to focus on the behavior unconditional positive regard for the person

constructive back on the behavior making requests state the reason for your request such as I’m feeling exhausted and overwhelmed by trying to manage all of these tasks or I recognize that as a result my work product has gone down I’m just I’m having difficulty prioritizing right now so that owns it it says I recognize there’s a problem and this is what I’m seeing as the problem then state what you need in the situation I need help prioritizing which of these tasks is most important to you that’s one solution or I need some assistance so I can produce a quality product in a timely manner during grant season my boss and I would have this conversation quite a lot because on top of managing the programs we also had grants to write usually two or three would come in at the same time and I’d be like okay I can only do so much and I need help at least when I first started working with him I needed help understanding what his priorities were what I needed to put at the top of the list saying no is important and part of assertiveness because poor time management leads to stress and irritability and the downfall of assertiveness encourage people to get in touch with what’s important to them to have a rich and meaningful life I know you guys get tired of hearing me say that and at work so in general and then at work so then if somebody they’re at work and they’re doing their tasks and somebody comes and says you know what I have this extra project over here you know you’ll want to do it or I have some overtime work you can get do you want to take it the person can check in with themselves and go is this going to distract me from what’s important in my life if so then I need to say no and if it isn’t then I can consider saying yes so first you have to know what’s important so you know where to say no and where to say yes and then encourage people to say no assertively and I always use the example of somebody asking you to move this is what we start out with or asking you to help them move you can say yeah you know I’d rather not I’ve got a lot to do this weekend and then potentially propose a compromise you know maybe next weekend I can help you come clean your old place or whatever the second level and that’s the the level where you’re willing to be persuaded the second level is no you know I’ve really got too much to do this weekend excuse me but if it’s an emergency you the second level is one where you really don’t want to say yes but if you have a friend or a colleague or your boss really really need something then you might be willing to put aside something that’s important to you in order to help them out level three is no wonder any circumstances there is just no way I’m gonna do this I remember you know there are very few times where I’ve had to say no under any circumstances but there have been times with with our clients you know sometimes especially those are in recovery from addiction they may need to say you know there is no I cannot go to that party because there’s going to be too many triggers absolutely not it’s not safe for me hard line in the sand so encouraging people to know where their know where their noes are is it a you know I’d rather not but I can be persuaded or it is a hard line can’t do it group activities for developing assertiveness ask someone you feel is fairly assertive to sit on a chair in the middle of the room select a few other people and assign them a behavior type assertive aggressive passive passive-aggressive and tell them that their task is to persuade the person on the chair to give up the chair or if the person sitting in the chair has a bowl full of candies they need to persuade the person to give them a piece of candy and see how those different behavior styles play out rehearsals are another thing to do I encourage clients we’ll put a situation out there and I break

them up into groups and each group will draw so they don’t do the same thing each time but to create a passive passive aggressive aggressive and assertive response for each situation mmm so I’ll just call in Group A and whatever communication style they drew drew is what will be presented and then we’ll go to this can be really fun to do in group there’s generally a lot of laughs but it helps people practice and become more aware of their own behaviors if a new colleague that you share an office with smokes continuously and you don’t like the smell of smoke you know how do you handle that another situation you’re feeling put upon at work and decide to ask for a raise or you’re waiting to pay for some shopping but the two sales assistants are deep in conversation and appear to be ignoring you or your employer expects you to take on extra work but your existing workload is already heavy or you make a mistake at work and your supervisor tells you off in a very brooked and angry manner so I think most of us have encountered several of these situations and clients can come up with their own scenarios as well but this gives I mean generally going through all of these takes the better part of a group period and like I said it can be pretty fun to watch them act it out and people laugh and it’s good steps to being assertive know your human needs you’re by a lot you know big Maslow’s hierarchy biological needs safety and security create and contribution so there’s a lot there but it all kind of is similar we need to be able to make things and participate in the making of things and feel like we’re contributing to the world we need a sense of love belonging understanding and significance in the world and self-esteem growth and autonomy so we have people look at these because when they’re not getting these needs met is when they tend to respond with less than assertive behaviors when they realize these and and are more cognizant then they’ll understand where that fight-or-flight reaction might be coming from and they can address it more assertively encourage people to pay special attention to the universal needs that they think are not important to them and encourage them to explore if they’re using self-deception or denial so if they don’t get a promotion instead of going and assertively talking to the supervisor about why it didn’t happen they say you know I didn’t want the promotion anyway it’s not that important but then six months later they’re still talking about why they didn’t get the promotion connect severe negative emotions to the fear of specific needs not being met so maybe a fear of lack of security at your job or a fear of not being loved if they feel like they’re being rejected include encourage people to I then identify areas where they are and are not assertive and we have a list here physical space making new relationships intimate activities setting boundaries both physical and emotional public or large groups with authority figures over money matters or just being creative mmm I know my daughter doesn’t like to share her creative stuff very much and I’m always honored when she’s willing to share stuff with us but she you know that’s very private and personal to her and she says that boundary she’s like no you know this is my stuff I’ll show you when I’m ready physical space is one of those you know some people just don’t like being touched at all and they they’re very clear about that other people you know kind of shrink when somebody touches them so encouraging them to be able to state you know I really prefer it if you don’t touch me or you know or I’m a hugger welcome the next step is to encourage people to face their fears and practice being assertive with moderate self exposure so doing that gradual exposure so if somebody has difficulty talking with the opposite sex for example have them first ask somebody that they like what time it is and then ask ten people of the opposite sex what time it is so they start out with one and then they move to ten total strangers then ask three people of the opposite sex for directions and their opinion on what to do in town and then ten people of the opposite sex the same thing and ten people of the opposite sex for their email or phone number and you can adjust this obviously because it kind of you know gets down to the hard stuff pretty

quickly but encourage people to create a ladder of anxiety so they can work through the first rung and realize it’s not so bad and work through the second rung and go okay that’s I can do that other things people can do to start being assertive and encourage them to introduce themselves to a few people at a meet-up or a party having a practice saying no you know saying their first note can be a real big thing for some people encourage them to ask for a raise when they complete a demanding project if that’s something that they want or think they deserve encourage them to not run away from conflict but try to manage it so they need to plan ahead if they know they’re going to have a discussion with the roommate plan ahead behaviorally rehearse in their own mind how it might go and how they can assertively communicate find one thing you like about someone you dislike and compliment it and smile the next time somebody cuts you off the next step is to develop social skills to improve self-confidence depending on where the assertiveness is lacking is going to guide what types of activities the person does but examples include reading books in an area where they’re not assertive or joining a public speaking course if they’re terrified of public appearances if they’re afraid of heated discussions then intentionally you know letting the other person know ahead of time but getting with a friend that they can have a civil heated discussion with and feel free to express their opinions and learning how to manage aggressive people and conflict and developing conflict resolution skills everybody’s got difficult people in their life so I shouldn’t have even put if people in in your life that may be difficult can can include aggressive people the martyr the person with borderline characteristics or the person with narcissistic characteristics who always thinks they’re right this can be another roleplay that you can do in group which can be fun I find clients really like role plays because they’re actually working with the material and they’re when they’re creating their skits they’re thinking of somebody they know when they’re creating the persona for their skits so it’s bringing it home for them dealing with guilt and shame after doing an assertive act some people feel guilt or shame especially if they’re rejected so if they ask somebody out and they get told no they may feel shameful you may assume it’s not okay to have your needs met or you don’t think you deserve it or you’re embarrassed so it’s important for people to understand that everybody feels disappointed sometimes when they don’t everybody doesn’t agree with them or they don’t get get something that they want but with every small exposure people realize that it feels good to get their needs met and it’s okay to do so and you know more times than not it’s going to go well but there are going to be some nose in there reinforce the healthy belief that you have needs like everyone else and it’s your basic right to meet them in a healthy and respectful manner dig deep into why you really feel guilty or shameful what kind of errors were made in your upbringing that put a tough emotional burden on your assertiveness you know why were you taught that it’s not okay to be assertive to state your opinion it’s a great chance for people to practice talking back to their inner critic and consciously decide to take good care of themselves and their needs instead of saying you know what I deserve to be happy I deserve to make friends and it’s okay if somebody tells me no or you know talk back to their inner critic who’s telling them they should be afraid and shamed and feel guilty acknowledged guilt or shame make room for it you know kind of embrace it let’s figure out what’s going on here write down why it’s so tough talk to other people about the situation and then let it go assertive communication means stating your feelings thoughts and needs in a respectful but oning manner social barriers are those created when you start acting differently than those in your social circle expect you to so it takes them a little while to adjust belief barriers are those automatic thoughts and schemas that help interpret events based on past learning where you may interpret that it’s not a safe place to be assertive or you may interpret events in a way that causes you to feel anger or fear and it’s harder to be assertive when you’re in your emotional mind when being assertive it’s best to

provide your opinion or observations supported by facts you know if somebody says did you like that movie it’s more fulfilling to them if you say yes because or yes I really liked instead of just going yeah okay what did you like about it when making requests it is ideal to create a win-win by pointing out what’s currently wrong the behavior what needs to happen and how it will benefit both parties dear clients need a little help staying on track between sessions are you looking for a great aftercare resource look no further than Doc Snipes calm for as little as 15 dollars per week dr. Snipes provides concierge coaching services to clients through online weekly groups chat availability seven days a week and Members Only resources learn more at Doc’s nights calm

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