What’s the best way to get assertive? Practice practice practice! In workshops you can have a chance to practice various assertiveness behaviours and attitudes through role play and see what works best for you. In one-to-one work you can also work intensively on finding out what assertiveness behaviours will work best for your current challenges. You will get to rehearse asking for what you want and saying no (and hearing no) in a safe environment with nothing to lose. It’s all win!
Assertiveness training is about working with specific, concrete situations in which people feel themselves unable to ask for what they want from other people, whether it’s respect for a boundary or some kind of benefit or action.
Most people are able to be assertive most of the time with most people in their lives. But nearly everyone has one or two situations where they encounter internal barriers to assertiveness. For example:
Subtle sexual harassment at work, school or university – a man who is otherwise perfectly nice always puts his hand on your arm, a woman makes sexual remarks about other men’s bodies in front of you, a co-worker repeatedly tells obscene jokes to the whole office
Being mocked or teased by a partner, boss or co-worker – your boss makes jokes about you being overpaid, your wife makes jokes about your
paunch, your husband makes jokes about you spending all his money
Slacker roommates – you clean or nobody does, or one roommate never gets the rent in on time
Bullying bosses – your boss simply assumes you will stay late
People who pursue you for friendship or love or sex, even though you aren’t interested and never call them
Professional contacts who try to personalise the relationship in order to get a financial advantage
In-laws who try to control our parenting of their grandchildren
Children who play divorced parents off against each other
Step children who play EVERYONE off against each other
Siblings who condescend to us
Parents who insist on giving unwanted advice (unless you are under 18, then it’s their job)
Colleagues who dump their work on you and/or steal credit for your work
People who just don’t listen
People who call you stupid for asking questions
Very often we have one specific situation that turns into a pattern – we run away to avoid the conflict and the next thing we know we’re back in the same boat, with some other lover or boss or friend or co-worker.
Or it might just be one specific person. We might close million-dollar deals with top CEOs and no waiter would dare to ignore us, but we become helplessly inarticulate when our mother calls and tells us how incredibly backward we were about potty training. We might be eminently capable of setting boundaries with everyone but our alcoholic jealous older sister who calls up to demand money, mentioning in passing that dad always gave us everything and her nothing.
An assertiveness situation that has become chronic or keeps repeating (or has always existed) can ruin the quality of your personal or work life. Assertiveness training in a group setting or one-to-one work can help move things along. It is possible to increase your baseline assertiveness through various types and combinations of role play techniques, include straight rehearsal, role play with role reversal, and role play using systemic techniques (constellations/familienstellen).