We will have all had experiences where an understanding of assertiveness training would have come in very useful. For example you might have really wanted to say something to somebody but ended up saying nothing for fear of causing an argument or perhaps you’ve ended up having a violent outburst because you kept your views and feelings bottled up when assertiveness training may have helped to resolve the situation much better.
A lack of assertiveness can have negative implications on your life and upon your relationships as you’ll inevitably fail in communicating what you really want to say and, therefore, you’ll never get what you hope to achieve out of the situation. However, assertiveness training can help to improve your relationships, career opportunities and it reduces stress.
What is Assertiveness Training?
Before explaining what assertiveness training is, it’s important to establish what it isn’t. It’s not about being aggressive, being a ‘know all’ or about getting your own way every time. It’s about helping people who may have previously suffered in silence to speak up for themselves and to rid them of destructive patterns of behaviour which cause them to feel unworthy, to stop feeling downtrodden or walked upon and to eliminate any sense of them feeling bullied or picked upon. Basically, it’s about raising their confidence and increasing their level of self-esteem.
If the training is good, it can help a person identify when they are being abused or manipulated in some way for someone else’s benefit and how to stop that happening without having to resort to anger, aggressive behaviour or some other form of negative response.
Its emphasis is on calm, clear and frank communication as a way of establishing relationships whereby everyone knows where they stand and nobody feels a victim.
Firstly, you need to adopt an attitude that you are just as worthy as anybody else and have an equal right to enjoy your life. At the same time, you also need to value the opinions of others and to respect their right to the same treatment as you wish for yourself.
It involves being clear about what you want and how you feel that can be achieved and about saying both ‘Yes’ and, often more importantly, ‘No’ when you want to. You’ll be taught how to define your boundaries and how to feel confident about defending them even if that might provoke a disagreement. You’ll learn negotiating skills and how to do that effectively when two people want different outcomes to the same issue. Not only will you learn how to talk more effectively but how to listen attentively also.
Body language has a fundamental impact upon your ability to look and feel assertive and you can learn techniques in posture, hand and arm control and how to look at people openly and attentively without it being interpreted as fear or aggression.
Assertiveness training, therefore, is not simply about how you say things but the way in which you say them and the way you come across to those to whom you say them.
Points to Remember
If you have often felt that a lack of assertiveness has often let you down, there are some important things you should always remind yourself of. These include accepting that you have the right to say yes or no and that it’s not always necessary to justify your responses. You have the right to judge your own behaviour, thoughts and emotions and to take responsibility for them. You have the right to change your mind, to make mistakes and to say ‘I don’t know’ even if you are pressed for a decision one way or the other. You also have the right to say ‘I don’t understand’ or even ‘I don’t care’.
Ultimately, the only judgement that matters is how you judge your own actions and behaviour and not to let others dictate how you should respond or behave. In other words, it’s about imposing your own self-will to do or say what is right for you and not allowing others’ behaviour to impose their own values upon you whilst at the same time, being able to feel comfortable in your own skin about the words and actions you have taken.