Advice on Self-Assertiveness

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When examining the audio tapes from the student focus groups conducted in spring 2009, one of my student workers, Christine, told me she detected a personal need frequently expressed in some fashion by many of the female participants, namely, a desire to be more assertive with male dates.  I suggested to Christine that she retrieve articles that discuss research results and how to develop the ability of assertiveness, and then provide summaries with excerpts on the subject along with the links so you the readers can review the entire articles’ text  if you so desire.  I hope you find this information insightful. In April 2010, my student workers, Christine and Sarah, developed and then delivered a presentation at the Student Research Conference at Truman State University on the need for many girls and women to become more self-assertive concerning their personal desires with overly aggressive male dates.  We have brought up this information through YouTube in two versions.  Specifically, there is a PowerPoint text and an audio/video recording of the actual presentation.  Some people learn better visually and others aurally.  I encourage you to access the information whichever your preference.

Self-Assertiveness for Date Rape Prevention Part 1 Self-Assertiveness for Date Rape Prevention Part 2   Reference #1: “How to Become More Internally Directed and Effective With Others — Even Controlling People!”http://www.csulb.edu/~tstevens/h63barri.htm Dr. Tom G. Stevens’ website lists issues that are reasons for nonassertive behavior tendencies, such as avoidance and face saving strategies. The website works to provide ways to overcome barriers of indecisiveness.  It states that by focusing on internal and external control in situations and the importance of prompt and good decision making, assertive behavior can be achieved.  Overall the website uses language that it is motivational with a “you can do it” attitude.  Dr. Stevens also notes various reasons why someone might be fearful to assert his or her needs, and he later notes the importance of facing our fears because it “establishes self-confidence and independence.” Reference #2: “Improving Assertive Behavior” http://www.livestrong.com/article/14699-improving-assertive-behavior/ James J. Messina, a licensed psychologist, writes about the reasons why we each have the right to be assertive, such as the right to be independent and to change one’s mind. Messina also describes when and how we should use this ability (e.g., maturely in a direct verbal manner, in an attempt to come to a “win-win” outcome).  He gives scenarios, such as “You are at the dinner table and someone starts smoking.  What do you do?”  This allows the reader to choose their own response to discover how assertive they are, and what they can work on in the future. There are six myths that discourage assertive behavior.  They deal with anxiety, modesty, a good friend, obligation, gender role myths, and strength of an issue.  The assertion strategies the blog article focuses on are how body language speaking strategies might discern assertive, aggressive and non-aggressive behavior from one another.  Some examples of these assertion strategies are:

  • direct eye contact
  • facial expressions which indicate interest and alertness
  • standing or sitting in an upright position
  • normal conversational distance
  • relaxed gestures
  • speak in a calm tone of voice
  • choose a time when both parties are relaxed to talk

The article focuses on empowerment through experience and repetition of assertive behavioral strategies (e.g. “the ten assertive rights of the individual”).  There are numerous qualities of assertiveness, namely, the use of “I” statements instead of “You” statements: these are usually effective in getting others to change or reinforce behavior, run a low risk of hurting a relationship, and neither attack the other’s self-esteem nor put him on the defensive, and prevents “gunny sacking” (i.e., saving up a lot of bad feelings). Reference #3:  “Speaking Up:  How to Be More Assertive” http://www.pioneerthinking.com/ej_assertive.html Edel Jarboe is the author and founder of an online self help magazine in which she has an article focusing on the importance of becoming assertive and shedding feelings of powerlessness. Jarboe cites Dr. Tilman, who concludes that assertiveness and low self-esteem are linked.   She explains, “Low self-esteem can affect interaction …a person who feels bad about him/herself may find it hard to feel the confidence needed to speak up.”  Jaboe states “assertiveness means communicating what you want in a clear manner, respecting your own rights and feelings and the rights and feelings of others.”  Jarboe emphasizes the importance of sticking to first person thoughts in situations where assertive behavior may waver, by this she means using “I” vocabulary to empower oneself.  Jarboe discusses how gender roles affect how we assert ourselves and also step by step instructions on how to cultivate a more assertive and empowered attitude towards decision making and life, such as developing a value system, being decisive, maintaining eye contact, etc.  Jarboe notes that the first step to being assertive is only apologizing when you’ve done something wrong, not when others have wronged you (a common response of people who are fearful of asserting their needs). Other Helpful Links: “How to Be More Assertive”  “How to Become More Assertive” http://www.selfgrowth.com/articles/how_to_become_more_assertive.html# “4 Ways to Grow a Backbone and Become More Assertive” http://www.solveyourproblem.com/empowerment/grow-a-backbone.shtml# (This website includes an assertiveness quiz.) “Five Compelling Reasons to Become More Assertive” http://www.positivityblog.com/index.php/2008/03/14/five-compelling-reasons-to-become-more-assertive/ “Assertiveness-Getting What You Want in a Fair Way” http://www.mindtools.com/stress/pp/Assertiveness.htm