Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Assertiveness Training

This is not to say that shy people can just do it, like the Nike people say. It is harder than it looks, and yet, easier than it sounds.

Let's begin with my favorite example. Those of you who have seen me in therapy could have narrowly escaped without ever hearing this, but it's unlikely.

You're standing in line at the movies. Or at the grocery store.

You're in line, just waiting, wondering when you'll get to the ticket agent, talking to your friend. You notice that someone has just budged.

Budged means, in case you aren't familiar with the vernacular, someone stepped in front of you without permission.

Now there are three choices in this case:

1) you say nothing, the passive choice.
This one is likely to make you feel angry or powerless. Maybe you really don't care, but NOTHING will change in your favor here. If the person who cut in line in front of you gets the last ticket in the theater, you're just plain out of luck.

2) you say something assertive.
ASSERTIVE MEANS JUST THE FACTS. You gently tap that person on the shoulder, point to the back of the line and say, "Excuse me, sir, you must not have noticed, but the back of the line is OVER THERE."

You say this in a calm, rational, factual voice. NO EMOTION. NO EMOTING OR ACTING deserving or snide or angry. NADA SIGN THAT YOU'RE UPSET. This is just the facts, and the facts speak for themselves. Most people move to the back of the line. You have just been pro-active and impressed your date (or yourself) and certainly, me.

3) you can be aggressive.
"Hey, (expletive)," you say. "What the (expletive) do you think you're doing, you (expletive-ing) (expletive)," and shake him by the shoulders.

The preferred choice is choice number 2, the assertive approach.

THERE ARE EXCEPTIONS. If the person who cut in front of you is very tough-looking and seems likely to kill you or beat you, then use your own discretion. Perhaps go the passive route.

The slightest snear from the aggressor and you might consider saying, "Oh, never mind, it's cool." DO NOT GET INTO "discussions" WITH PEOPLE WHO SEEM TO HAVE VIOLENT INCLINATIONS. Again, use your best judgement.

One thing about asserting, if you assert with a more assertive or aggressive person, you'll lose if you're not into conflict. It's okay to lose. Most of the time, however, if you're assertive and not aggressive you'll get what you want. That's winning. I know it's an incredible concept. I know.

Why try it and risk conflict? Like I said, most of the time there won't be any. You have to try this to believe it, but it's true.

Why even bother to try it? It's so scary? I'm sort of shy?

Well, we know that by asking for what we need we are more likely to get it than if we wait around for people to read our minds or Divine Intervention. People who don't ask, who would rather not make waves, are called "passive."

And passivity is associated with depression because if you don't get what you need, you feel unhappy, unfulfilled. Therapists push assertiveness. I practice with clients, script out things like that to help you get better and better at it. Filled is better than unfulfilled any day. Go for filled.

Copyright 2006, Therapy Doc

1 comment:

jenn said...

i like it, a lot. Good stuff here.