I recently did an exercise with a training class to help the students with assertiveness. First we talked about the difference between passive, aggressive, passive-aggressive and assertive behaviors. I asked them for real life example of times they have acted in ways other than assertive. Then we did a couple of role plays based on their ideas; I assigned another student to act opposite the student’s problem. For example, if a student can’t say no to requests to be on committees, then the student plays him or herself and another student plays the role of a person bugging the student to join a committee. (I had to laugh because one student was so passive she said she’d not only wind up on the committee but as the president!) Then I assigned them a journal entry: In the next week, document a time when you acted assertively.

–Barb Stout, Counselor, University of Pittsburgh, PA

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I often start discussions about assertiveness with a discussion of personal rights. When presented with the concepts of assertiveness, some students will have difficulty applying the techniques. Often times, this is because they may not believe that they have the RIGHT to be assertive. A discussion of personal rights/expectations in relationships can often pave the way for the application of assertiveness techniques.

Also, I think that it is important for the student to examine the potential impact of using assertive behaviors in their relationships before beginning the techniques. Although assertiveness helps to create healthy relationships in the long run, it can create challenges initially in established relationships. Sometimes these challenges can be anticipated, and the student can make informed decisions about when and where to apply assertive techniques.

–Jonathan Brandon, Staff Psychologist, Eastern Kentucky University, KY

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It is important to teach our students to be assertive. I do this in my psychology classes. One of the many handouts I provide is a personal bill of rights. It is amazing to me how many women especially, but some men, don’t realize that they have rights where their family is concerned. This idea carries over into every decision and thing they do.

                                  Bill of Rights

As a Human Being, I have a right
to be considered as a mature adult.
to have my needs be of equal importance to the needs of others.
to make mistakes and to be responsible for them.
to make my own decisions.
to say “no” without feeling guilty.
to express my opinion.
to feel and express anger — as well as other emotions — as long as I do
not hurt others.
to be listened to.
to be responsible for myself and my actions.
to say “I don’t know” or “I don’t understand.”
to feel positive toward myself and my accomplishments.

Many of our students are in abusive relationships and they need to hear this. I also give them “Rules for Fair Fighting” and “How You Feel Is Up To You” among others. I have found that these items help students to get control of their thoughts.

–Polly Patterson, Director, Student Support Services, MacArthur State Technical College, AL

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