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EMPATHIC ASSERTION ON BECOMING ASSERTIVE

Is it hard for you to express your opinion if others disagree, do you end up doing things you dont want to do, do your needs always seem to come last? Many people experience difficulty handling interpersonal situations requiring them to assert themselves; letting others know what they want, turning down a request, asking a favor, expressing disapproval or giving someone a compliment. How can you appropriately assert yourself without alienating those around you? Research has shown that the earlier focus of Assertiveness Training programs helped people become more assertive and selfexpressive but at times, at the expense of their relationships. More recent approaches emphasize both the task of becoming more self-expressive and retaining good relationships with those around you. This later version is known as Empathic Assertion and focuses on your personal rights along with consideration of others. The following inventory will help you evaluate in which interpersonal situations it is most difficult for you to assert yourself. ASSERTION INVENTORY Please indicate your degree of discomfort or anxiety in the space provided before each situation listed below. Utilize the following scale to indicate degree of discomfort.
1 = none 2 = a little 3 = a fair amount 4 = much 5 = very much

Then, go over the list a second time and indicate after each item the probability or likelihood of you displaying the behavior if actually presented with the situation. For example, if you rarely apologize when you are at fault, you would mark a 2 after that item. Utilize the following scale to indicate response probability.
1 = never do it 2 = rarely do it 3 = do it about half the time 4 = usually do it 5 = always do it

Note: It is important to cover your discomfort ratings (located in front of the items) while indicating response probability. Otherwise, one rating may contaminate the other and a realistic assessment of your behavior is unlikely. To correct for this, place a piece of paper over your discomfort ratings while responding to the situations a second time for response probability.

Degree of Discomfort 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

Situation

Response probability

Turn down a request to borrow your car Compliment a friend Ask a favor of someone Resist sales pressure Apologize when you are at fault

6. Turn down a request for a meeting or date 7. Admit fear and request consideration 8. Tell a person you are intimately involved with
when he/she says or does something that bothers you

9. Ask for a raise 10. Admit ignorance in some area 11. Turn down a request to borrow money 12. Ask personal questions 13. Turn off a talkative friend 14. Ask for constructive criticism 15. Initiate a conversation with a stranger 16. Compliment a person you are romantically
involved with or interested in

17. Request a meeting or date with a person 18. Your initial request for a meeting is turned down and
you ask the person again at a later time

19. Admit confusion about a point under discussion


and ask for clarification

20. Apply for a job 21. Ask whether you have offended someone 22. Tell someone that you like them 23. Request expected service when such is not forthcoming 24. Discuss openly with the person his/her criticism of your behavior 25. Return defective items, e.g. store or restaurant 26. Express an opinion that differs from the person you are talking to 27. Resist sexual overtures when you are not interested 28. Tell the person when you feel he/she has done something that is unfair 29. Accept a date 30. Tell someone good news about yourself 31. Resist pressure to drink 32. Resist a significant persons unfair demand 33. Quit a job 34. Resist pressure to use drugs 35. Discuss openly with the person his/her criticism of your work 36. Request the return of borrowed items 37. Receive compliments 38. Continue to converse with someone who disagrees with you 39. Tell a friend or someone with whom you work, when he/she
says or does something that bothers you

40. Ask a person who is annoying you in a public situation to stop


Gambrill, E. & Richey, C. (1975). An Assertion Inventory for Use in Assessment & Research. Behavior Therapy, 6. 550-561.

Nonassertive Pattern: You rated yourself as having high degree of discomfort (4, 5) and a low likelihood of acting as described (1, 2). Assertive Pattern: You rated yourself with a low degree of discomfort (1, 2) and high degree of response probability. Identify aProblem: Now look over your responses and choose the situations in which you would most like to change and become more assertive. Look for the items with a high level of discomfort and a low likelihood of action or response. Circle the five with the greatest discrepancy (highest discomfort and lowest response probability). Copy these five items on another sheet of paper, leaving room for analysis and goal setting.

Inner Dialogue: We all have emotional baggage from the past. Typical beliefs might include, I must always please people, I am not as good or important as others, It is wrong to be angry, and so on. Under each situation you circled, list your beliefs that encourage your non-assertive behaviors. Which ones are irrational (i.e. we really cant please everybody)? Is this situation setting off any hot button issues from the past that might make you overreact (does the boss remind you of your critical father)? Situational Analysis: How would you like to respond differently (i.e. resist a significant persons unfair demand)? What would you like the end goal to be, how would you like it to be different than it is? Look at the situation from your perspective as well as the other persons. What are your needs and what are the other persons? Is there some way you can both get your needs met, at least partially (win-win vs. winlose)? Generate Possible Solutions: Plan what you would like to say, focusing on the objective signs (what do you feel the other person is not taking into consideration or what are the excessive demands)? Conduct a role play with a trusted friend to get his/her feedback. Be careful not to attack the other person in explaining your position and it is also important to listen and hear the others point. It may even be helpful to accept some of the criticism to come to a negotiated settlement where both win. Evaluate Solutions and Make a Decision: After refining and adjusting your strategy, including the possible adverse consequences, specify a final goal. Remember to manage your emotions and maintain the dual goal of asserting yourself and maintaining the relationship (consider the others needs). Action Planning: Choose a private place for this discussion and dont overwork it if it starts getting too heated. Reiterate your needs/opinion and ask the other person to think it over and agree to discuss it again at a later date. In acting assertively it is important to remember to use I statements rather than You statements (I would like to have a chance to work on the new project vs. You never give me a chance to go anything new). BASIC ASSERTIVE STATEMENTS I Want
I want to spend some time by ourselves so is it ok if we dont visit your mother next Sunday? Id like some encouragement on my work. Would you be willing to tell me about the good things you see in my work?

I Feel
When you told our friends how we are pinching pennies I felt ashamed. When you talk with your mouth open, it embarrasses me.

I Like
I liked it when you were able to tell me what I was doing was bothering you. I would like to work on the project but would appreciate it if you could give me feedback on how I am doing as we go along.

Empathic Assertion: Conveys sensitivity to the other person as well as expressing your wants/feelings.
I realize you dont want to intrude on my emotional space but I do feel crowded when you .

I can see you are upset with me and in no mood to talk right now. I would very much like to talk it over when youre ready.

Confrontive Assertion: Confront on the discrepancy in what was said and done vs. the person.
I was supposed to be consulted before the final proposal was typed. I see the secretary is typing it right now. Before she finishes it, I would like to review it and make whatever corrections I think are necessary. In the future I would like to have a chance to review any proposals before they are sent to the secretary.

HANDLING YOUR OWN AGGRESSION Get Feedback: It is much easier to see the other persons aggression than it is our own. Ask someone you trust to give you an honest assessment of your temperature scale. Identify Your Triggers: Keep a log of your sensitive spots and what triggers your anger. What did the other person do or say just before you became angry? What feelings did you experience other than anger (i.e. were your feelings hurt)? What thoughts crossed your mind before you reacted aggressively? Managing Your Triggers: Allow yourself some cooling off time to think through your responses. Move from unrealistic or emotionally charged to more objective responses. RULES FOR SELF-EXPRESSION Let others know what you want, like, or need from them Let others know when their behavior causes you problems State the problem directly when letting others know they cause you problems When others express different views, dont hesitate to express yours RULES FOR AVOIDING CONFLICT When others express different views, dont tell them they are wrong When criticized, ask for more information before responding When criticized fairly, show you are willing to change your behavior Dont get angry when telling others their behavior causes you problems Agree to do reasonable requests

References Gambrill, E. & Richey, C. (1975). An Assertion Inventory for Use in Assessment & Research. Behavior Therapy, 6. Jakubowski, P. & Lange, A. (1978). The Assertive Option. IL: Research Press

Employees and their family from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Office of Thrift Supervision in New York and New Jersey are entitled to free confidential counseling on the issue of assertiveness and communication, as well as the host of family, stress, personal, and job-related difficulties that are common to todays living. Your agency has paid for you to attend six counseling sessions at no cost to you. You may attend on work time or after hours. If you attend during the work day, you will be given a card to verify your attendance at counseling but the nature of the discussion remains confidential. For further information or to make an appointment, please call 212-352-3274.

METROPOLITAN EAP.49 West 12th StreetSuite 1DNew York, NY 10011

212-352-3274
www.metroeap.org