Dear Ally,

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Assertiveness Skills

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Dear Ally,

At my school, we teach our students to demonstrate dignity and respect for everyone, including themselves. We encourage students to use their voices to stick up for themselves, others, and for what they believe. The communication style that creates mutual respect is call assertiveness and I wish I had more of it when I was in college and I’ll admit it is a skill I’m still developing.

In college, I was mostly passive and wouldn’t speak up if something bothered me because I didn’t want to cause conflict. I also think it was partly because of my mid-western culture to be extremely polite at all costs. I think back to times when my fun freshmen year roommates and I went dancing uptown. It wasn’t uncommon for a random guy who had consumed enough liquid courage to go up behind a girl who was dancing and start grinding away. I remember one such night vividly. We were dancing in our little circle of four when suddenly there was some dude definitely dancing too close to me. I looked across to my roommate, Sandy, with wide eyes that pleaded, “Please help me!” She knew just what to do and grabbed me and dragged me off the dance floor. From then on I always strategically positioned myself with my back to wall. Recalling that situation and other times that I was uncomfortable and didn’t say anything makes me cringe. Why didn’t I say that I’m not interested or why didn’t I simply walk away. Because I didn’t want to be rude? Because I might get called a bitch?

Assertiveness is expressing your feelings and beliefs honestly and straightforwardly in a calm manner. It’s using “I” statements against which there is no argument. It’s also about listening to others and not stepping on them, which would be aggressive. Assertiveness takes practice, but once obtained, can increase your confidence and self-esteem so that you will learn to value your own experience and wisdom.

So, stay in control of your situation, only say yes if that’s what you want, say no without feeling guilty, and if your clear and assertive “no” does not get the message across, throw an elbow.

Don’t let anybody walk all over you,

Aunt Sarah

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