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A New Year, A New You?


One of my New Year’s resolutions is to assert myself more effectively. I often find that I have trouble sticking up for myself without feeling that I am being pushy. So I turned to Overcoming Depression and Low Mood: A Five Areas Approach by Chris Williams. Dr Chris Williams is a recognized expert and trainer in Cognitive Behavior Therapy and works as a senior lecturer in Psychological Medicine at the University of Glasgow. The book is a series of short self-help workbooks, below is an excerpt from the assertiveness workshop.

What is assertiveness?

Assertiveness is being able to stand up for yourself, making sure your opinions and feelings are considered, and not letting other people always get their way. It is not the same as aggressiveness. You can be assertive without being forceful or rude. Instead, assertiveness is stating clearly what you expect and insisting that your rights are considered.

Assertion is a skill that can be learned. It is a way of communicating and behaving with others that helps the person to become more confident and aware of themselves and their own needs as an individual, rather than as a partner, friend, parent, etc.

Each of us at some point in our lives, however confident we are, will find it difficult to deal with certain situations we encounter. Examples of such situations could be:

  • Dealing with unhelpful shop assistants.
  • Asking someone to return something borrowed.
  • Reacting to angry colleagues at work.
  • Communicating our feelings to a partner, family member or friend.
  • Saying no to other people’s demands.

Often in life we deal with these situations by losing our temper, by saying nothing or by giving in. This may leave us feeling unhappy, angry or out of control and may not actually solve the problem. This tendency to react in either an unassertive or an aggressive way may become even more of a problem if we are struggling with low mood or anxiety. These problems cause a loss of confidence and self-worth, which makes us more likely to give in to everyone around us. Sometimes the reverse happens and we dig in our heels and become very irritable towards everyone else…

The Rules of Assertion

The following rules provide you with 12 principles that can help you live your life more assertively.

I have the right to:

  1. Respect myself, who I am and what I do.
  2. Recognize my own needs as an individual – that is, separate from what is expected of me in particular roles, such as partner, parent, son or daughter.
  3. Make clear ‘I’ statements about how I feel and what I think, for example ‘I feel very uncomfortable with your decision.’
  4. Allow myself to make mistakes, recognizing that it is normal to make mistakes.
  5. Change my mind if I choose to.
  6. Ask for ‘thinking-it-over time’. For example, when people ask me to do something, I have the right to say ‘I would like to think it over and I will let you know by the end of the week.’
  7. Allow myself to enjoy my successes – that is, by being pleased with what I have done and sharing it with others.
  8. Ask for what I want rather than hoping someone will notice what I want.
  9. Recognize that I am not responsible for the behavior of other adults.
  10. Respect other people and their right to be assertive and expect the same in return.
  11. Say I don’ understand.
  12. Deal with other without being dependent on them for approval.

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