Assertiveness and Communication

Leader’s Guide
(Gold and Platinum)
Workshop Survey

Ice Breaker

Name a Time You Should Have Been More Assertive.

Mission of Workshop

We all know what people in the stone ages did when they wanted another hunk of meat. They yanked it away from their weaker cave mates.

And we have some ideas of how people in the Victorian era acted when they were hungry. They bowed, scraped, and only hinted that they were hungry; until they were in danger of starvation.

And what about modern citizens? Are they aggressive brutes or passive procrastinators?  If they’re truly creatures of the 90’s, they’re working on technique that is somewhere in between. They’re trying to be assertive without being either too aggressive or too passive. Balancing that social tightrope takes some understanding of human behavior – yours and others.

I.  Aggressively Seeking Power

What does it mean to be aggressive? Webster’s dictionary says it means to be forceful, hostile, destructive. If you push your way to the front of the line at the movies, you’re being aggressive. If someone accidently jostles you and you punch him in the face, you’re being aggressive. Carry this to its extreme and you wind up with a scenario all too familiar in big city newspapers: someone is shot for taking someone else’s parking space or for stepping onto the wrong turf.

A.  Is it ever good to be aggressive?

At times, when you’re dealing with a bully, you may have to be aggressive.  Calling a bully’s bluff may be the only way to get him or her to back off. To paraphrase a locker room slogan:

The best defense is a good offense. Sometimes you have to take the offense — be aggressive — to defend your rights and to curtail even fiercer confrontations.

II.  Taking a Pass on Passivity

What does it mean to be passive? The dictionary defines passive as lacking in energy or will, without resistance. If you say nothing when the salesclerk ignores you in favor of a middle-aged customer — even though you’ve been waiting longer — you’re being passive.  If you do nothing when your neighbor “borrows” your car without your permission, you’re being passive.

A.  Is it ever good to be passive?

1. Sure. If you’re in an auto accident and the other driver appears to be drunk and belligerent, you may decide to play it quiet. You’re being passive, but smart.

2. And, people all over the world have found that being passive is sometimes a way to show great strength.  It has helped them win freedom in the face of powerful   oppressors.

Mahatma Gandhi counseled his followers in India to remain calm and passive when the British threatened to shoot them. (The British did shoot, but that incident ultimately helped the Indians win their freedom.)

3. The great leader Dr. Martin Luther King told his people to not retaliate when police tried to keep them from segregated lunch counters and schools. (Some went to jail, but they eventually won equal access to private diners as well as school cafeterias.)

B.  Passive resistance

         When it is used carefully, it can be more effective than the aggressiveness of bullets and brawn. But this is passivity with a purpose.  with rare exception, it is self-destructive to be passive out of fear or lethargy – or anger.

C.  Passive aggression

This is a less-than-noble approach dealing with anger that psychologists call passive aggression.

1. Your sister insists that you type her term paper, or she won’t lend you her blue sweater. So, seething, you drag out the typewriter and pound out all 14 pages. It’s not your   fault that you don’t have the time to correct all those typos. Rather than confronting your sister directly and negotiating for another favor, you protest in your own way. That’s passive aggressive behavior.

III. Assertiveness

Assertiveness can be a happy comprise. It means to express your feelings directly, to ask for what you want, and to refuse what you don’t want. It means to be sure and confident. It’s sometimes confused with aggression, but it’s different. Assertiveness is not done with hostility or destructiveness. How can you tell the difference?

Being assertive takes practice. It works only when you come across as confident and caring – not when you’re defensive or challenging. If you’re going to start being assertive, decide where it’s safest to begin – with friends or family or the outside world. But remember, expressing your opinions may be a new behavior, and it takes people time to get used to it. You have the right to assert yourself and to act in your own best interest. Just do it in your usual loveable way.

a. If the waiter brings your hamburger well-done when you ordered it rare and you say nothing, you’re being passive. If you pound the table and throw the burger on the floor, you’re being aggressive. If you ask him to bring you another hamburger properly cooked, you’re being assertive. Long live the difference!

b. If you think your teacher gave you too low a grade on your social studies test and you ask to speak with her about it, you’re being assertive.

c. If your friend has owed you $8 for three weeks and you remind him to repay you, you’re being assertive.

d. If your best friend suggests you take a sip from the wine bottle and calls you a baby for refusing and you say you have to do what you think is right for you, you’re being assertive.

Never blame someone else when confronting them with a situation, use “I” instead of “You”.  express your feelings only.

Practice with these I / you situations within the group. Cover and expand on handouts.  do the I / you situation with group.