Session 9 Protocol: Elective Skill Topic 4

The counselor welcomes the client and provides an overview of the session. In this session, the counselor explains and models assertive behavior. The counselor may be surprised about the misconceptions a client has about assertiveness.

Elicit the Client’s Definition of Assertiveness

The counselor asks the client to define assertiveness, writing this definition on a chalkboard or newsprint. The counselor compares the client’s definition with the one presented in this skill topic, pointing out differences. The client may give an appropriate definition, but during role plays, it may become apparent that his or her behavior is inconsistent with that definition:

Counselor (C): Today we’re going to talk about assertiveness. When you hear that word, what do you think of?

Doug (D): People who are pushy, trying to get their way all the time.

C: We’ll be looking at four styles of interacting: aggressive, passive, passive–aggressive, and assertive. [Writes them on the chalkboard.]

D: I guess I was thinking of the aggressive style, not assertive.

C: Let’s define each style and see whether you identify with them. We can look at ways to Communicate thoughts and feelings without offending other people or compromising your needs.

Define Aggressive, Passive, Passive–Aggressive, and Assertive

The counselor helps the client understand the concept:

C: Assertiveness means recognizing your right to decide what to do in a situation rather than give in to others. It recognizes and respects the rights of the people. Rights refer to

• The right to inform others of your opinion

• The right to inform others of your feelings in a way that is not hurtful

• The right to ask others to change their behavior that affects you

The right to accept or reject what others say to you or request from you.

We can express our needs to others in several ways: passive, aggressive, passive–aggressive, and assertive.

Passive people give up their rights if a conflict exists between what they want and what someone else wants. They usually fail to let others know what they’re thinking or feeling. They bottle up their feelings, even when the situation doesn’t require it, and often feel anxious or angry. Sometimes they feel depressed by their ineffectiveness or hurt when others have not drawn them out or figured out what they wanted. People do not know what the passive person wants, and passive people seldom get their needs met.

Aggressive people protect their rights by running over others’ rights. They may satisfy their short-term needs, but the long-term effects are negative. Because they disregard others to achieve their goals, they earn the ill will of others, who may seek to get even.

Passive–aggressive people are indirect. They hint at what they want, make sarcastic comments, or mumble, without stating what is on their minds. They may act out by slamming doors, giving someone the silent treatment, or being late. They may get what they want without interacting directly. Frequently people around them become confused or angry, so the passive–aggressive person ends up feeling frustrated or victimized.

Assertive people decide what they want, plan an appropriate way to involve others, and act on the plan. The most effective plan is to state one’s feelings or opinions and request the changes one would like from others without making threats, demands, or negative statements. Usually assertive people decide in certain circumstances that a passive response is safest (e.g., with an insensitive boss) or that an aggressive response is necessary (e.g., in confronting a pusher who won’t back off). Assertive people adapt their behavior so that it fits the situation; they don’t respond in the same manner to all situations. Assertive people feel satisfied with their actions and are well regarded.