Assertiveness Training

Most communication can be classified as falling into one of four styles:

  • Passive. An avoidant style that fails to communicate clearly and directly.
  • Aggressive. A coldly or hotly hostile style that demeans the person being addressed - often the person from whom cooperation is required.
  • Passive-aggressive. A method of getting one's own way or behaving aggressively while preserving deniability. "Your new hairstyle is great, not nearly as mousy as before!"
  • Assertive. A calm, clear, nonaggressive manner of getting one's point across without avoiding and without trying to control anyone else.
We all use all of the styles, but most of us underuse the assertive style and overuse at least one of the others. This isn't surprising, because the assertive style requires the most skill to use - though it usually gets the best results.

Like learning any set of skills, learning to become assertive involves understanding the underlying ideas and practicing the actual strategies.

We work with you to identify areas in which you have difficulty being assertive. Then we train you in specific strategies to employ in those situations. You might rehearse techniques in session or the therapist might model the technique and have you follow along. Then you identify situations in the real world where you could practice, starting with easier situations and working up to more difficult ones.

Sound like rocket science? It shouldn't. That's exactly the strategy people use to learn most skills: driving, skiing, typing, dancing, handling finances - even walking. It should be no surprise that it works for assertiveness too.

Along the way you'll get information handouts on each of the major topics you cover. Here are some of the areas people commonly want to work on:

  • Nonverbal communication
  • Giving your opinion
  • Receiving compliments
  • Giving compliments
  • Receiving negative feedback
  • Giving corrective feedback
  • Making requests
  • Saying "no"
  • Coping with conflict
Changeways Clinic has developed one of Canada's most widely used assertiveness training protocols, the Being There materials. These have been adapted to create The Assertiveness Workbook, a self-help guide available in bookstores.