Conrad and Suzanne Potts in writing this book are attempting to make us all more assertive (if you are not already an assertive person). Assertive: How to be strong in every situation, is a book that will help us understand what assertive behaviour is, how we are behaving if we are not assertive and ways we can develop more assertive behaviour. With 224 pages of reading content and 11 chapters, the book is divided into two parts. Part one concentrates on helping us understand what assertive behaviour is, how people develop non-assertive behaviour and an introduction to assertive communication.
Part two is more practical as it describes how to be assertive in some very specific situations. Following is a top-level review of each chapter in the book.
Chapter 1 – What is assertion?
The title says it all, this chapter explains what assertive behaviour is. But it doesn’t stop there, it helps us understand what assertive behaviour isn’t. It distinguishes between three types of behaviour which are:
- aggression or aggressive behaviour,
- non-assertive or passive behaviour, and
- assertion or assertive behaviour.
The three behaviours are described in detail and there is also information on how you can recognise each type of behaviour in people. The concluding part of the chapter has some exercises which consist of scenarios and some answers. The reader is tasked with choosing the most likely way they would answer to see if they would deal with the situation assertively, with aggression or by being passive.
Chapter 2 – Win-Win
This chapter concentrates on describing the win-win corral which consists of four ways to respond to a situation. The four ways are:
- Win-lose: a mindset of where you win and the other person loses.
- Lose-win: you lose, the other person wins.
- Lose-lose: you lose and the other person loses too.
- Win-win: you win and the other person wins too.
Assertive behaviour has the win-win mindset, while the other mindsets typically apply to non-assertive ways of behaviour. You will learn a lot about the win-win corral and this chapter describes 5 steps on how to achieve win-win.
Chapter 3 – It’s all in the mind
Here you will read about how our beliefs affect our behaviour. In essence our beliefs have a lot to do with whether we are assertive or not. In regards to beliefs, you will read about:
- the importance of beliefs,
- enabling or limiting beliefs, and
- where do our beliefs come from?
We are also presented with 12 steps on how to develop assertive beliefs.
Another important factor related to how we behave discussed here are our rights. When we don’t believe we have rights in an area, we are unlikely to behave assertively. Here the message is that believing you have rights will help you to be more assertive.
My favourite aspect of this chapter is the treatment of the Think-Feel-Act model of behaviour. The premise of this model is simple. What we think about affects how we feel which in turn determines how we behave. Positive thinking can lead to more assertive behaviour, while negative thinking can lead to more non-assertive behaviour. So how we behave whether assertively or non-assertively has a lot to do with how we think.
The latter part of this chapter spends a lot of space discussing how our thinking affects our behaviour.
Chapter Four – Assertive communication
The goal of this chapter is to help us communicate more assertively. It describes what assertive communication looks like and differentiates it from non-assertive communication. It presents a lot of information on various aspects of assertive communication such as non-verbal assertive communication and assertive listening. There is also the description of a model known as the levels of assertive options with seven assertive options. The first three are described as low-level options and they are:
- Basic assertion
- Questions assertion
- Empathetic assertion
The last four are considered to be high-level assertive options and they are:
- Discrepancy assertion
- Negative feelings assertion
- Consequences assertion
- Process assertion
PART TWO (Chapters 5 – 11)
This part of the book deals with practical issues. Each chapter picks an area and describes how to be assertive in that situation.
Every chapter starts with a scenario and then goes on to describe how to handle the situation with assertive behaviour. How to apply the seven assertive options model to each situation is describe in detail.
The scenarios dealt with are:
- Getting the respect you deserve at work – saying “no,” handling put-downs and being taken seriously.
- Getting the best out of people at work – giving praise and criticism, communicating clearly and getting your requests met.
- Handling difficult behaviour and coping with conflict – dealing with aggression and gaining commitment from others.
- Being assertive in meetings and presentations – getting our views heard and getting our butterflies under control.
- Families – who’d have em? Managing kids, handling teenagers and coping with partners and parents assertively.
- Friends, neighbours and social occasions – Managing different expectations and keeping relationships in tact.
- Getting the service you deserve – Standing up for your needs so that others acknowledge
The book concludes with a section titled, sustaining your assertion, summarily this short section shows us how to maintain our assertive behaviour once we start behaving that way.
This in my own opinion is a book with a lot of good quality information. If you take the time to read and practice some of what it teaches, you will no doubt improve your assertive behaviour.