Book Review – Express Yourself by David Bonham – Carter

Express yourselfExpress Yourself by David Bonham – Carter is a book that focuses on assertiveness. It is also described as a ‘practical guide to assertiveness’. There are four major parts in the book:

  • An introduction which describes what assertiveness is, it’s benefits, non-assertive behaviour and the problems associated with it, and a summary  on how to use the main content in the book to build your assertiveness.
  • Section 1 titled, ‘Assertiveness Basics’ with three chapters.
  • Section 2 titled, ‘Changing Non-Assertive Behaviour’ which has 3 chapters and conclusion focused on helping people create their own assertiveness plan.
  • The fourth part of the book contains some extra information in appendices and additional resources.

Following is a brief review of each part of the book.

INTRODUCTION

I don’t usually include introduction sections as part of my reviews but this introduction contains enough useful information to warrant a review. While the introduction is about introducing the reader to the book, it goes further than that by defining what assertiveness is and two of the descriptions it gives for assertiveness are:

  • stand up for your own and other people’s rights in a reasonable and clear way in situations where it is appropriate to do so, and
  • express your views clearly and articulately without being aggressive.

It also states what the benefits of being assertive are. Three of these benefits are:

  • feeling more confident,
  • being able to relax more, and
  • having awareness of your own needs and a greater ability to meet them.

Another aspect that the introduction deals with are ways of behaving that are not assertive and it describes these as:

  • Passive behaviour – seeking to avoid conflict and going along with other people’s views even when you don’t agree with them.
  • Aggressive behaviour – seeking to have your own way irrespective of the needs or wishes of others and without showing reasonable respect.
  • Indirect aggressive behaviour which involves a person being controlling and abusive in less overt ways.

Here you will also read about the problems associated with being non-assertive, a brief introduction to what you will gain from each chapter under the title, ‘Building your assertiveness’, and assessing your assertiveness with a short self-assessment.

SECTION 1 – ASSERTIVENESS BASICS

Chapter 1 – Rights and Responsibilities

In this chapter you start out being introduced to two key elements of assertiveness which are reasonableness and respect, because the rights and responsibilities discussed in the chapter are built around these two principles. You will also learn about four rights and responsibilities which I see as very important. They are:

  • The right to express your feelings and opinions
  • The right to say ‘No’.
  • The right to make mistakes
  • The responsibility for making decisions

Extra information on these four rights and responsibilities shows us how to apply them using some practical exercises.

Chapter 2 – Communicating effectively

You can always expect to read something about communication in a book on assertiveness. After all, assertiveness is really about communication. The four primary elements of communication discussed for assertive behaviour are:

  1. Listening effectively: here you will read about the ingredients of good listening and three core listening skills – paraphrasing, summarizing and reflecting.
  2. Developing conversations: the two skills discussed here are following up on free information and self-disclosure.
  3. Expressing yourself: deals with taking ownership of your own feelings, thoughts and opinions, common elements of expressing yourself assertively such as – clear speech, being calm, steady eye contact, allowing others to express their views, assertive body language, expressing criticism and challenging others.
  4. Negotiating effectively: here you will read about 15 negotiation tips.

Chapter 3 – Seven assertiveness techniques

The seven assertiveness techniques discussed here are:

  1. Saying ‘no’
  2. Offering a compromise solution
  3. Broken record
  4. Fogging
  5. Negative assertion
  6. Negative inquiry
  7. DESC (Describe, Express, Specify, Consequences) scripting

SECTION 2 – CHANGING NON-ASSERTIVE BEHAVIOUR

This section focuses on more practical aspects of developing assertive behaviour.

Chapter 4 – Changing the behaviour – gaining the courage to assert yourself.

Passive behaviour is non-assertive behaviour and in this chapter you will be given some information to overcome that sort of behaviour and behave more assertively. The chapter starts out explaining what passive behaviour is in a bit of detail and then presents us with a little self-assessment to identify situations when we are passive.

The first tool presented to deal with passive behaviour is the ABC model which stands for:

  • A – Activating event
  • B – Belief about the significance of the activating event
  • C – Consequent emotions and behaviour.

One can use this model to reflect on how we think about events, how those events make us feel and then challenge any thinking leading to negative behaviour.

Another way to deal with passive behaviour discussed is, facing up to your fears, using 5 steps which are:

  1. Consider options
  2. Select the assertive option
  3. Face your fears
  4. Decide how you are going to act
  5. Act

Some other tools to deal with passive behaviour discussed are:

  • Positive visualisation
  • Using the DEAL to get your point across

Chapter 5 – Changing agrressive behaviour – learning to act reasonably

Just like the previous chapter, this one also starts off describing what aggressive behaviour is and provides a little self-assessment for us to identify when we may be displaying aggressive behaviour.

The first tool presented to deal with aggressive behaviour is called the five-step analysis with these steps:

  • Step 1 – select a situation
  • Step 2 – describe how you behaved
  • Step 3 – describe the outcome
  • Step 4 – Imagine a calmer way in which you might have
  • step 5 – Consider the potential benefits and potential

There is also a section on changing behaviours that might be aggressive. Here two types of thinking associated with aggressive behaviour are identified which are ‘Awfulizing’ and ‘Absolutist thinking‘. A way to deal with aggressive behaviour is to use those two ways of thinking to evaluate one’s behaviour against aggressive thinking.

The final main part of this chapter discusses, ‘Indirect Aggression‘ which is aggressive behaviour that is less obvious that David describes as:

involving indirect means to influence or control people or to disrupt or create difficulties in situations, often with a personal motive.

Examples of indirect aggression are:

  • Lying or painting distorted pictures of people or situations in order to convey a particular impression or achieve results you want.
  • Making out that you are a victim or have been hard done by in cases where this is not so, in order to achieve sympathy or to pressurize others into acting in certain ways.

Then we are shown how to use techniques previously discussed to deal with indirect aggression.

Chapter 6 – Self-esteem and assertiveness

In this chapter the relationship between self-esteem and assertiveness is examined. The introduction to the chapter makes it clear that non-assertive behaviour is mostly linked to our levels of self-esteem. The next two main sections deal with the relationship between self-esteem and both passive and aggressive behaviour.

Under each section, the relationship between the behaviour type and self-esteem is discussed in detail and how to use some of the previously discussed techniques to manage those behaviours in ourselves to improve our self-esteem.

Conclusion: Creating your own assertiveness plan

What to expect from this part of the book is clear from the title, developing your own assertiveness development action plan. To help us do this, there are detailed examples showing how two fictional characters developed their own action plans. These examples will help you develop your own plans. At the end of the chapter is a blank template for developing assertiveness action plans.

There is also another section here which I find to be very useful. It is a reference section which shows the key points and tools discussed in each chapter and a page link which you can click to go to the part of the book with the tool or link. I repeat, this is a very useful section.

Appendices and further information.

There are two appendices and a section with further information at the end of the book. Appendix 1 gives information on some further developments of assertive training and tools and to be honest this is a chapter of tools on its own. Appendix 2 provides some feedback for the assertive self-assessment we encountered in the introductory part of the book on page 12. Additional resources is just a list of further reading and resources for learning more about assertiveness.

Overall I think this is a very useful book. It has lot’s of useful practical tools, is not complicated and it makes use of lots of examples and case studies that demonstrate how to use the assertiveness tools discussed. I think the use of examples is the strongest aspect of the book.

So should you read it? I would say yes if you are interested in developing your assertiveness skills.

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