Hydrocephalus Canada

Put Yourself First

Print PagePrint PageSend by emailSend by email

Speaking up for your self is called assertiveness or being assertive. The following activities will help you understand why you need to be assertive and how to be assertive.  Being able to communicate clearly is also part of assertiveness. Clear communication is saying what you mean and respecting what others have to say.

Activity #1: Be Assertive

Activity #2: Crucial Habits to Develop Assertiveness Skills


Activity #1: Be Assertive

A. Why should you be assertive?

  • To show that you can stand up for yourself
  • To make sure  that you get what you want
  • To gain your independence
  • To ensure that you are heard
  • To make sure your feelings are expressed and understood
  • To ensure your physical safety
  • To gain respect from others
  • Other reasons ...

B. Now that you know why you need to be assertive, ask yourself:

1. Do I assert myself?
2. How do I assert myself?
3. In what situations am I assertive?
4. Do I assert myself with certain people, but not with others?
5. Do I assert myself at home /with my parents but not in public?
6. Do I assert myself out in public but not with my parents?
7. Do I speak about my disabilities while on a date?
8. Does it bother me when I speak about disability issues? (i.e. while out on a date)?
9. Am I afraid to assert myself because I am afraid I’ll lose friends?
10. Am I uncomfortable expressing an opinion that differs from my friends?
11. Am I afraid to assert myself?

The above questions can help you to take a look at yourself and can help you to develop assertiveness skills. Start thinking about how and when you speak for yourself. Remember, you are unique, a one of a kind person and individual. Please take time to feel comfortable about how you communicate with others and assert yourself.

C. So what can you expect when you start to assert yourself?

  • People will respect you
  • People can help
  • You may receive some arguments
  • Some people may even be surprised
  • Some people may even be frightened
  • Overall  when you start to become assertive, people will respond positively to you
  • Other things that would change...

Other things to consider

Be tolerant
Be tolerant of yourself and others. Nobody’s perfect. Try not to continuously criticize yourself or other people.  Recognize that a mistake is only a lesson.

Example: If you lost something valuable such as library book or transit pass try not to criticize yourself. Instead teach yourself how to keep things from being lost and this will be a lesson for you.

Work on Friendships
Spend time with people who value you. Listen to what they say about you. If others are constantly putting you down, you might want to reconsider those friendships. People you choose to be around are often mirrors of how you feel about yourself.

Example: You have a couple of friends but you have always been envious of another group who seem to have fun all the time. You decide to join that group. On the first day they make negative comments about your clothes and on the next day they invite you to go to the mall and to a movie. You turn them down because of the negative comments. On the following day you hear giggles behind your back and hear name calling. You decided to go back to your original friends who never treated you like this and they accept you. This is an example of learning about your friends and who you choose to be with.


Activity #2: Crucial Habits to Develop Assertiveness Skills

The following scenarios are created to help you further understand and to apply assertiveness skills.  From scenario 1 to 8 please give the correct or offer a best response by selecting A or B or A&B:

1. Scenario: Your doctor prescribes a new medicine, but doesn’t tell you what it is for or if there are any side effects.

What will you say to the doctor?
A:  Quietly start to leave but on the way out ask the doctor if there are any side effects.
B:  Ask the doctor if this is new medication, why it is being prescribed, any side effects and how it interacts with other medications that I take.

This is an example of think before you speak. You want to ask all the questions so that you have a good understanding about the new medication. You can also make a list of possible questions before your doctor appointment.

2. Scenario: Your friend always asks to borrow a few dollars when you go out, but he never repays you. You begin to resent that he does this all the time.

What will you say to your friend?
A:  You raise your voice and say no and storm out of the room.
B:  You say to him in a firm voice:  I have loaned money to you on a number of occasions and you have not paid me back.  Therefore I will not be lending you money any more. Please pay back all the money you owe me. The total is $25.00.

Remind yourself that it’s ok to say no. The tone that you use and the way you say it makes all the difference. Be genuine and considerate of the other person’s feelings, but stay firm in your answer or you will regret it later.

3. Scenario: You and your friend are on your way to a party. While driving you come across a dead end and became confused. Your friend tries to give you directions. At the same time, you also find another way and think your way is better.

What will you say to your friend?
A: Let’s go my way because I know I am right.
B: Ok both of us know how to get out of here and now let’s decide on the best option.

Stop trying to convince people that your opinion is the “right one”. It is a losing battle. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion (including you). Choose not to get upset with others when they don’t share your views. Remind yourself that everyone is unique and there is no single right way.

4. Scenario: Your friend comes to you with a problem and you don't know how to handle it. You know your friend has a counselor that she likes and you recommend that she talk to them, but your friend keeps asking you what she should do.

What will you do?
A: Tell your friend to see the counselor.
B: Ask for clarification or more details about the problem. 
Explanation: When someone is talking to you, it is a good habit to actually listen. One way to practice this is to ask for clarification on things if you are unsure of what the person saying. Repeat the problem as you heard and reflect it back to them. They will be impressed with your listening skills and less likely to be defensive.

5. Scenario: Your cousin calls you late at night just to talk. You are tired and have to get up early in the morning.

What will you say?
A: I can understand you want to talk but I was just going to bed so I will talk to you another time.
B:  You get into the conversation because you don’t want to hurt your cousin’s feelings.

Validate the other person’s emotions, but you can feel okay about asking them if you can speak at a more convenient time. A good phrase to use to diffuse potentially conflicting situations is “I can understand where you are coming from.” or “I can see some truth in what you are saying." Then you can go on to express how you feel.

6. Scenario: You were supposed to have lunch with your boyfriend/girl friend @12:00 noon and he/she shows up at 12.45 pm.

What will you say to him/her?
A: I am not going to have lunch with you again because you are always late.
B: Now it is 12:45 pm, so I have less time to spend with you because I need to be back to work by 1:00pm.

Which response would you choose? It is better to stick to the facts when discussing your dislikes with loved ones. Don’t label, exaggerate or judge them. Just describe the facts of what happened.

7.  You want to go to Toronto International  film festival and you may be able to get couple of tickets.  You left a message to  one of your friend asking if she wants to go to the film festival. You also asked her to call you right back.  Your friend did not call you back until the next day.  

What will you say to your friend?
A: I hate it when you don’t call me back the same day.
B: I would really prefer if you could call me back the same day.

If your choice is B you are on the right track. This type of communication is much harder to argue with because it is more difficult to challenge someone’s emotions. For example a blamer would say “you never listen to me. You make me so mad! Instead “sometimes I really feel like you don’t listen to me. It upsets me when I feel like you are not listening.

8. You met one of your friend for lunch. All of sudden you notice that she looked upset and sad. You were wondering what happened. You don’t know why she was upset and sad.

What will you say to your friend?

A: What is wrong?
B: Are you ok? Did I do or say something to offend you?

If you choose B then you are using your assertiveness skills. When you are asking questions directly you are not leaving any room for potential for incorrect assumptions.

All the above scenarios are examples of how to use your assertive skills. Saying no, accepting other people's feelings, asking direct questions, expressing your feeling with "I" statements and using the facts to support your argument are examples of assertiveness skills. So, you can start to apply assertiveness skills in your life. You can also decide when to use your assertiveness skills.

It only takes 21 days to change a habit so you CAN become assertive even if you aren't right now. However, it takes many more days for someone else to understand that you  have a new habit or you are being assertive. If you are happy with the changes you have made for yourself, stick with them