The Assertive Training normally consists of 8-12 sessions of about two hours each (preferably in a group, max 10/12 participants but it is also possible on an individual level) and includes a theoretical part and many practical parts.
The first (called psychoeducation) illustrates the general principles of assertiveness , the aspects that normally favor non-assertive (anassertive) behavior, the different types of verbal and non-verbal communication, etc.
In the second, practical exercises, role-playing (role-playing games), modeling and exposure exercises are carried out, to help the person get involved, practically apply what has been learned and generalize it in every context.
It is right to remember that assertiveness training has not only clinical applications, but can also be applied in different organizational contexts and in professional work groups: it is, in fact, a practice suitable for anyone who wishes to learn to be with others in an always more adequate, positive and effective.
It can turn out to be an interesting, pleasant and even fun formative experience, debunking the negative prejudice that often sees psychotherapeutic practices only as difficult, painful, boring, “heavy”.
Certainly, one cannot expect to become assertive overnight: one changes gradually, over time and with practice; when the new way of behaving begins to seem spontaneous to the subject, he will feel safer and more satisfied with himself.
Even people around you may need some time to adjust to the change: if, for example, they previously complained about being too aggressive, they may be pleasantly surprised, while if they were used to a certain submissiveness, some may not like. the new style of communication.
All this, it must be reiterated, must absolutely not interfere with motivation or with the success of assertive training !
Becoming assertive is undoubtedly very useful, therefore, to make the decision to change and have the right push, you can resort to the analysis of the advantages / disadvantages, asking yourself questions, such as: “What do I gain if I continue not to be assertive? And what, instead, do I lose? Is it more important for me to always be approved and not contradict others, rather than being independent and sincere? Do I prefer to avoid conflicts or to be able to express my opinions? Do I still want to escape responsibilities or make my decisions freely? Do the advantages outweigh the disadvantages? Because?”
Furthermore, it is always good to keep in mind the decalogue of “Personal rights”, valid for anyone, which can be repeated to oneself to motivate oneself and reaffirm the importance of assertiveness :
- I have the right to be the judge of what I do or think
- I have the right not to explain or apologize for my behavior.
- I have the right not to take responsibility for solving other people’s problems
- I have the right to change my mind
- I have the right to be wrong
I have the right to say: “I don’t know”
- I have the right to decide for myself
- I have the right to say: “I don’t understand”
- I have the right to say: “I don’t care”
- I have the right to say “No” without feeling guilty.
Now let’s see in a more specific way the various components that concern assertive communication ; communication skills can be divided into:
- ability to seize the right moment (timing)
- essentiality of speech and brevity
- informative effectiveness
- language skills
- rhythm and emphasis
- active listening
- knowing how to ask closed / open questions
- provide “free information”
- know how to make / receive criticism
- knowing how to apologize
- knowing how to use the pronoun “I”
- knowing how to refuse / say “no”
- use of paraphrases / reflections
- use of indications / prescriptions
- silence management;
- face and facial expressions
- eye contact
- tone, volume and fluency of the voice
- interpersonal space
- self-care (e.g. way of dressing).
The verbal components in assertive communication should reflect spontaneity of expression, reveal one’s feelings and take responsibility for them. The ultimate goal is to express yourself in an honest and respectful way.
For example, closed questions, which are answered only with a “yes” or “no”, are intended to end the conversation early, are useful at the beginning of a speech, then it is necessary to follow up with questions open (what, how, where, when, why) to create relationships, ask for news, demonstrate and arouse interest.
Giving and receiving “free information” is used to grasp the clues provided by the interlocutor, understand what is important and interesting for him and pay attention to him, so as not to make the conversation an interview, so as to proceed more fluidly.
Self-opening is useful for communicating one’s way of thinking, in a non-invasive way, giving information about our life, our interests, without monopolizing communication with the desire to “show off”, it makes the dialogue more engaging.
Making / refusing requests is essential to express and make yourself known, you must be able to accept a refusal, not think that asking is not polite, nor imagine that others should understand what we want without us expressing it in words.
Those who fail to put these behaviors into practice often make mistakes, can feel bad when things do not go as expected, cannot express their needs or place a limit on their availability.
The non-verbal components , on the other hand, have the function of expressing the moods and emotions associated with communication.
The information coming from this channel offers us important signals with two main functions: the discrimination of intentions, moods and interpersonal attitudes, and the understanding of the social status and role of our interlocutor.
For example, someone who knows how to maintain good eye contact is shown to be an open and confident person of what they are saying, and is an effective way of declaring their sincerity and intentionality.
The expression of the face must accord with the message that is transmitted, so that this is effective and credible, while the emotions we are experiencing are transmitted through facial expressions.
Even the movements of the hands and other parts of the body have a great communicative value, in fact they describe, emphasize or accompany the speech, although excessive gesticulation can, at times, be a cause of distraction.
An upright, open, relaxed posture, neither rigid nor “bent”, is ideal, it shows that we are at ease and the body, in fact, reflects this predisposition of mind.
The management of space is also indispensable, that is, establishing and maintaining a correct interpersonal distance, neither too “on”, nor too far away (in our culture the optimal distance is one meter, less in the case of confidential relationships).
The tone and volume of the voice are used to communicate our mood, our intentions, our emotions, with a voice that should be clear, relaxed, friendly, well balanced. A medium and well-modulated way of speaking is convincing without intimidating. Physical contact can be helpful in establishing and maintaining a sense of intimacy and solidarity, but it can generate anxiety in certain situations or with some people.