Assertiveness skills help a young person to develop more acceptable ways of meeting their needs. Teaching a young person assertiveness skills can be done using a combination of didactic teaching and rehearsal of difficult social situations and relationships.
The practitioner can begin by providing a definition of assertiveness:
Assertiveness is a non-defensive way of presenting a point of view and being heard whilst respecting the rights of others (Gelded et al., 2010).
Being assertive involves the following steps:
1. Listening to the other person’s opinions and feeling
This requires attending to the content of the message, observing non-verbal cues and seeking clarification. The practitioner can assist the young person to check they have understood others, by practicing asking questions such as, ‘ Are you saying that……?’ or by using ‘I’ statements of personal feelings, such as ‘ I feel confused about what you are asking of me just now’.
2. Validating what the other person has said
The practitioner can help the young person learn to validate what the other person has said by letting them know that they have heard, understood and are sensitive to the other person’s needs or point of view. A validating statement might be:
‘I have heard you say that….’
‘So you would like it if I…’
‘You think that I…’
3. Believing in your right to express a point of view
A young person needs to feel confident that they have a right to be heard and that their point of view is important, whist at the same time respecting that others have the right to hold a differing view.
The practitioner can coach the young person to use ‘I’ statements when presenting their point of view or feelings. Such as:
‘ I understand that you feel like……… , but my point of view is……….’.
When you……….., I feel ………. and I would like…………’.
4. Being willing to compromise
It is important for a young person to be able to state their point of view and then be open to negotiate compromises when their requests cannot be met in full. The practitioner can provide some psycho-education regarding expressing disagreement compassionately. The key is for the young person to express their perspective respectfully without implying that the other person’s opinion is stupid or misguided.
5. Accepting that differences will exist
There will be times when a young person’s needs will not be met at all and these situations may trigger anger. The practitioner can assist the young person to manage the strong emotions that may be triggered in situations of irresolvable difference and to rehearse backing off or walking away techniques.
The practitioner can support the young person to:
- Be clear and specific about their feelings and needs
- Ask for help when required
- Share thoughts, feelings and problems opposed to holding them in
- Listen to others and accept difference
- Walk away if they feel overwhelmed and deal with the issue later