Is it hard for you to find a meaningful relationship? Can you and your partner benefit from improved communication? Do you feel stuck in a relationship you are not sure you want to be in? There are helpful tools, support, and guidance you can learn in therapy.  Treatment can help you find, maintain and move forward in a healthy and satisfying relationship whether it is with a friend, work colleague, or intimate partner.

Communication issues: What Is Assertiveness?

Have you ever been to a party and found yourself avoiding someone because you didn't know what to say? Have you ever realized, after the fact, that you had been unfairly criticized or taken advantage of? Are you hesitant to express your thoughts or opinions? Do you find dealing with authority figures difficult?

These are examples of situations that involve assertive behavior. Assertiveness can be defined as communication in which one expresses oneself in a direct and honest manner in interpersonal situations, while simultaneously respecting the rights and dignity of others.

What Is Assertiveness Training?

Assertiveness training can be an effective treatment for certain conditions, such as depression, social anxiety, and problems resulting from unexpressed anger. Assertiveness training can also be useful for those who wish to improve their relationships with other people and sense of self-respect.

Reasons for Assertiveness Training

Assertiveness training is based on the principle that we all have a right to express our thoughts, feelings, and needs to others, as long as we do so in a respectful way. When we don't feel like we can express ourselves openly, we may become depressed, anxious, or angry, and our sense of self-worth may suffer. Our relationships with other people are also likely to suffer because we may become resentful when they don't read our minds for what we are not assertive enough to be telling them.  Although some people may seem to be more naturally assertive than others, anyone can learn to be more assertive.  Assertiveness training focuses on learning assertive behaviors and practicing these behaviors with the help of a therapist.

What Is the Difference Between Assertiveness and Aggression?

People sometimes confuse assertiveness with aggression, believing that assertiveness training might make them pushy or inconsiderate of others. In fact, assertiveness can be thought of as a middle point between passivity and aggression. In situations with others, passive behavior occurs when you focus on the needs and desires of another person, but ignore your own needs and wishes. In contrast, aggressive behavior occurs when you force your own needs on others.

Assertive behavior involves expressing your own way of seeing things, but in a way that is respectful of the other person. Although no one can guarantee that the other person will like what you do or say, assertive behavior requires that the other person be treated with respect. Assertiveness training can help not only those who tend to be overly passive in social situations, but also those who tend to be overly aggressive.

How Is Assertiveness Training Done?

Therapists help clients figure out which situations with other people are problematic.  Clients learn to identify beliefs and attitudes that may have developed from the past which lead them to become too passive currently. Therapists take into account the clients' particular cultural context in this process. Therapists often use role-playing exercises as part of this therapy.  Assertiveness training focuses on both verbal and nonverbal behavior. Verbal behavior is the content of a communication — in other words, what is actually said. This includes expressing requests, feelings, opinions, and limits. Nonverbal behavior refers to the style of communication: eye contact, posture, tone and volume of speech, interpersonal distance, and listening.