Can you recommend good books on developing assertiveness?
October 2, 2013 7:08 AM   Subscribe

I've spent nearly all my life people-pleasing and recently have become aware of some very serious consequences affecting nearly all my relationships. I have been discussing this with a therapist, and in short, I need to learn to stand up for myself at home and at work. My therapist said that there are a gazillion books on the subject, and I thought I'd consult MeFites for your recommendations.

I know that I need to actually be assertive, that is, take action now, but I'm bookish by nature and will find good books helpful.

I am female and in my fifties. I've been dealing with depression and obesity for most of my adult life and would not be at all surprised to find out that the two conditions are linked to my overall deference and compliance. Books that speak especially to middle-aged women, or to those other links, and/or are evidence-based, are most welcome.
posted by angiep to Human Relations (12 answers total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: When I Say No, I Feel Guilty
Your Perfect Right
posted by girlmightlive at 7:18 AM on October 2, 2013

I've heard good things about The Charisma Myth.
posted by henryaj at 8:35 AM on October 2, 2013

I was a 'peer buddy' at my school and had to do training with a professional counselling to qualify.

They taught us a really easy template which you can practise:
Name, I really like [appreciation] But when you [complaint] it makes me feel [sad/upset/stressed/frustrated] Please could you [reasonable new behaviour]? If you can't [reasonable new behaviour], [consequence] will happen.

Practise with one of the things you are not okay with that happens regularly. Write out a draft now and promise you will say it to the person tomorrow!
e.g. sometimes my mom throws away my stuff when she is tidying
Mom, we really appreciate that you help tidy the house! Thank you for taking the time to do it even on weekends! But sometimes when you are tidying you throw away my study notes thinking it is scrap paper, and when that happens I feel stressed because it takes a long time for me to re-do them. Please could you let me know before you tidy so I can clear my notes away, or try not to throw pieces of paper away when you tidy? Thank you!

What you want is totally reasonable 99% of the time and not even difficult for the other person. It saves you emotional upheaval (or a delayed OUTBURST) at almost no expense. Do it! For other people and yourself! They deserve to hear the truth, and you deserve to be treated well and to be stood up for! I only started doing this now but standing up for yourself is really freeing and empowering and will earn you respect (especially from yourself).
posted by dinosaurprincess at 9:01 AM on October 2, 2013 [7 favorites]

Best answer: I enjoyed Nice Girls Don't Get the Corner Office. Read some of the Amazon reviews and see what you think -- I found it to be incredibly insightful.
posted by Ostara at 9:20 AM on October 2, 2013

Crucial Conversations
Crucial Confrontations
The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense
The Gentle Art of Verbal Self Defense at Work
posted by alphanerd at 9:21 AM on October 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

Although many of his examples are most relevant to the workplace, well renowned Wharton Professor Adam Grant recently published a book called Give and Take. It balances the concepts of being a giver vs. a taker vs. a matcher, the takeaway point being that givers are ultimately most successful and happy in life. There is a section designated to the fine line between acting as a giver and becoming a doormat/pushover. There are ways in which you can be generous and stay true to your non-aggressive personality, but still exert assertiveness in (silently) demanding the treatment you deserve. I wish you good luck!
posted by goblue_est1817 at 10:04 AM on October 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

Seconding The Gentle Art of Verbal Self Defense at Work. Such an eye-opener!

Also, following on goblue's comment read up about what respect looks like in relationships. Google "respect" and "reciprocal relationships." When I reflected on my relationships and asked myself "hey, am I getting back the energy that I'm putting in?" it helped me to see which ones were genuine, and which ones were fairly superficial. And sometimes it's not that you have to stand up for yourself, but that you don't have to do anything. For example, I found at times I had to SIT ON MY HANDS and not do [gifts, calls, help], and just wait for the other person to do their part. To my happy surprise, they did! It changed my perspective too. Instead of bitterly waiting for a response or for acknowledgement, I told myself that sometimes sitting on my hands is healthier for *both* of us. You want a true reciprocal relationship. And that means having others do their part. Then the ones who won't do their part will wither away.

It's also helpful to just say what you're thinking, feeling and wanting, instead of telling yourself you don't really need it or it's not important.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 10:50 AM on October 2, 2013

Try Living Non-Violent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg. It teaches you a way of communicating that focuses on identifying your and other people's needs, and making concrete requests to express your needs. The approach is similar to what dinosaurprincess says above. It's a gentle and easy way of asserting yourself. It's good stuff!
posted by chickenmagazine at 12:58 PM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Seconding girlmightlive: Your Perfect Right sounds like a good fit. I would suggest that you make an attempt to find a course where you can be videotaped: a huge amount of communication is non-verbal and watching and listening to yourself offers something no book can.
posted by PickeringPete at 5:49 PM on October 2, 2013

I believe Albert Ellis is widely considered as one of the authorities in the field of assertiveness training. You might find his ideas interesting.
posted by Basque13 at 7:25 PM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you all for your help. I selected the resources that seem (as far as I can tell from reviews, comments, etc.) to talk about inner states and allowing myself to speak up. I've read Rosenberg I have no trouble with the actual communication in an assertive, respectful way--it's feeling like I deserve to speak at all, as St. Peepsburg was mentioning. I'm going to try the resources I marked and see how I get on with them, and come back and try the others if the first things I try aren't a good fit for what I need.

Again, thanks for the advice and recommendations.
posted by angiep at 8:45 PM on October 2, 2013

feeling like I deserve to speak at all

Ask For It, by Linda Babcock and Sarah Laschever, helped me with this.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 1:35 PM on October 7, 2013

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