The Art of Everyday Assertiveness: Notes & Review
The Art of Everyday Assertiveness (2019) is a book on communication, social skills, learning how to say no, and how become more assertive.
About the Author: Patrick King writes and advises on social skills, dating, online dating, and communication skills.
Start Pleasing Yourself
Says Patrick King:
You can’t always please everyone, so start with yourself.
Faulty Beliefs of Lack of Assertiveness
The author says there are four major beliefs that seem to be most common among people who lack assertiveness.
- I’m only worthy if I help (Helpaholic): Serving others is natural and looking at oneself comes last. This is the belief that you only live to help and serve others
- I’m only accepted if I always say yes: the belief that you are unworthy of love the way you are
- I’m only good and kind when I help and when I don’t complain: and the opposite, saying “no” means being harsh and being bad. This is the belief that asserting yourself means you’re a bad person
- I cannot stand confrontations and I will always lose them: this is your typical fear of confrontation, and it’s the belief that it’s just better to go alogn with others rather than saying anything
Says the author:
Being selfish isn’t always bad.
In fact, it’s necessary being selfish every so often.
King does not include it in his main four beliefs holding people back from being assertive, but he later adds a few faulty mindsets which I think are important:
- “I shouldn’t say how I feel and what I want”: this is especially pernicious in relationships, where some people expect their partners to know what they think, feel, and want. But nobody knows that, unless you say it, express it, or demand it
Manipulation stops you from being assertive
King says that mindsets are crucial, but they are only half of the battle.
The mindsets reflect your internal states, and there can be external stumbling blocks to your assertiveness.
Those stumbling blocks are other people’s manipulations.
King quotes Susan Forward and her work on “Emotional Blackmail“.
See here for emotional blackmail:
Make it easy for them!
If you need something from them, make it easy for them to say yes.
Meet them at their favorite restaurant, go to their office, or offer something.
Don’t make an imposition, but show that you’re also giving.
Can we meet? Lunch is on me
This was just good social intelligence based on:
King also adds that it’s good social intelligence to make it easy for them to say “no”, so that they will not resent you.
Yes, they may love your dog, but they might not want the responsibility of looking after it.
The advantages of both giving value and making it easy for them to say no is that they also make it easier for you to make a request in the first place.
King proposes four steps for asseritve communication:
- Objective description of their behavior: describe reality. Be specific, be direct, but don’t be harsh
- Description of the effects of their actions: describe reality of how their actions affected you
- Description of your feelings: use “I feel” statements. Be clear, but not theatrical
- Statement of your preferred behavior: describe how you would like them to act, either now, or in the future
Say “I don’t”, not “I can’t”
The way you talk to yourself as well as to others influences your ability to communicate and behave assertively.
When you say “I don’t”, you remove your decision from the realm of your willpower, and it becomes part of who you are.
- Shut up after you said “no”: hold the silence. If you speak first, you are more likely to “soften” your “no”, give away power, and embolden others to keep pushing
- Avoid giving too many details: the more details you give, the more ammo you give other people to latch onto and try to change your mind
- Don’t allow other people’s anger or pushy ways to weakne your boundaries: when you let coercion overcome your fair boundaries, you are ceding power to a bully
- Switch from “I’m sorry” to “excuse me”: if you over-apologize, switch from “sorry’ to “excuse me”. This is good for everyday situations, for example bumping into someone. It’s equally polite, but doesn’t take over guilt and responsibility for things you’re not guilty of
- A bit on the selfish advice side?
Sometimes I felt like the book was promoting selfish-interest a bit too strongly.
Probably the author wanted to address chronic people pleaser, in which case that type of stance and advice makes sense.
On the other hand, it’s also important to remember that advanced social skills, which also include leadership, is about taking care of others, and there is lots of power in taking responsibility for others.
- Sometimes it felt less assertive and a bit shifty
The author says you can reject people by saying you’ll get back to them and then “of course, you never get back to them”.
He does say that you can use it for particularly pushy people, but it’s still not an example of assertiveness.
Or that “you can reject X and offer Y, the hope being they have no use for Y”.
But if you need to “hope” they won’t take Y, then why offering it in the first place? Assertiveness is about clearly stating what you can do and what you don’t want to do.
- Sometimes I didn’t fully agree with what was good assertiveness
One woman felt uncomfortable with the sister’s boyfriend asking some personal questions about her dating life.
So one day she told him that “she had been given that a lot of thought, and that she didn’t feel comfortable… “.
The guy was shocked, and didn’t see it coming. In my opinion, it’s unnecessary to say “I’ve been given this a lot of thought” as that blows the matter out of proportion.
Much better to make it natural, like “hey John, I’m not as open as you are, I don’t feel good discussing this stuff. But I’m happy to talk about football” (then, smile).
- The self-assessment quiz: was both helpful for self-assessment, and to understand what’s proper assertive behavior in everyday life
- Great list of techniques on how to make rejections easier for you: possible these were the ones I enjoyed the most, there was some true nugget of genius, and I borrowed some for Power University and credited Patrick for them
- Good 30-days plan to go from passive to assertive: Patrick King lays out a plan to go from passive to assertive in a set of smaller steps to take day after day
The great cost of your lack of assertiveness is a life that doesn’t resemble anything you ever wanted.
Every loudmouth can win an argument, to be a true winner, your aim should be a win-win for everyone.
I enjoyed “The Art of Everyday Assertiveness”.
There were plenty of nuggets of wisdom and.
Especially good were the techniques for saying “no”, which were not just assertive but also socially smart, and the connections that Patrick King established between assertion and effective social strategies, as seen from a social-exchange point of view -how to take your due credits, how to avoid making your social debt bigger, etc.-.
It’s especially suited for people who are too passive, too nice, and who struggle with a sense of guilt whenever saying “no”.
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