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Oh yeah, feel free to use them at home, too.

ASSERTION is an attitude... A commitment to positively rather than aggressively challenge issues or not face them at all. Communication is honest, concise, brief and direct, with good listening skills, acknowledgement, empathy, non- defensiveness, the ability to request what you need and positive reframing (seeing and accentuating the positive).

Joe is a 54-year-old type 2 patient with diabetes who reported that he consciously ate more than he might have in front of the family, daring them to judge him silently or to his face. It gave him a strange sense of power to defy them, expressing his resentment and hostility through his behavior. He was, perhaps, scapegoating his family rather than feeling his fury from the fears and restrictions of diabetes.

His sister Jane, age 52, reacted to his overeating with alternating bouts of rage and coldness. It was more difficult for her to feel sadness and fear about what he had to go through and easier to be angry and controlling. This is an attempt at an assertive dialogue between them, after Jane criticized Joe for not taking care of himself.

Joe: This is none of your business. I'll do what I want. You can't control me.

Jane: My interest in you, my questions feel controlling? (LISTENING means you can repeat back what you heard, clarify and then check for accuracy in your understanding by asking a question.

Joe: It sure does. You, the doctors, my wife...I don't have a life.

Jane: That sounds awful for you. (ASSERTIVE EMPATHY)

Joe: Thanks. It is. I feel like my privacy is gone, like everyone is free to intrude on me the first moment I do something wrong. I've always eaten terribly and with all the anxiety about this illness, I can't seem to start changing my relationship to food now

Jane: I'm so glad you're telling me this (ACKNOWLEDGEMENT NON-DEFENSIVENESS). I don't want you to do this alone. Can we figure out some way that I can be your friend and not a critic? (ASSERTIVE REQUEST.)

Joe: Maybe, but don't get carried away.


In the ASSERTION process, it becomes necessary to RECOGNIZE and respect the feelings of yourself, and later others, as the first step.

The next step is to DESENSITIZE you. This means taking the sting out of your feelings by stepping back from them-detaching-and adding a rational component. Think of deputizing yourself as a therapist in order to try to objectively rather than reactively respond.

A third aspect is to ANTICIPATE that life is filled with "situations" and we all must have "mental muscles", be in good shape to handle all the challenges.

The final step is to PREPARE for what we anticipate so we are never caught off guard and can handle the events or people who throw us off guard. (We check to find out what the weather will be and determine what shoes we will wear for the expected rain or whether or not we will bring an umbrella.)


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