Psychological Self-Help

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socially anxious, and less sure of his/her social skills (Kolotkin &
Wielkiewicz, 1982). So it may be wise for married couples or friends or
work groups to take assertiveness training together, emphasizing
cooperation and congeniality. 
All the research observations referred to in the last paragraph
apply to formal training provided by graduate students or
professionals. There is almost no data about the effectiveness of
reading about assertiveness on one's own and practicing with a friend.
Certainly the impact of self-taught assertiveness on friends and loved
ones is unknown; it sounds convincing that a pleasant, considerate,
fair but assertive person would make a good partner, but perhaps
what seems considerate and fair to one person may seem aggressive
to another person. As we change, we should be alert to the possibility
of making life worse for others. Much research is needed. 
Alberti and Emmons (1978, 1986), who were the original writers in
this area, believe that assertive training works only with people who
are not entirely passive or continuously aggressive. For the extremes,
they recommend psychotherapy. Likewise, if the people around you
will react hostilely to your being graciously assertive, perhaps you
should see a lawyer. Refusing to make the coffee may result in losing
your job or a promotion, so move cautiously. It may be wise to
postpone a confrontation until the time is right. 
There is no known danger, although some research has suggested
that certain men believe that sexual aggression, such as kissing,
fondling, and even intercourse, is a little more justified, if the women
has initiated the date, gone to the male's apartment, let the man pay
for everything, etc. A female being assertive or unassertive is not
going to cause a rape (that is a male sickness), but all of our behavior
has implications in other people's minds--and some of those minds are
chauvinistic, weird, inconsiderate, etc. In general, you are surely much
safer being assertively honest, rather than overly shy, needy and
dependent, afraid of hurting someone's feelings, uncertain of what to
say, and so on. 
Additional readings
Mental health professionals consider Alberti & Emmons two
books to be the best in this area (Santrock, Minnett &
Campbell, 1994). Books that justify aggressiveness, the use of
intimidation, and self-centered looking out for #1 are not
recommended by professionals. Elgin (1980) and Piaget (1991)
offer help countering a "control freak" or a verbally aggressive
person (see references below). Video and audio tapes about
assertiveness and dealing with difficult people are available
from CareerTrack (1-800-334-1018). 
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