Lesson 6: Assertiveness – Alternatives for Expressing Anger,
Checking In This Week
As you look at your homework you completed for last week, what was the highest level of anger you reached on the anger meter? Be sure you reserved the number 10 for situations where you lost control of your anger and experienced negative consequences.
Be sure you described the anger-provoking event that led to your highest level of anger.
Make sure you included the cues that occurred in response to the anger-provoking event.
Where did the cues fall in the cue catagories (physicial, behavioral, emotional, or cognitive)?
What strategies you did you use to either avoid reaching 10 on the anger meter or recovering after reaching 10?
Assertiveness involves a set of behaviors and skills that require time and practice to learn and master. In this program, we focus on one important aspect of assertiveness training, that is, conflict resolution. The Conflict Resolution Model can be particularly effective for helping individuals manage their anger.
Many interpersonal conflicts occur when you feel that your rights have been violated. Before entering anger management treatment, you may have tended to respond with aggressive behavior when you believed that another person showed you disrespect or violated your rights. In this session, we will discuss several ways to resolve interpersonal conflicts without resorting to aggression.
As we discussed in session 1, aggression is behavior that is intended to cause harm or injury to another person or damage property. This behavior can include verbal abuse, threats, or violent acts. Often, when another person has violated your rights, your first reaction is to fight back or retaliate. The basic message of aggression is that my feelings, thoughts, and beliefs are important and that your feelings, thoughts, and beliefs are unimportant and inconsequential.
One alternative to using aggressive behavior is to act passively or in a nonassertive manner. Acting in a passive or nonassertive way is undesirable because you allow your rights to be violated. You may resent the person who violated your rights, and you may also be angry with yourself for not standing up for your rights. In addition, it is likely that you will become even more angry the next time you encounter this person. The basic message of passivity is that your feelings, thoughts, and beliefs are important, but my feelings, thoughts, and beliefs are unimportant and inconsequential. Acting in a passive or nonassertive way may help you avoid the negative consequences associated with aggression, but it may also ultimately lead to negative personal consequences, such as diminished self-esteem, and prevent you from having your needs satisfied.
From an anger management perspective, the best way to deal with a person who has violated your rights is to act assertively. Acting assertively involves standing up for your rights in a way that is respectful of other people. The basic message of assertiveness is that my feelings, thoughts, and beliefs are important, and that your feelings, thoughts, and beliefs are equally important. By acting assertively, you can express your feelings, thoughts, and beliefs to the person who violated your rights without suffering the negative consequences associated with aggression or the devaluation of your feelings, which is associated with passivity or nonassertion.
It is important to emphasize that assertive, aggressive, and passive responses are learned behaviors; they are not innate, unchangeable traits. Using the Conflict Resolution Model, you can learn to develop assertive responses that allow you to manage interpersonal conflicts in a more effective way.
It is important to emphasize that assertive, aggressive, and passive responses are learned behaviors; they are not innate, unchangeable traits. By practicing the Conflict Resolution Model, you can learn to develop assertive responses that will allow you to manage interpersonal conflicts in a more effective way.
What are some problems that you may experience if you act aggressively during conflicts with others?
What are some problems that you may experience if you respond passively during conflicts?
What are some of the advantages of acting assertively when trying to resolve conflicts?
In summary, aggression involves expressing feelings, thoughts, and beliefs in a harmful and disrespectful way. Passivity or nonassertiveness involves failing to express feelings, thoughts, and beliefs or expressing them in an apologetic manner that others can easily disregard. Assertiveness involves standing up for your rights and expressing feelings, thoughts, and beliefs in direct, honest, and appropriate ways that do not violate the rights of others or show disrespect.
It is helpful to think of real-life situations to help you understand what is meant by assertiveness. Suppose you have been attending an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting several times a week with a friend. Suppose you have been driving your friend to these meetings for several weeks. In the last few days, however, he has not been ready when you have come to pick him up. His tardiness has resulted in both of you being late for meetings. Because you value being on time, this is something that bothers you a great deal. Consider the different ways you might act in this situation. You can behave in an aggressive manner by yelling at your friend for being late and refusing to pick him up in the future. The disadvantage of this response is that he may no longer want to continue the friendship. Another response would be to act passively, or in a nonassertive fashion, by ignoring the problem and not expressing how you feel. The disadvantage of this response is that the problem will most likely continue and that this will inevitably lead to feelings of resentment toward your friend. Again, from an anger management perspective, the best way to deal with this problem is to act assertively by expressing your feelings, thoughts, and beliefs in a direct and honest manner, while respecting the rights of your friend.
Monitor and record their highest level of anger on the anger meter during the coming week. Identify the event that made you angry, the cues that were associated with the anger-provoking event, and the strategies you used to manage your anger in response to the event.
Review the definitions of assertiveness, aggression, and passivity. Identify when you’ve been assertive, preferably once a day during the coming week. Don’t forget to continue to develop your anger control plans.
For the day with the highest number, identify the event that triggered your anger, the cues that were associated with your anger, and the strategies you used to manage your anger in response to the event.
Use the following questions for your weekly review before completing the next lesson:
- What was the highest number you reached on the anger meter during the past week?
- What was the event that triggered your anger?
- What cues were associated with the anger-provoking event?
- What strategies did you use to avoid reaching 10 on the anger meter?
For each day of the upcoming week, monitor and record the highest number you reach on the anger meter.
_____ M _____ T _____ W _____ Th _____ F _____ Sat _____ Sun
Review – Four Cue Categories
1. Physical (examples: rapid heartbeat, tightness in chest, feeling hot or flushed)
2. Behavioral (examples: pacing, clenching fists, raising voice, staring)
3. Emotional (examples: fear, hurt, jealousy, guilt)
4. Cognitive/Thoughts (examples: hostile self-talk, images of aggression and revenge)