Goal-Directed Therapy: Assertiveness Training for Better Relationships


Are you comfortable meeting new people? Asking for advice? Saying "no?"

If someone is acting or speaking inappropriately to you, do you stand up for yourself and confidently speak your mind? Are you able to express your anger appropriately? Refuse unreasonable requests? Handle arguments effectively?

If you answered "no" to even a couple of these questions, you may have difficulty being assertive. But being able to assert yourself--that is to say, being able to declare who you are and what you're about with confidence and without apology --is an important social skill. Without it, people believe they can control and manipulate you. And if you don't stand up for yourself, those people may actually be right.

Now, not everyone is comfortable being assertive all the time. Nor should we be assertive all the time. But if you find yourself regretting not having stood up for yourself, and if you feel this regret more and more often, then perhaps you could use a little goal-directed assertiveness training.

When we talk about assertiveness as an important social skill, we're talking about the ability to utilize interpersonal communication so that it benefits you and your life. For many people who find themselves unable to be appropriately assertive, the difficulty rests in the fact that they were not socialized to be assertive in their childhood.

This is especially but not only true for women. Although there are many exceptions, generally women are socialized to be compliant, obliging, and non-assertive, especially to men and/or to authority figures.

But whether you are a woman or a man, there are specific assertiveness techniques and tools that you can practice. These techniques and tools will enable and empower you feel more comfortable asserting your true self in interpersonal situations. Your Goal-Directed Therapist can work with you to master these techniques so that you are comfortable using them and so that no one can ever take advantage of you again.

1. Shaping. Through this technique, participants in Goal-Directed Therapy take small steps forward until they are thoroughly comfortable with the positive changes that are taking place in their lives. This is a gentle, goal-directed technique that allows change to take place painlessly and over time, which is the most effective way to create lasting change of any kind.

2. Awareness. Through the process of Goal-Directed Therapy, individuals learn how to become increasingly more aware of their own responses and the responses of other people. In this way, the individual can gauge the effectiveness of his/her new-found assertiveness and apply it in the appropriate social situations.

3. Role Playing. In Goal-Directed Therapy, individuals with issues around assertiveness role play with the therapist to anticipate likely real-life responses to their new assertive behavior. Role playing is like rehearsing for real life situations, and is particularly effective for people who may need a supportive partner while they're learning these important new communication skills.

Remember: Nothing succeeds like success. Every small step forward can give you the impetus to continue progressing. In Goal-Directed Therapy, you are taught to congratulate yourself on your progress, to be patient with yourself, and to make real and measurable steps toward your goals.

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