Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Assertive Method

Someone posted this to me recently in response to a post I wrote on a support group messageboard. I'm not going to blog in detail about the issue at the moment, but the title of my post 'At the end of my tether and avoiding the physiotherapist - help' pretty much says it all. Many disabled people can feel helpless and angry at some point when using services that are designed to support them - but may feel things are going wrong.

Although I do regard myself as reasonably articulate, there are times when anyone, no matter how confident, can suddenly feel a situation they're in is 'out of control'. Then sometimes it can be hard not be respond emotionally. Pouring it out might feel like the best way to demonstrate your distress at events, but it might not be the best way of getting your point of view across. In cases of emergency, try;

The Assertive Method

The assertive method was developed to its present state as part of the women’s movement, but is more generally effective for anyone. It provides a way to get what is wanted or needed without resorting to methods that generate strong negative reactions. It doesn't always work, but it tends to be very effective. The assertive message means more than simply standing up for yourself; it consists of four parts, preferably delivered in one short sentence each. The content should be:

1. This is the situation.
2. This is how I feel about it.
3. This is what I want you to do.
4. What do you think?

Then say ABSOLUTELY NOTHING until the other has completely run down. The lingering moment of silence at the end can be very compelling; use it.

If you get what you want, great. If you get an acceptable alternative, give it a try, saying something like "That seems like a reasonable way to start, I'm willing to try it." If the response is very unclear, ask for further explanation. If you get neither what you want nor an acceptable alternative, DO NOT ARGUE WITH ANYTHING THAT HAS BEEN SAID, simply say, "I understand, but [this is what I want you to do]." Continue to repeat steps 3 and 4 indefinitely. If it seems that the person with whom you are talking has lost track of parts 1 or 2, it is ok to restate those.

Sometimes it may help to check understanding. In that case, saying "Am I explaining myself?” is less confrontational than “Do you understand?” and less likely to put the other on the defensive.

The variant for refusal would involve repeating, "No, I won't do that, it will (e.g. hurt me)" followed by "I understand, but I won't do that, it will (e.g. hurt me.)"


Lady Bracknell said...

A timely reminder.

(For me, at least. Wish I'd had this in the forefront of my brain earlier this week.)

Agent Fang said...

Yes, it's easy to do the opposite when you're in the middle of the situation...

lilwatchergirl said...

That's pretty cool. I like that the Women's Movement developed it. It could be very useful for me in certain dealings with certain medical professionals, which I am starting to view in terms of social power relationships, institutionalized disablism and gender role stuff. I will give some version of this a go when I attend the pain management clinic next week.