by Mona Pereth
- Why assertiveness is important
- Featured tutorials on assertiveness
- Video tutorials
- Assertive vs. aggressive, passive, and passive-aggressive
- Assertiveness for autistic people
- More tutorials on assertiveness
- Assertiveness role-playing exercises
- Universal assertiveness as a long term societal goal
- Relevant message board threads
Most autistic and similarly neurodivergent people have extreme difficulty dealing with people who are NOT assertive, but who, instead, expect others to read their minds. Since we need other people to be assertive, it is only fair that we too aim to be assertive (neither passive nor aggressive) ourselves. Many of us are already assertive to some extent, but may need to learn to become more consistently and more diplomatically assertive.
Many workplaces consider assertiveness to be a desirable trait in employees. Googling the string "assertiveness job interview" brings up lots of results (NOT included among the links below) about how to come across as assertive (but NOT pushy/aggressive, which is considered undesirable) during a job interview.
So assertiveness is a set of skills that not only we, but also the NT's in our lives, could benefit from learning or improving, NOT ONLY to help them communicate better with us, but also as a possible benefit to their own careers. Chances are the NT's in our lives already have these skills to at least some degree, if they are able to get along with us at all. But many NT's do NOT have these skills, preferring instead to be passive, aggressive, or passive-aggressive.
"Assertiveness training" was originally popularized in the 1970's as a way to help women communicate better with men in the workplace, and as a way to help everyone avoid misunderstandings.
Some of the tutorials below have sections on body language, e.g. eye contact. For some of us, eye contact is a huge distraction at best, and for some of us it's outright painful. If that's the case for you, it may be better to ignore those parts of the tutorials, and, instead, assertively inform the people in your life about your difficulties with eye contact.
Why assertiveness is important
5 Benefits of Asserting Your Needs - and How to Start Today: Anyone can learn the art of respectful assertiveness, by Seth J. Gillihan Ph.D., Psychology Today, Jan 18, 2018
A Matter of Personality: Whatever Happened to Assertiveness Training? by David M. Allen M.D., Posted Sep 28, 2015: Therapists teach distress tolerance skills instead of problem-solving skills. (includes a brief history of assertiveness training)
Assertiveness training entry in Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders (includes a brief history of assertiveness training)
Featured tutorials on assertiveness
How To Be Assertive Without Being Aggressive (podcast & transcript) - Personal Excellence
How to speak up when you feel like you can't by Adam Galinsky | TEDxNewYork
Saying the Hard Things: The Power of Speaking Up by Amanda Springob | TEDxUWMilwaukee
Assertive vs. aggressive, passive, and passive-aggressive
Note: Some of the articles below describe true passive-aggressive behavior, while others describe as "passive-aggressive" what could easily be just fluctuations in a person's energy levels and capacity for social interaction. Such fluctuations are especially likely among autistic people. At some point I should carefully go through the articles in this category and split them up into two or more categories, or perhaps write a blog post commenting on them.
Reduce Stress With Increased Assertiveness by Elizabeth Scott, MS, Verywell Mind, updated on December 26, 2020
What is the difference in being assertive vs. being aggressive? - LifeMadeConsciouse, counseling (Relational Life Therapy) for men and couples
The Difference between Assertive and Aggressive: Respect the other viewpoint or behavior and respect your own, says Marsha Egan, Executive Secretary
What Is Passive-Aggressive Behavior? by Kendra Cherry, Very Well Mind, November 24, 2018
How to Complain So People Will Listen: Told someone a million times? Tell them once more, with feeling, by Tina Gilbertson LPC, BC-TMH, Psychology today, Jul 23, 2015 (but ends with "Try these tips at home, not at work. The workplace has different rules and expectations for relationships.")
6 Ways the Most Emotionally Intelligent People Handle Anger: They avoid being passive-aggressive at all costs, by Emma M. Seppala Ph.D., Psychology today, Sep 28, 2017
15 Signs You're Dealing w/a Passive Aggressive Person [w/Examples] & How to Deal, by Chris Getman, Nov 13, 2018
6 Ways to Help Change Someone's Passive-Aggressive Behavior: The six-step conversation for confronting hidden anger, by Signe Whitson L.S.W., Psychology Today, Posted Aug 16, 2017. See also various otherPsychology Today articles about passive-aggressiveness by Signe Whitson.
5 Clues That You're Dealing With Passive-Aggressive Behavior: The most effective way to deal with passive-aggression, by Berit Brogaard D.M.Sci., Ph.D, Psychology Today, Nov 13, 2016
9 common passive-aggressive work emails and how to neutralize each of them to still get what you want by Rachel Premack, Business Insider, Sep. 16, 2018. (I'm not sure I agree that these are passive-aggressive. I do agree with how to handle them.)
Assertiveness for autistic people
Articles by Yenn Purkis (formerly Jeannette Purkis):
- 'Let's agree to disagree' - Learning conflict, assertiveness and limits, October 8, 2016
- Assertiveness - Why it's hard and some strategies, January 6, 2017
- Too Nice: Avoiding the Traps of Exploitation and Manipulation, May 16, 2018. Another copy on the website of the Organization for Autism Research, September 12, 2018.
The following tutorials are said to be for autistic people. (But to what extent are they really autistic-friendly? We can discuss this at our meetings.)
Assertiveness, Kansas Technical Assistance System Network (TASN) - "Specially designed instruction to support assertiveness in students with autism spectrum disorder and other developmental disabilities."
More tutorials on assertiveness
Assertiveness on the website of the Center for Clinical Interventions of the Government of Western Australia
How to Be More Assertive in the Workplace by Sion Phillpott, 16 Jan 2019
Setting Boundaries Appropriately: Assertiveness Training by Mark Dombeck, Ph.D., Jul 3, 2006; Another copy here
An Overview Of Assertiveness Skills by Chris MacLeod, Succeed Socially
Being assertive: Reduce stress, communicate better, Mayo clinic pages on stress management
Assertiveness - Revelle College, UC San Diego
Assertiveness - Teens Health
The Quick Guide to Assertiveness: Become Direct, Firm, and Positive by Joaquin Selva, Bc.S., Positive Psychology, 14 September 2020
Building Assertiveness in 4 Steps by by Julie Axelrod, PsychCentral, February 25, 2010
Social Skills (w/ section on assertiveness), Cyllya Thoughts, Sunday, June 14, 2015
Assertiveness - list of Psychology Today articles
Assertiveness Skills (PDF) - Nottinghamshire County Council (UK)
Standing Up For Me - Library of the Institute of Cognitive Behavior Management
Assertiveness role-playing exercises
Assertiveness Games and Activities, WorkSMART Blog
Assertiveness Exercise: Group Communication Roleplay Skills Converged
Role Plays for Assertiveness Training by Sue Bishop, Therapeutic Resources
Universal assertiveness as a long term societal goal
The idea that EVERYONE should learn assertiveness is not unique to me. As far as I can tell, it is not yet universally taught in public schools, but there are plenty of people advocating that assertiveness skills be taught to all children in public schools, partly as a way to help prevent bullying. There are also lots of web pages of advice for parents on how to teach their kids to be assertive.
Here's an academic study of assertiveness training programs for children:
The effectiveness of assertiveness training for school-aged children on bullying and assertiveness level Journal of Pediatric Nursing, Volume 36, September-October 2017, Pages 186-190 (full text here)
And here's one of many pages for parents on teaching assertiveness to their kids:
Raising Assertive Kids by Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S., PsychCentral
And here are some instructional materials for school programs for children and young people:
Teaching Assertiveness to Elementary Students, University of West Alabama, March 30, 2018
Assertiveness Training for Children by Leah Davies, M.Ed.
Be strong, Be Mean, or Give In?, Morningside Center, November 7, 2011
ACT: Assertive Communication Training (PDF): A Social Skills Training Program for Children Grades 3 - 6, UCLA
Modeling Assertiveness With Students: Simple role-playing exercises can show students how to stand up for themselves without being unkind to others, by Kristin Stuart Valdes, edutopia, January 25, 2018
Relevant message board threads
Various autistic peer-led groups including support groups, career-oriented groups, and hobby-oriented social groups, led or facilitated by members of the Autistic Peer Leadership Group. Our newest group is the Autistic Women's Support & Social Group. All groups currently meet via text-based chat. Some groups will hopefully meet in-person after the COVID crisis is finally over with.
Where to get an ASD evaluation as an adult: This page will be expanded and updated sometime after the COVID crisis is over with.