The Assertiveness Guide for Women

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all4peace

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The Assertiveness Guide for Women
« on: August 12, 2019, 01:11:30 AM »
The Assertiveness Guide for Women: How to Communicate Your Needs, Set Healthy Boundaries & Transform Your Relationshipsóby Julie de Azevedo Hanks, PhD

I have more than 16 pages of notes on this incredible book, but instead of sharing way too much I'll post a short clip from one of the author's publications that covers the 5 basic skills of assertiveness.

THE FIVE SKILLS OF ASSERTIVENESS
In The Assertiveness Guide for Women, I define assertiveness as having the following five skills (the 5 Sís) and five positive results (the 5 Cís):
1.   Self- Reflection: An understanding of your attachment style, differentiation level, and relationship patterns. The result of self- reflection is a sense of clarity about your own development, your relationship patterns, and how your past is impacting your ability to be assertive.
2.   Self- Awareness: An awareness of your feelings, thoughts, needs, and wants resulting in a sense of confidence about what you want to communicate.
3.   Self- Soothing: The ability to manage your intense emotions and employ skills to soothe yourself and respond to emotions in a caring way, without becoming overwhelmed by them or detaching from them. The development of self- soothing leads to a sense of calmness, which allows you to clearly assert yourself and convey your intended message.
4.   Self- Expression: The ability to communicate your feelings, thoughts, needs, and wants clearly to others, along with a willingness to back up your words with action. The development of skills to express yourself leads to a stronger and deeper connection with others.
5.   Self- Expansion: The openness to anotherís point of view as being valid, the willingness to ďhold spaceĒ for differences, and the desire to grow through your relationships. The practice of hearing and valuing anotherís experience leads to deeper feelings of compassion for anotherís experience.

This book gets into the 5 skills of assertiveness, attachment styles and how they relate, barriers to assertive communication, early attachment history, identifying emotions, mindfulness and emotional management, self-expression, setting strong boundaries.

I highly recommend this book. It brings together a lot of current and pertinent subjects and thoughtfully and meaningfully explains how they impact assertiveness.

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treesgrowslowly

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Re: The Assertiveness Guide for Women
« Reply #1 on: August 13, 2019, 12:42:24 AM »
Wow that sounds like a good read. Thanks for posting this!

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treesgrowslowly

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Re: The Assertiveness Guide for Women
« Reply #2 on: August 16, 2019, 11:09:52 AM »
Hi again all4peace,

I got this book from the library after reading your review. Chapter 3 on barriers to communication summarizes the experience of growing up with a parent with a PD, but she doesn't ever mention having parents with PDs. I think that what is missing from this book is an explanation to fully validate and explain how NPD parents actively disturb our development in the areas she is focusing on in this book.

The way that this inclusion (of the effects of NPD parents) would help her central thesis is that it would further clarify why it is our (developing) assertiveness that brings us into healther relationships with healthy others (who are assertive themselves).

A woman who comes OOTF, may not understand why it is so hard to foster healthy relationships with new people, outside her FOO. This book provides solid advice on how to use self awareness in our new friendships when we are more and more OOTF.

In chapter 8 she talks about power. NPDs want power not connection, so being assertive with an NPD parent doesn't lead to connection. Worse, it reveals our own need for connection but in a way where we feel shame for not being able to use our own love and assertiveness to connect with the NPD parent.

Healthy relationships involve assertiveness from both people,  and this book is great for explaining that. But you'll never have that with your NPD parent. I think there were many years when first coming OOTF where this book would have triggered my grief and anger.

That said, I am seeing lots of really useful info about developing assetiveness through self awareness.

Some questions I have for anyone who has read or is reading:

1. Being OOTF, do you find that you developped boundaries with aggresive people but less so with "doormats"? (Her term from the book).

2. Which of her 5 C's do you have to find the most new strategies for? Which one has been the hardest? For me it's calmness.

Growing up, I saw a lot of women in my family try to be swords - So that they would not constantly be doormats. I didn't see them being lanterns with each other. It has given me new food for thought so I'm glad you reviewed it all4peace! I hope others check it out.

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all4peace

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Re: The Assertiveness Guide for Women
« Reply #3 on: August 16, 2019, 01:58:12 PM »
First of all, I think there are a load of useful books out there in the world that will never use the term PD, so it's on us to sort through and do translations. I think there's a lot of difficult behavior and even difficult people that may never be termed PD, including myself at times.

I went back to my (17 pages!!) book review on this book and looked at Chapter 3. I agree with you. My notes started with:

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Chapter 3: Barriers to assertive communication
I donít want to make the situation worse.
I donít want others to think Iím controlling.
Iím worried about how I will be perceived.
Iím afraid the person wonít like me anymore.
Iím afraid Iíll be misunderstood.
I donít want to be shut out.

I think it may be the human condition to fear the things listed above, and for those of us with neglectful or abusive childhoods it has been seared into our nervous systems and psyche. These were very real fears from my childhood because these things on this list actually happened. There's a reason it is VERY challenging for me to be assertive in my real life. Only through safe relationships have I learned that those things above will not happen to me when I learn to have a reasonable level of assertiveness, while also respecting the personhood of the other.

Here are a few of my notes on Chapter 8 (self-expression and setting strong boundaries):

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Boundaries: YOU are the one who creates them. You decide what kind of fence youíll build and what comes in and out of your personal spaceóphysical and emotional.

Every person has the right and responsibility to be able to say when someone else is too close, too dependent, or too involved and intertwined (this is where assertiveness comes in). You choose your company.

If you are not comfortable with someone or something, you are allowed to express that. Perhaps the most fundamental boundary is the right to say no. Saying no is the primary way we express ďI am me. I am not you. We are different.Ē

Practice saying no.

Exploring the meaning of no: consider the following statements or questions to understand why it might be challenging for you to say no.

*in what situations do I have difficulty saying no when I know I should?
*if I say no, Iím afraid thatÖ
*if I say no, it means thatÖ
*what messages did I hear or learn from my early experiences about saying no?
*how did my parents respond when I said no to them as a child or teen?
*how do I feel when I say yes when I really want to say no?

Ways to say no:
-thatís just not going to work for me
-I canít give you an answer right now, will you check back with me?
-I want to, but Iím unable to
-Iím not able to commit to that right now
-I really appreciate you asking me, but I canít do it
-I understand that you really need my help, but Iím just not able to say yes to that
-Iím going to say no for now. Iíll let you know if something changes
-Iím honored that you would ask me, but my answer is no
-no, I canít do that, but hereís what I can doÖ
-I just donít have that to give right now

Receive the gift of resentment
Resentment is an angry feeling that you experience when you think youíve been treated unfairly or when a situation has garnered an unfair result.

The ďgiftĒ of resentment is that it can let us know there may be a place we need to set boundaries.

Stand your ground
Donít apologize for things that donít warrant an apology (ďSorry to bother you, butÖĒ)
Bring body language into alignment with words.

I know what you mean when you say reading this at a different time in your journey would have been triggering. I don't know how I would have digested this 2 years ago. At this point, however, it felt incredibly validating to me to see how attachment, assertiveness, shame, boundaries... all of them work together.

What I see her explaining is not that all relationships will be mutually healthy, but that we need to be assertive regardless. In fact, the more unhealthy the relationship, the more we need assertiveness.

I'm going to share my notes on her definition of "Doormat" before answering your #1 below:

Quote
Doormat: ďRun overĒ by others or own emotions. Doesnít want to disappoint anyone. Though she likely genuinely cares about others, her people-pleasing behavior may actually be an attempt to feel validated, reassured and loved. She may become easily frustrated and have a difficult time setting emotional boundaries. May not be able to clearly identify and articulate her feelings, thoughts, needs or wants; or she may choose to not assert them at all for fear of rejection, shame, or a threat to the relationship. She has learned to survive by ďlying downĒ and allowing other people to make decisions for her.

A hidden payoff for the Doormat stance is the ability to blame others for negative things in your life, because they have the power and have made decisions you didnít make.

The Doormat stance of communication is often used when youíre too overwhelmed by emotions (anxious attachment) or youíre disconnected or cut off from your emotions (avoidant attachment).

Anxiously attached individuals will tend to overaccommodate in order to maintain the relationship; they may avoid rejection by making another person happy.

Avoidantly attached individuals typically placate another person in order to not get too close to their own or othersí vulnerable emotions; they also tend to resign, give up, or care less.

The Doormat stance lets others have it their way in order to avoid conflict and minimize experiencing uncomfortable emotions.

The Doormat stance feels passive and weak.

To answer your questions,
1. I have found it difficult to have boundaries for anyone, regardless of their personality style. For me with aggressors, it's easier to see them as having unhealthy behavior but more challenging for me to understand that a doormat stance may be passive but is still unhealthy and toxic in its own ways. Plus, I'm a fixer, so I want to fix the problems a doormat-style person complains about.

In my family also, women were either doormats or swords. I was "mothered" by a sword who was "mothered" by a doormat. Neither is healthy.

2. All 5 have been very challenging for me. Wow, it's hard to admit that but it's true. The therapeutic process of nearly 3 years now has been a journey into all 5 of those areas, and a really painful looking at the fact that none of those areas has been well-developed.

Do you want to share more about why calmness has been one of your most significant challenges?

I felt like she got into attachment in a meaningful, but it would take someone far enough along on the journey to be willing to look at their family history. In Chapter 4, here are a list of questions she suggests we ask ourselves:

Quote
Early Attachment History:
*what are your earliest childhood memories?
*what stories are told about you as a young child
*how would you describe your relationship with your father?
*how would you describe your relationship with your  mother?
*which 5 words best describe your mother?
*which 5 words best describe your father?
*think of a time in your childhood when you were hurt or sick. Who did you go to for comfort?
*when you were a child, were there any other adults who cared for you?
Someone with a PD parent would certainly have painful answers to these questions, but they'd also need to be able to build a bridge between the answers to these questions and current relationship difficulties.

Trees, thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and questions on this! I'd welcome any further conversation you'd like to have.

« Last Edit: August 16, 2019, 02:44:35 PM by all4peace »

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treesgrowslowly

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Re: The Assertiveness Guide for Women
« Reply #4 on: August 17, 2019, 11:43:53 AM »
Hi all4peace, I continue to enjoy thinking about this book. Thanks for posting your posts!

I think personality explains some of why the 5 are ranked differently for each of us. I also shouldn't give the suggestion the other 4 are easy for me lol.

The quote included in your post about the hidden benefit of the doormat stance hit me as well. That a doormat can blame others. In friendships doesn't this explain how enmeshment happens? Our friendships can only thrive if we are lanterns, I agree with that.

Did you enjoy the lantern analogy? I don't totally get it, the doormat and sword visuals are easier for me to "see" as communication styles.

Trees

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all4peace

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Re: The Assertiveness Guide for Women
« Reply #5 on: August 20, 2019, 08:32:00 PM »
I actually struggled with all 3 terms. I know different writers must have different ways of explaining what they mean, but those 3 terms really didn't work for me. I tried to get the essence of what they described rather than thinking of them as their given words. And I agree that the lantern was the hardest to understand.

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treesgrowslowly

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Re: The Assertiveness Guide for Women
« Reply #6 on: August 21, 2019, 12:58:42 PM »
That's good to know that this lantern analogy is a bit confusing for someone else too!


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Kat1984

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Re: The Assertiveness Guide for Women
« Reply #7 on: August 23, 2019, 12:50:19 PM »
I just got the book from the library and plan on reading it next week.   Hope we can keep this discussion going!   I love discussing books!!

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all4peace

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Re: The Assertiveness Guide for Women
« Reply #8 on: August 23, 2019, 03:18:28 PM »
I'd love to hear your thoughts on it, Kat!

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TriedTooHard

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Re: The Assertiveness Guide for Women
« Reply #9 on: August 24, 2019, 09:31:34 AM »
Hi everyone, I'm half way through reading this book, so haven't yet reached the lantern analogy.  You've sparked my curiosity about that, and I'll check back in once I get through that part.

I'd also like to mention that I found this book as an on-line borrowing option at my local public library.  Its the first time I did this option, and it was quite simple!  I was aware that my local library was modernizing, but prior to this, not aware about the online option.  I chose to read it on my PC, but borrowers can also choose to read it on their phones or other devices.

Regarding the lack of detail about PDs, the writing reminds me of a movement in the therapy world to encourage clients to only discuss with "outsiders" therapy issues in general terms, not medical terms.  A T encouraged this with me, especially in my efforts to find a new community of healthier individuals.  She didn't want me to give the impression to outsiders that I may end up trying to over analyze them or diagnose them if they became close with me.  I can understand this, but it seems like the author of this book is taking too many pains to not write about diagnoses.  I agree that with what this book is trying to accomplish, it would have been more helpful in getting more deep and discussing PDs.  She is trying to get deep but still write in general terms.

With that, I guess the "C" that is most difficult for me is "connection."  I feel this is the next frontier for me to explore.  I've not been assertive on many occasions, for fear of losing connection. 

Early on in the book, the author points out that knowing how/when to ask for and receive help is a positive form of assertiveness.  And not just mental health help.  Her example involved hiring an assistant for her business, and seeing it as a positive that brought on growth, instead of a negative that cost her money.  I agree with that and can relate to the help I sometimes need to hire to maintain my home.  I also relate it to the help that we all seek here from this forum.  We're all taking good steps towards assertiveness by participating here!

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Kat1984

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Re: The Assertiveness Guide for Women
« Reply #10 on: August 24, 2019, 12:42:45 PM »
OK, I'm not very far into the book yet, but I have figured out for sure that my attachment style is Anxious.
 Not surprising.   But a bit disconcerting.   I want my attachment style to be Secure.   ;)

But, it's not.  So I have some work to do!  Onward......

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treesgrowslowly

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Re: The Assertiveness Guide for Women
« Reply #11 on: August 25, 2019, 12:52:34 PM »
Hi kat1984 and triedtohard,

Awesome that there are a few of us reading this book. I agree with triedtohard. You put it really well - the author is trying to go deep but stays with general terms so much that she can't describe the depth.

Becoming assertive is going to be different for each of us and there is a context to it. We can't assert ourselves to the same degree in each situation in life.

I think this book would be sorted as addressing some of the What regarding assertiveness, but it isn't a book focused on why women might find themselves needing to develop more assertiveness. For OOTF folks, I still think Pete Walker's book describes the Why. This book goes into the why in a few places but overall is helpful for other things.

For me this book got me curious about how my experiences with women who were swords, doormats and lanterns, influenced me and how I feel around each type when I meet them today. Having those 3 categories as a taxonomy helped or reminded me to remember why I have always felt suspicous when sword types tried to convince me that they were being healthy and assertive. I always felt that was 'off', in my bones, when I would hear this from them (because they often defend their right to be a sword, and will argue that being a lantern doesn't work). Not all sword types are PDs but I would think a lot of NPDs are sword types? Or would NPDs get a whole other 4th category?

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TriedTooHard

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Re: The Assertiveness Guide for Women
« Reply #12 on: August 27, 2019, 08:58:23 AM »
I just finished chapter 6 - 3 chapters left!  Still haven't reached the lantern analogy.  But, for me, chapter 6 was a powerful reminder of several mindfulness techniques that work.  The author ties in some things I learned in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).  She includes many useful examples for any of us who are trying to build or maintain healthier connections with others.  I never really pieced CBT with mindfulness, but its true.  Its a relief to know that for anyone who doesn't want to sit and meditate for long stretches of time, we can still benefit from mindfulness.
« Last Edit: August 27, 2019, 09:39:41 AM by TriedTooHard »

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TriedTooHard

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Re: The Assertiveness Guide for Women
« Reply #13 on: August 27, 2019, 10:52:43 PM »
Hi Everyone,

I finally finished and can address Treesgrowslowy's latest comments.

I think this book would be sorted as addressing some of the What regarding assertiveness, but it isn't a book focused on why women might find themselves needing to develop more assertiveness. For OOTF folks, I still think Pete Walker's book describes the Why. This book goes into the why in a few places but overall is helpful for other things.

I agree.  I was relieved to read towards the end when she validated the pain of dealing with toxic people who are supposed to be close to us.

Not all sword types are PDs but I would think a lot of NPDs are sword types? Or would NPDs get a whole other 4th category?

I do believe that not all swords are PDs.  Most people at one point or another probably acted like doormats, swords, or lanterns, no matter what our predominant style.  The author used an example of her reacting to a 5 year old like a sword, when the 5 year old came close to wrecking a new laptop.  And this happened after a lot of effort to be a lantern.  I think many parents can relate to having at least one of these moments when we slip up. 

In my opinion, most, if not all NPDs are sword types.  Maybe they should get another category, since they can't change, and the purpose of the book is to teach us how to change from using the sword approach.  In the example of the 5 year old, a non-PD parent would immediately catch him or herself, especially after seeing the look on the child's face, and then apologize.  A PD parent would just keep on going, and not apologize.

I have always felt suspicous when sword types tried to convince me that they were being healthy and assertive. I always felt that was 'off', in my bones, when I would hear this from them (because they often defend their right to be a sword, and will argue that being a lantern doesn't work).

I understand this feeling.  I've heard the same argument from the people I've known who constantly use the sword approach.  Back to the example of the 5 year old, a non-PD'd person will try and learn to not get that far again in a moment like that.  A person with a PD would resort to this tired old argument that many of us have heard too much.

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Kat1984

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Re: The Assertiveness Guide for Women
« Reply #14 on: September 04, 2019, 12:39:36 PM »
I liked the book as a good primer for assertiveness.   I am still working on assertiveness in middle age, after a high-stress career where people would probably never in a million years guess that I struggled to be assertive.
I am an anxious attachment type, though I have some traits of all 3 types.  I grew up with a parent who was codependent due to a childhood with 2 alcoholic parents.   My parent basically was afraid to consume oxygen, use up any space on the planet, or ask for anything at all.   She did not feel worthy.  But her needs turned into passive-aggression and she relentlessly criticized others behind their backs.   Her 2 kids learned this behavior well, and it took me into my 30's to realize, after losing some friendships, that criticizing others to make myself feel better was not a good strategy for keeping healthy relationships.  The sarcasm and biting humor might be sort of funny at the moment, but was so immature and just plain icky.  I did not feel good about myself, and noticed that the people I admired did not share my snarky way.
My uBPD sibling has so many passive-aggressive tendencies, and huge boundary issues.  This book really helped crystalize that for me.   "My business, others' business, and God's business" says the author.
  All we need to mind is our OWN business.  My mom and sib do not mind their own business, but spend a whole lot of time minding other people's business.
And I am working very hard, with resources such as this Forum as well as a therapist, to change that paradigm for myself.   I cannot change my FOO.  But I can change me.   And I can give my kids a different mindset and outlook and set of tools, so that they do not waste the time and endure the pain that I have.

I loved the way the author spelled out that NOT being assertive often leads to unhealthy relationships.  In my childhood it was seen as rude to be assertive.  It was not being "nice".   But how nice is it to get so silently angry inside and then blow up at someone?   Not at all nice.

I still struggle with wanting to be liked.  Maybe I always will.   But this book has helped solidify for me the knowledge that being assertive is a gift to ourselves and to our loved ones.   


 

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treesgrowslowly

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Re: The Assertiveness Guide for Women
« Reply #15 on: September 05, 2019, 10:52:37 AM »
Hi kat1984,

I like everything you said here about assertive and passive aggressive. Thanks for posting here!

I think gossip is a form of passive aggression and a sign that someone doesn't know how to process their reactions to boundaries. They are not minding their own business, as you said !

Our boundaries are our self care.

When we come OOTF we have been with people, PDs, who don't know how to take responsibility for themselves. Because it's easier to focus on what other people should be doing. As we heal from that, we grow. Minding our own business becomes more natural or more comfortable.

I'm working on speaking up with myself to make sure I don't ignore or forget about what I need and what I'm feeling.

We develop strengths that we feel comfortable using in different contexts. I like the concentric circles diagram in the book. I too can be assertive at work but struggle to communicate the same way in friendships. The circles diagram shows why we are more, or less, assertive in different roles.

What do you think the benefits to us will be as we practice assertiveness?

I think that for me, being nice is a way of managing when the other person is easily upset. The less mature they are, the nicer I am. The trouble starts when I want this to become a friendship. Does that make sense? It causes problems when we are nice so much with someone that they don't get to know where our boundaries are.

Sadly a lot of people don't want a friendship with healthy boundaries but the ones who do, want to see us being assertive about our needs because thst is what creates emotional safety in friendships. Then we trust each other to be taking care of ourselves and not use the friendship as a substitute for self care.

Being nice for real, requires assertiveness otherwise we're being nicer to others than we are to ourselves. I'm working on this. I still forget to give myself the kindness I give easily to others. !!

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TriedTooHard

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Re: The Assertiveness Guide for Women
« Reply #16 on: September 05, 2019, 10:42:18 PM »
Hi Kat1984, I appreciate your comments and candidness in describing your experiences with passive aggression.  I had a similar dynamic in my past.  It sure did give me a warped view of assertiveness.  I wish I knew then what I know now....  You're right, we can change ourselves and give our kids a different mindset and tools.