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Bola Owoade

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ook Review – Assertiveness – How To Be Strong in Every Situation By Conrad and Suzanne Potts


Assertiveness - How To Be Strong In Every Situation


Recently I was tasked with doing some assertiveness training, and I picked up this book from Amazon to help me prepare. While I have read quite a number of books on assertiveness I found this one rather intriguing, but why?  It was very simple and straightforward to read and didn't have the normal amount of psychological jargon that accompanies a lot of books written on the topic. No wonder it has a 4.5 star rating on Amazon UK from 57 people (as at the time of this review). Assertiveness - How to be strong in every situation written by Conrad and Suzanne Potts is based on the experience of the authors who have spent  30 years specializing in assertion training. The first page of the book has some positive comments from those who've read the book, even one from a former Open University Vice - Chancellor. So what can you expect to get from this book? I will say, direct and honest advice on assertiveness covering what it is, why it is important, different ways people behave, strategies to develop assertive beliefs and assertive communication. Off course there is more. Three things about the book impressed me, firstly it is not large, just 232 pages spanning 11 chapters, secondly it is written in very simple to understand English and finally it has a good amount of examples and case studies. The book is divided into two parts. Chapters one to four make up the first part which covers the principles of assertive behaviour. Part two consists of chapters five to eleven and is more practical as it outlines specific situations and how to behave assertively in each of them.

Here is a quick review the book's chapters.

Chapter One - What is Assertion?: This chapter goes straight into defining what assertiveness is and explaining the three behaviours of aggression, non-assertion(or passive aggression). It also describes how to recognise these behaviours. The chapter concludes with nine exercises based on scenarios to help one identify the three behaviours.

Chapter Two - Win-Win: This chapter deals a concept called the Win-Win Coral which describes four positions:

  1. Win-lose:
  2. Lose-win
  3. Lose-lose
  4. Win-win

The win-win position typifies assertive behaviour, the rest don't. Win-win is defined in more detail and five steps to achieve it are outlined. What stops us from achieving win-win more often and the difference between win-win and compromise are also explained.  A fifth position called no-win, no play is also explained. This is the position that enables people to say no to requests.

Chapter Three - It's all in the mind:  This chapter discusses how our beliefs affect our behaviour. It discusses where our beliefs come from and how to develop assertive beliefs. It also uses the Think-Feel-Act Behavior framework to explain how our thoughts affect how we feel and how we feel determines how we act. In other words whether we are assertive or not can largely be attributed to how we think. Techniques to manage our thoughts and influence how we feel are discussed. The aim is to move us from the realm of negative, non-assertive thinking to positive thinking where we can think and consequently feel more positive, which hopefully will lead to more assertive behaviour.

Chapter Four - Assertive Communication: How do assertive people communicate? That's what this chapter deals with. It looks at topics such as the danger of mixed messages, two levels of communication, spotting body language associated with the different behaviors and interpreting non-verbal signals. None face-to-face communication is also discussed covering phone and written communication. The importance of trust and rapport in assertiveness is also dealt with and also assertive listening. But one key aspect of this chapter is the seven assertive options. These are various strategies used to deal with day to day situations in an assertive way. Seven exercises are used to describe each of these options.

Chapters Five to Eleven: Each of these chapters focuses on a specific situation where assertiveness is required. Each chapter into these sections:

  • A true life story  - the scenario being dealt with.
  • Wake-up call  - highlights clues that point to some challenge requiring assertive behaviour
  • Standing in the other person's shoes - What is the other person/peoples position?
  • Taking on things when they are small - identifying what in the past you may have let go on without dealing with it when it was small.
  • Options - What is an assertive mindset to deal with the situation?
  • Actions - Assertive behavioural actions necessary to deal with the situation
  • Time to choose - Relating the case study to a real life situation you are dealing with

Here are the titles of the scenarios dealt with which also are the titles for the chapters.

  • Getting the respect you deserve at work
  • Getting the best out of people at work
  • Handling difficult behavior and coping with conflict
  • Being assertive in meetings and presentations
  • Families - who'd have 'em?
  • Friends, neighbours and social occasions
  • Getting the service you deserve

How about learning and development?

So where does this book fit into learning and development. I think it would form the basis of a great training course. It has a good combination of easy to understand principles and case studies. But learning and development practitioners need to behave assertively too because we constantly have to work with people to deliver the most appropriate learning solutions, and sometimes the people we need to work with are not very forthcoming. Being assertive will certainly help. From time to time we will have to say no to certain things and also stand up for things we believe are good for the organisation even when others disagree. This definitely requires assertiveness behaviour.

Overall this is a good book and one I recommend if you want to improve your assertiveness skills.

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Bola Owoade

Senior Learning and Development Advisor

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