1. Describe a time when you felt disrespected. Present
the experience as if it is a scene from a novel. Describe the
setting where the event took place. Explain who was there.
Show what they did and said. Explain how you felt.
2. Describe the same experience a second time, but
this time revise what people said and did in a way
that would have left you feeling fully respected. In
this revision of history, have everyone speak and behave in
ways that would have changed the outcomes and experiences
for the better, leaving you feeling fully respected.
Saying “no” is another tool of the assertive Creator. When I think of the power of
saying “no,” I think of Monique. One day after class she took a deep breath,
sighed, and told me she was exhausted. She complained that everyone at her job
kept bringing her tasks to do. As a result, she had virtually no social life, and she
was falling behind in college. She wanted advice on how to manage her time
“Sounds like you’re working 60 hours a week and doing the work of two people,”
I observed. She nodded modestly. “Here’s an outrageous thought: The next time
someone at work brings you more to do, say ‘no.’”
“That sounds so rude.”
“Okay then, say, ‘I’m sorry, but my schedule is full, and I won’t be able to do that.”
“What if my boss asks? I can’t say ‘no’ to her.”
“You can say, ‘I’ll be glad to take that on. But since I have so many projects
already, I’ll need you to give one of them to someone else. That way I’ll have time
to do a good job on this new project.” Monique agreed to experiment with saying
“no.” The next time I saw her, she was excited. “I sent my boss a memo telling her
I had too much work and I couldn’t take on the latest project she had assigned
me. Before I’d even talked to her about the memo, one of my coworkers came by.
He said our boss had sent him to take over some of my projects. Not only did I
not get the new project, I got rid of two others. I just might be able to finish this
semester after all.”
Monique’s voice had a power that hadn’t been there before. With one “no” she
had transformed herself from exhausted to exhilarated. That’s the power of a
Creator being assertive.
In this activity, you will explore assertiveness. This powerful way of being
creates great results, strengthens relationships, and builds self-esteem.
1. Make a choice—write about one of the following (A or B):
A. Write three different responses to the instructor described in
the following situation. Respond to the instructor by (1) placating, (2)
blaming, and (3) leveling. For an example of this exercise, refer to the
dialogues in the section above titled “Leveling.”
Situation: You register for a course required in your major. It is the last
course you need to graduate. When you go to the first class meeting, the
instructor tells you that your name is NOT on the roster. The course is full,
and no other sections of the course are being offered. You’ve been shut out of
the class. The instructor tells you that you’ll have to postpone graduation and
return next semester to complete this required course.
Remember, in each of your three responses, you are writing what you would
actually say to the instructor—first as a placator, second as a blamer, and third
as a leveler.
B. Think about one of your most challenging academic goals.
Decide who could help you with this goal. Write a letter to this
person and request assistance. You can decide later whether or not you
will send the letter.
Here are some possibilities to include in your letter:
Tell the person your most challenging academic goal for this semester.
Explain how this goal is a stepping stone to your dream.
Describe your dream and explain its importance to you.
Identify your obstacle, explaining it fully.
Discuss how you believe this person can help you overcome your obstacle.
Admit any reluctance or fear you have about asking for assistance.
Request exactly what you would like this person to do for you and persuade
him or her to give you helpful assistance.
Remember, for effective requests, use the DAPPS rule.
2. Write what you have learned or relearned about being
assertive. How assertive have you been in the pursuit of your
goals and dreams? How has this choice affected your self-esteem?
What changes do you intend to make in communicating (placating,
blaming, leveling), making requests, and saying “no”? Be sure to
Student story 19
I returned fall quarter feeling broken. I had hoped some time off would help my
marriage and my mental state. But I felt exhausted and overwhelmed. I barely
slept or ate. I was grinding my teeth and having nightmares. In class, I
daydreamed because I didn’t really want to be there. I already have a bachelor’s
degree from Wilmington College, but I’m back in school because I want to be a
nurse. In the past, my GPA has always been high. But because of challenges in my
marriage, studying was no longer on my A list. Maybe not even on my B or C list. I
had to read an assignment several times to get it, and I was definitely not doing
my best work. When I got a C on the first test in Anatomy and Physiology, I
panicked. The worst part was pretending everything was okay. I couldn’t ask for
help or admit the level of suffering. Not me. Instead, I smiled my best Pollyanna
grin and went through the motions to keep up the appearance of a healthy life.
I was taking PSYC 1108: College Success because the previous term someone had
come into my English class and raved about it. That sounds like a course I could
use, I thought. In the first week, I took the self-assessment. Ouch. Kick a girl while
she’s down. I scored remarkably low in interdependence. I was shocked that
creating a support system was so important. I’d always valued my independent
nature. But I knew I had to do something different. I had to start somewhere.
So I started by asking for help. At first, it made me feel like vomiting. But it got
easier. I trusted On Course and decided there must be benefits to
interdependence. With practice, it got more comfortable. Now, it’s wonderful. I
began by asking students who were doing well in Anatomy and Physiology to
start a study group. We would meet and go over what we covered in class. They
told me about strategies they use to memorize all the bones we had to know. We
made study cards and I carried them everywhere. I even started asking for help
from coworkers at the hospital where I work. I usually did all of the patient
charting, but I started asking others to share the task.
Next, I practiced the art of saying “no.” I was raised to say “yes,” followed by
“please.” Saying “no” took some work. I literally broke out in hives at first. I took
allergy medicine and kept trying. I’ve gotten so good at it that now I say it every
day, usually followed by “thank you.” My mom is famous for calling me and
asking me to pick up something at the store. I finally told her I had to choose
activities that were important to my goals, like studying my nursing courses. I
even said “no” to cleaning my house all the time. I prefer a clean house, but
saying no to cleaning means I can say yes to more important things. The results
have been life-changing.
I also made a conscious effort to tell people how I truly feel. Living as my
authentic, quirky self feels right. Many relationships where I was doing all the
work have disappeared. For example, I asked my husband to help more around
the house. He got angry at first, but I told him how important it is to me to get
help so I can succeed in school and become a nurse. Now he helps more than he
used to. I’ve finally made living the life that I want a priority, and the people who
really care about me are glad.
I am so happy and grateful that I signed up for this course. Also, that I took it
seriously and dove deep. I was off course in September, but the New Year is
looking brighter. When I got my grades at the end of the quarter, I had all As. My
marriage is way better and my husband tells me I’ve changed. He doesn’t say
how, but I can tell that he likes me better now. This process didn’t happen
overnight. The journal entries were a valuable tool to inspire healing. While
writing the journals, I felt very reserved at first. But soon I realized that I had
something to say. I was hearing my voice again … my voice! Hearing my voice
was like running into an old friend. There was a moment when I giggled. I
thought, “I remember you. I like you. Where have you been, my old friend?”
1. Asking for help is hard for many of us, but it’s even harder
when our request is denied. Describe a time when you asked
for help and the person you asked was either unwilling or
unable to help you. How did you feel? Speculate and try to
explain why they did not help you. Explain what you did
2. Have you ever felt that the pain in your personal life was
affecting your ability to succeed in your academic life? Are you
struggling with these kinds of emotions right now? Briefly describe
your response to the emotional struggle that Amy describes, and
write about your personal experience with personal hardship
interfering with schoolwork. If this is a past experience, describe
how you responded. If you’re currently struggling with similar
feelings, write about them and ask yourself what might help you to
endure the hardship and rise above or work through it.
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