I don’t want to make the situation worse.
I don’t want others to think I’m controlling.
I’m afraid the person won’t like me anymore.
These are just a few of the reasons women might give for why they should not speak up. Unfortunately, there are a multitude of reasons why women, in particular, have not communicated their boundaries, values, or opinions. Thankfully, there is now a resource available to not only get to the why behind each woman’s lack of assertiveness, but also introduces the skills lead to assertiveness.
The Assertiveness Guide for Women: How to Communicate Your Needs, Set Healthy Boundaries, and Transform Your Relationships fills a particular void on the shelves of self-help books; in less than 220 pages, Julie De Azevedo Hanks, PhD, provides women with a direct explanation of how to overcome their avoidance of being assertive. Her years of work as a psychotherapist, as well as her own personal experience struggling with finding her voice, support and influence the information. Hanks’ ultimate goal is “sharing what women themselves can learn and do to make it more likely that their feelings, thoughts, needs, and wants will be heard and responded to in positive ways.”
Hanks takes a few chapters at the beginning of the book to help the reader root out the why; why are they unable to assert themselves, to communicate their needs and wants? She explains the different attachment styles – anxious, avoidant, and secure – and explains how each plays a role in the assertiveness of an individual. She walks the reader through identifying their own attachment style as she references the styles throughout the text. According to Hanks, attachment style lies at the root of how we relate in our relationships with others. As attachment styles are developed very early in childhood, they each have a deep set of habits that must be shifted in order to develop assertiveness.
Moving beyond attachment styles, Hanks introduces what she has identified as five key skills to assertiveness:
Each skill is explored in greater depth in its own chapter. Hanks defines and elaborates on what each skill is and what it looks like in practice. For instance, in the Self-Expression chapter, Hanks identifies three methods of Self-Expression: the Doormat, the Sword, and the Lantern. In the explanation of these, she provides what the “hidden payoff” may be for the individual, for instance, “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 didn’t make.”
Finally, Hanks’ provides an acronym for how assertiveness works in action: OSCAR.
- Observe the action
- Sort thoughts and feelings
- Compassionately Communicate
- Ask Questions
- Request Directly and Clearly
She walks the reader through each of these and clearly describes what these steps are. She also provides suggestions as to how to practice these steps; for instance, she reminds readers to use the formula “I feel ____ when you ____ because I think ____” when compassionately communicating with others.
The Assertiveness Guide for Women is not just a resource of information though. The “active” aspect lies in Hanks’ ability to tie-in “awareness exercises” for readers to work through that are specific to the information within the chapter. Hanks’ also references multiple resources and studies throughout her text which support the information she provides, all of which are listed in the back of the book.
Ultimately, Hanks’ The Assertiveness Guide for Women is long overdue. It is a sad truth that women are still being referred to in derogatory names because they are strong and outspoken. To avoid such treatment, there are some women who continue to shy away from using their voice to avoid “rocking the boat” or being labeled.
Some women likely have no idea what being assertive as a woman even looks like because they may have never had an example to model. Hanks not only provides that example through her personal stories or those of clients, but she lays out the path for doing the same. She removes confusion around the idea of “assertiveness” and ultimately lays the groundwork for profound growth within her readers. With a gentle tone, light humor, and clear thought, The Assertiveness Guide for Women is a resource with an unassuming presence but filled with power and insight.
The Assertiveness Guide for Women: How to Communicate Your Needs, Set Healthy Boundaries, and Transform Your Relationships
New Harbinger Publications, August 2016
Paperback, 224 pages