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Assertiveness Training and THE HAZLEBOURNE LADIES MOTORCYLE AND FLYING CLUB by Helen Simonson

Cover of the book the Hazelbourne Ladies Motorcycle and Flying Club by Helen Simonson used to teach the therapy skill of assertiveness training

Constance was a working-class girl who came of age during World War I. Before the war, it was assumed that she would lead a quiet life, marry a man of means, or become a governess. During the war, with the men away, she was responsible for running an estate. Constance excelled in this role. However, she lost her job once the men returned and women were excluded from most employment. Her career dreams were slipping away, and she felt undervalued, unseen, and unworthy.   


Having experienced a lifetime of being told she was second class, both for reasons of economics and gender, Constance struggled to stand up for herself. When other’s interests were at stake, Constance was a consummate advocate. When her own interests were involved, Constance was meek. Post-war Constance was imminently capable but in need of assertiveness training. (Note: I’m applying today’s world’s skills to Constance’s world and historical time, which was filled with sexism and bias.)


Assertive people stand up for themselves, view their needs as equally important to those of others, and respect both themselves and others. Conversely, assertiveness training is helpful to people who are unsure of their own abilities, fearful of rejection, people-pleasing, conflict-avoidant, or otherwise marginalized.


Here are assertiveness training tips to advocate for yourself:


Explore Why You Undermine Yourself: Consider the patterns established in your family of origin or other formative environments surrounding conflict.


Pass on Passive, Act Assertively, Avoid Aggression: Seek to strike a balance between not discounting your needs and not attacking or disrespecting others.


Aim for Honesty: State your thoughts, feelings, and opinions using I Statements, a calm tone, and congruent body language.


Start Small and Build on Success: Practice with minor, inconsequential matters and use the confidence gained from those successes to tackle more challenging topics.


Prepare for Initial Discomfort: If advocating for yourself is new, it will initially feel uncomfortable. Expect to feel guilt and proactively process it.


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