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Being Assertive ≠ Being A Bitch

Today is International Women's Day.  As I sit reflecting on this day and all that it means - globally and locally - I began to reflect on what it means in the work I do.

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The essence of International Women's Day is to celebrate women's achievements (socially, economically, culturally, and politically), as well as accelerate gender parity. With the girls and women I work with, a focus that often comes up in our work together is assertiveness, particularly how they feel like they really suck at it. I find that most girls and women struggle with assertiveness on some level - whether it be in their relationships with partners, family, friends, bosses, colleagues, or a stranger at the grocery store... it's a skill that many women find that they lack.

This lack of skill (and it very much is a skill) isn't a personal fault - it's typically just something that they never learned. It was never modeled for them by other women in their lives or perhaps it was even shunned.

As I sit listening to the women I work with and the topic of assertiveness comes up, I hear all too often (something along the lines of), "...but I don't want to seem like... well, you know... a bitch." I help the woman sitting across from me 'check-the-facts' (another skill) by asking, "What if a male colleague/partner/friend made the same statement... would he be a 'bitch' or 'asshole'?" Most of the time, the answer is an emphatic, "Nope." 

This gives us a lot to think about. What makes it safe for one gender to express wants, needs, or to say "no" to a request, but not another? Assertiveness is essential in boundary setting, in making a request or asking for wants or needs to be met, and in saying "no" - regardless of who you are.  Being assertive does not equate to being a bitch. You can be kind, respectful, gentle, fair, and understanding all while being assertive. 

My favorite assertiveness skill I teach to the women I work with is pulled from Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). If you're familiar with DBT, you know DBT loves acronyms - the acronym used to help build assertiveness is "DEAR MAN GIVE FAST."

Here's me teaching DEAR MAN GIVE FAST in under 10 minutes!

I really love the work I do! And, yes, leave it to me - the DBT Nerd - to find a way to connect International Women's Day to DBT! ;)

Sincerely,

Chelsea