December 27, 2019

What’s On My Bookshelf: The Assertiveness Guide for Women – How to Communicate Your Needs, Set Healthy Boundaries and Transform Your Relationships

By Pamela Larkin
Identity Development

I first heard about Dr. Julie De Azevedo Hanks, PhD, LCSW book on assertiveness from a client that I’m working with. Can I say, what a great recommendation! This was a book that was accessible to counselors and clients alike. Her coaching in self-exploration of your communication styles was clearly supported with questions to reflect on and several examples.

I have a few more thoughts on why I would recommend this book and to what communities/situations would best benefit from this read. First, let’s dive into Dr. Hanks 3 communication styles.

The Doormat Approach

First up is the Doormat approach. Think about this visual. Doormats are made to be stepped on, to get rid of any dirt on your shoes and to welcome others into your space. The doormat approach takes on a similar strategy. How it manifests in your communication style is an inability to advocate for yourself. You may even have a difficult time identifying what it is you are feeling, want, or need.

This may be due to a fear of conflict, or you may have a desire to be liked or to fit in with others. If you identify with this approach, others may perceive your communication as “passive” or “weak.” Dr. Hanks says maybe, “she has learned to survive by ‘lying down’ and allowing other people to make decisions for her,” (pg. 132). Let’s all pause for a moment and read that sentence AGAIN!

Maybe she has learned to survive by “lying down” and allowing other people to make decisions for her. What I appreciate about this statement is that we often behave out of a need for self-protection.

Does this Sounds like You?

Consider your response to these questions for self-reflection.

  • Do you often walk away from an interaction where you agreed with everything that another person said? Even though you have strong opinions from your knowledge and experience?
  • It’s time for dinner and you’re asked what you would like. Your response is, “whatever you want is fine with me.”

The Sword Approach

Let’s reflect again upon another image. The Sword is often used in battle. It can cause a great deal of damage, and can swiftly make contact. It is often used for protection to defend against others. You may be quick to offer your thoughts and opinions in a way that others interpret as “aggressive.” While your needs may be more clearly stated than the doormat approach, the sword will keep you more isolated. Ironically enough, Dr. Hanks states that this sword can be overtly aggressive or “passive-aggressive,” as in the sword may come out as sarcasm, cynicism, or humor that is hurtful.

Does This Sound Like You?

  • Have you been trying to set some boundaries for the number of assignments you’ll take at work by accusing others for their inability to pitch in and help out?
  • You are tired of being overlooked by your professor and decide to sarcastically remark that the reason why the professor hasn’t called on you is because they are sexist.

The Lantern Approach

The Lantern approach is the ideal form of communication. It allows you to see yourself and other people’s perspectives clearly. I liken it to a definition of assertiveness that I once heard in a training. It’s noticing, acknowledging, and asking for what you need and being okay if you do not receive it. This stance requires first knowing your needs before you ask for them. Those with the Lantern approach will approach a conversation with what Dr. Hank’s describes as a “soft start up,” in conversation. This may look like giving a compliment, or demonstrating kindness.

Does this Sound like You?

  • You are in a debate and are able to stay present and listen to other’s perspectives while still sharing your thoughts.

Why do I recommend this book?

So why have I recommended this book to several clients?  Because I love Dr. Hanks integration of how our attachment styles (ie our connection with others and our comfortability with closeness) AND the closeness of our family systems (think enmeshment to differentiated) influences our ability to identify and ask for our needs. 

In addition, Dr. Hanks does a great job of providing practical tips on how to communicate in a Lantern way.  I would especially recommend Chapter 8:  Self Expression:  Setting Strong Boundaries, as she gives several tips on having a difficult conversation.  I would recommend this book to adult women.  This could benefit the individual who would like to feel a greater sense of empowerment as they learn to use their voice.

Call Today

If you’d like more support in finding your voice, I encourage you to take the step to reach out for counseling. Our goal will be greater awareness of self, so that you can engage with others confidently.

Written by therapist Pamela Larkin

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