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Being more assertive


"I often know what I'd like to say, but don't have the courage. They might be the experts, but they don't always know best"

  • Carers often have difficulties asserting themselves and may lack self-confidence and self-esteem. You may feel guilty when you say “no” to something and sometimes say “yes” when you don’t want to. You may find it difficult to ask for help and feel guilty and embarrassed when it is offered.

  • You have a right to let others know what you are feeling and what you need. You are denying your own importance and creating stress to yourself and others if you do not. Other people cannot be expected to read your mind. They have a right to be asked for help and to understand your true feelings.

  • Being assertive can help to maintain and promote good social relationships with the person you care for, with other family members and with professionals. Assertive behaviour means being positive, but not aggressive.

  • You need to be clear in your own mind what you want and ask for it directly. Do not try dropping hints that may be misunderstood. Behaving too submissively can be very irritating to others and mean that what you want is overlook


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  • If someone asks you to do something, take notice of your gut reaction. Don’t just say “Yes” because it is expected. Honesty generates respect. Remember that you are only responding to the question, not to the person and that an alternative solution can always be found.

  • Learning to say “No” without apology or aggression gives a feeling of control over your life and reduces stress. Do not make excuses, that leave you open to being pressured into changing your mind.

  • Actively foster positive social contacts by, for example, beginning conversations, paying compliments and expressing emotions. Control unpleasant social contacts by dealing with criticism, saying “no” if necessary and finishing unfavourable conversations.

  • Always be positive in your dealings with other people, for example, by:

    • -being clear about what you want
    • -accepting offers of help
    • -accepting compliments
    • -apologizing, when necessary
    • -admitting your errors
    • -sticking to what you want to say
FURTHER INFORMATION

Local adult education centres often run assertiveness courses that are open to everyone, and some that are just for women.

The Princess Royal Trust for Carers offers advice on coping with the system and dealing with professionals (tel 020 7480 7788; www.carers.org)

Useful books include:

‘Assertiveness Step by Step’, by Windy Dryden and Daniel Constantinou, published in 2004 by Sheldon Press. ISBN 0 859 699 250

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This site has been established for the dissemination of information. While every effort is made to ensure that information on this site is accurate and current we accept no liability for any omissions or inaccuracies that may have crept in. If in any doubt please contact your doctor for further advice.

Last Modified 13 August 2004
Maintained by Matthew Harris