Chapter 9. Assertion Theory

Colleen Kelley

A friend asks to borrow your new, expensive camera .... Someone cuts in front of you in a line .... A salesperson is annoyingly persistent .... Someone criticizes you angrily in front of your colleagues .... For many people these examples represent anxious, stressful situations to which there is no satisfying response. One basic response theory being taught more and more frequently in training programs is a theory called assertiveness or assertion.

Some important aspects of assertion theory include (1) the philosophy underlying assertion, (2) the three possible response styles in an assertive situation, (3) some means of outwardly recognizing these response styles, (4) some functional distinctions among the three styles, and (5) the six components of an assertive situation.

The Philosophy of Assertion

Assertion theory is based on the premise that every individual possesses certain basic human rights. These rights include such fundamentals as "the right to refuse requests without having to feel guilty or selfish," "the right to have one's own needs be as important as the needs of other people," "the right to make mistakes," and "the right to express ourselves as long as we don't violate the rights of others" (Jakubowski-Spector, 1977).

Three Response Styles

People relate to these basic human rights along a continuum of response styles: nonassertion, assertion, and aggression.


The act of standing up for one's own basic human rights without ...

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