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The story of how I came to read this book is quite an interesting one, which I’ll tell you about, before elaborating on its content.
When I started my first full-time job, I was only 18 years old. As a result of having grown up in a protective environment, as well as not yet having Google, suddenly being out in the world meant learning most aspects of life through trial and error.
This led to numerous misunderstandings and conflict, often followed by being asked by my manager, usually with an exasperated look in his eyes, why I had to be so controversial. Secretly I enjoyed being called controversial, but would never have admitted it back then.
After yet another instance of stepping out of line, he insisted I see his psychiatrist for an evaluation and possibly for more sessions if needed. Not being very assertive back then, I reluctantly agreed.
About a week later, after spending an awkward and nervous hour, talking and eating ice cream with my manager in his car, waiting and dreading, I progressed to the waiting area and soon was called in. Sitting on an expensive-looking chair, I was finally free to ‘talk about whatever was on my mind’.
I’ll never forget that conversation. Instead of being reprimanded about my actions, as anticipated, I was repeatedly asked, after mentioning some of them: “Who says…(insert any wild guess as to what I did)… is wrong?” It was the first time in my life that I met an adult, a highly educated and esteemed one at that, who believed in personal freedom and the right to judge one’s own actions.
He recommended I read the book When I Say No, I Feel Guilty by Manuel J. Smith, Ph.D., and said that there was no need to return for more sessions. My manager later told me, in a highly frustrated tone, that the psychiatrist refused to share any personal information regarding me, with him and that he no longer liked him that much😊.
Luckily it was easy to find a copy, even though it’s quite an old book. Mine was printed in 1975. It begins with a bill of 10 assertive rights and contains detailed information on each of these, followed by seven very practical and useful techniques for not only becoming more assertive yourself but prompting assertive behavior in those around you.
It teaches one how to identify the various reasons and ways in which people often try to manipulate and control each other. This is coupled with examples of real, often humorous conversations through which the reader is shown how to apply each of the seven techniques on their own and, later on, in combination, when dealing with some of the most common everyday situations that many of us find hard to deal with in more ways than one.
I can highly recommend reading this book if you’re interested in learning an alternative way of communicating which is more effective and dynamic than passivity or aggression could ever be, while being inspired to obtain greater confidence and personal freedom.