Peer Counselors Stress Assertive Living

Nikki Jee | Staff Photographer

Nikki Jee | Staff Photographer
Peer Educator Jeannie Nguyen discusses the best ways to deal with roommates at the UC Irvine Counseling Center’s final presentation of the year.

Peer Educators from the UC Irvine Counseling Center hosted an assertiveness training workshop in the student center which aimed to help students improve their social skills on May 27.
Such workshops take place every Tuesday and Wednesday evening through the year and are open to all UCI students.
Peer counselor Erica Schindler felt that the workshop served as an outlet for the UCI student body to create a dialogue about an array of issues.
“One of the reasons we hold these workshops is to raise awareness of the counseling center for those people who don’t know [it] as a resource. [These workshops] create a different resource for students since it’s easier for them to talk to peers than with older authority figures,” Schindler said.
Lauren Hammond, a third-year psychology and social behavior major, expressed her confidence in the workshops.
“Communication is so important. I’m glad that there [are] workshops for students to communicate more effectively,” Hammond said.
The assertiveness training workshop aimed at giving students helpful strategies for how to stand up for one’s rights in a respectable manner. Peer counselors distributed packets that contained tips, such as how to be assertive in the professional world. Other tips included listing different social aspects that hinder one’s ability to be assertive.
Judy Kim, a second-year biological sciences major, commended the workshop for its ability to liven up the application of real-world scenarios.
“I thought the workshop was helpful because all college students can relate to the issues they presented. The peer counselors made the workshop funny and interesting, especially with the skits,” Kim said.
In order to capture the audience’s interest, peer counselors would act out different skits that would demonstrate proper and improper ways of being assertive.
For one of their skits, the peer counselors demonstrated the consequences of passive-aggressiveness. Jenny Chiang, a peer counselor, narrated a scenario where her colleagues were standing in line to attend a Justin Timberlake concert. The social order was interrupted when an aggressive fanatic, portrayed by second-year psychology major Elaine Cartas, cut in line. Offended by the lack of courtesy exhibited by Cartas, Cristina Flores, a fourth-year psychology and social behavior major, whispered her disapproval of Cartas to her friend played by Schindler. Overhearing the crude comment, Cartas proceeded to shout at Flores, who clumsily hid behind Schindler. The formerly timid audience giggled with delight.
Jessica Ng, a second-year international studies major, felt these skits helped her understand the mechanics of different sociological situations.
“It taught me more about different types of people, how to deal with these different people and to better evaluate the type of person I want to be,” Ng said.
Although the skits had the best audience response, one other teaching strategies was also effective in practice. From time to time, peer counselors would share personal experiences and their own internal struggles to be more assertive in their daily lives.
Flores attributed some of her passivity to cultural differences that shaped her perception on how to converse with others.
“Part of my passivity is the way I was raised. It was hard for me to be assertive because my family taught me to respect others and speaking up would be disrespectful. As a woman, too, I thought I should be quiet,” Flores said.
The event concluded with audience participation in assertive exercises that reinforced the lessons the peers had taught. Skits included topics such as saying no to going to a party because of an upcoming exam, refusing money-lending to an irresponsible friend and declining to ditch class to go shopping. From these performances, it was evident that the communication skill of assertiveness was well-taught.
Flores expressed her satisfaction with the turnout for this particular workshop, but felt there should have been more attendance due to the serious nature of the workshop.
“I’d say this workshop was successful. Each workshop brings a significant amount of people. However, I wished more people would be here for the depression and test anxiety workshops. We’re students and we go through these things and they think that it’s okay to be stressed about them, but they don’t have to be,” Flores said.
For students who would like to learn more about the Counseling Centers workshops, the are encouraged to stop by the UCI Counseling Center located in Student Services I, Room 201 above the Career Center, or call 949-824-6457.