Boundaries and Assertiveness Workshop Held In a Positive Space

Students gathered in the Dr. White Room of the Cross Cultural Center to participate in the workshop “Boundaries and Assertiveness” on Tuesday, Nov. 12. Hosted by UCI’s A Positive Space for Women and Community Service Programs, the workshop sought to help students identify their personal boundaries, discuss the values and means of cultivating assertiveness, and provide the opportunity to practice techniques to assertively communicate by “keeping it real.”

Mary Fouad | New University

Mary Fouad | New University

CSP staff members, who conducted the workshop, opened by asking participants to define “assertiveness” using one word or sentence. Among the answers were “forthright,” “powerful” and “rude.” One participant answered, “Expressing opinions because they are important to you.”

CSP then used a short video clip from the popular television show “How I Met Your Mother” to illustrate what “assertiveness” actually means. In the video, a main character named Robin Scherbatsky was asked about her personal relationship with Barney Stinson. She denies having a romantic relationship by answering “no” thirty-four times. CSP staff member Kristen Swinford then explained how Scherbatsky meant to be assertive, but actually comes across as aggressive in the moment.

Participants were then asked to imagine the following scenario and respond: Imagine you have been living next to a beautiful house for many years. You have always wanted to see the inside of the house, but were never invited. One day, a new neighbor moves in and says you are welcome to come visit sometime. Later, you decide to take up the offer and walk over to your neighbor’s house to find the front door is slightly open. What would you do?

CSP used this particular scenario to emphasize the importance of knowing boundaries: your neighbor openly invited you to come over anytime, but does that mean you are can enter? Students were shown another clip from the popular television show “Everybody Hates Chris” that acted out a similar neighbor situation.

“Boundaries allow you to protect yourself by letting people know what bothers you or makes you uncomfortable,” Swinford explained to participants. “Boundaries also allow you to take responsibility for how others treat you.”

Participants were given three sheets of paper, each with a different color to represent their limits — red for “absolutely not,” yellow for “sometimes, but it depends,” and green for “totally okay” — and students would hold up the paper that expressed how they felt as CSP described scenarios. Participants were asked everything from telling your hairdresser what you honestly think, to driving with someone who had a drink that night and countless others. The responses varied drastically.

CSP continued onto explaining the pros and cons of three types of communicators: the observer, the achiever and the assertive communicator. “The observer,” while known as “the good sport,” communicates opinions passively and as a result feels undervalued and overlooked. “The achiever” communicates opinions aggressively because they know exactly what they want, but often loses their temper and feel frustrated in the process. Furthermore, the achiever often does not consider honoring the dignity of others along the way. Finally, the “assertive communicator” combines traits from both of these — they acknowledge the thoughts and opinions of others without changing their own. The assertive communicator, according to CSP, is “keeping it real” by saying how they feel and honoring the dignity of others. One of the techniques that an assertive communicator uses to express their personal opinions is through using the “I” statement.

Participants then partnered up and received ten situations to practice being an assertive communicator. The workshop ended with participants sharing their own personal experiences and challenges, and solutions to communicating assertively.