Assertiveness Formula

Practice in using the following assertiveness technique, taught in hospitals: "I feel... when you... because... please..."

I feel frustrated and angry (but I used to feel confused) when you give me contradictory rules because I cannot simultaneously follow contradictory rules, putting me in a no-win situation. Please don't give me contradictory rules and please listen to me when I question them.

I feel frustrated and angry (but I used to feel defeatist and confused) when you react defensively to my attempts at assertiveness because it was you who implored me to try being assertive and told me people would respond in kind. Please make my attempts at assertiveness with you a positive experience so that I am encouraged to be assertive elsewhere.

I feel attacked when you question my vegetarianism because it implies that you think I am lying. Please be upfront with me about the tricky situation you are in regarding the intersection between vegetarianism and eating disorders.

I feel frustrated when you nitpick about word choice (labeling feelings good or bad, using absolutes, etc.) because I have to rephrase my sentence to satisfy your requirements. I feel frustrated when you call me "pedantic" when I phrase my sentences in ways that unequivocally meet your requirements because that puts me in a no-win situation (either my words are wrong or I am a pedant). Please be consistent; don't nitpick about word choice at all or accept the consequences of nitpicking.

I feel angry when you don't take responsibility for your mistakes when I have taken responsibility for my mistakes because it makes me seem a scapegoat for the problem, being the only one to have admitted to making a mistake. Please take responsibility for your mistakes and please apologize for them.

I feel alienated and hopeless when you make generalizations about people with eating disorders that don't apply to me because it invalidates my own experience and implies that you don't understand people who don't fit that mold. Please don't make those generalizations or, at least, please phrase them without such exclusive language.

I feel sad, frustrated, powerless, and unimportant when you don't actively consider what I have to say because I can't change my situation any other way and if I were important, you would listen to me. Please listen to me and actively consider what I have to say, being open to that changing something.

I feel unimportant when you ask if I think I am a typical patient after I suggest ways to improve patient care. I feel this way because I hear the message that if I am an atypical patient, it is not worth considering my suggestions, as it helps only one patient. Please recognize that I am a patient, just as important as any other; please recognize that I may be atypical in my ability to verbalize these problems and suggest solutions, but I am typical in my being hurt by these problems; please recognize that I haven't suggested anything that wouldn't improve patient care generally, even if it is in areas that other patients are unable to identify. 

I feel relieved and surprised when you apologize to me, respect me, or make a change in response to me because my experiences in mental health care have led me to expect the opposite. Thank you. Please continue.

I feel sad and angry when you foster an environment that leads me to distrust mental health care professionals and expect to be disrespected because that is not an environment conducive to improving mental health. Please do better.


  1. I feel happy and impressed when you present statements like this because they are clear, concise, and demonstrate exactly how you feel.