Assertiveness is a choice

Assertiveness is a choice

‘I want that!’… the words just leapt out of my mouth.

I was watching Channel Four in 1987, when on came Andrew Sachs – you know, the guy who played ‘Manuel’ in ‘Fawlty Towers’ on TV. He was doing a documentary about ‘Assertiveness Training’. ‘What?!’ I thought, ‘you mean, you can actually get trained to be assertive?’ And that was after I found out what the word actually meant.

My German teacher at college had written on a reference that I was ‘a confident man’ but I had no idea where he got that from: I would fail to get my point across, postpone difficult conversations, throw compliments back at people, and feel like I had no options where stuff was going on that I didn’t like.

Well, this programme, ‘Assert Yourself!’ was just up my street: there was now hope I could actually do something about the whole thing. I later went to the Swarthmore Centre in Leeds and did an assertiveness skills course on 8 Tuesday afternoons. Some of the exercises are still on the course advertised on this very page – you can get this great stuff too!

Read more below about our one-day course, or if you’re ready, book right now…


Unassertive at workplace
I worked here aged 23 – 29, too unassertive to be frank with my boss about how I felt about my job, and what I needed, and procrastinating my next move. I was unaware that I needed help, and that there was help on offer if I had looked for it.

Develop your inner owl

Assertiveness includes the capacity to

  • Wait
  • Listen
  • Think
  • Respond
  • Take action


Banish your inner mouse

This course is for you if you do any one of these: you

  • Agree to things and regret it later.
  • Find it hard to challenge people.
  • Feel hurt by certain comments, but are unsure what to say, for fear of making things worse.
  • Want to be able to stand your ground when you’re under pressure.
  • Want to be able to speak up without being rude.
  • Want to develop more gravitas.

Restrain your inner Rottweiler

Does your inner Rottweiler make people back off?

Can you connect with others around your needs and theirs, and keep your relationship intact?

Can you take your time, unrushed, unswayed, ready to speak up in a considered way?

‘Assertiveness: Skills + Mindset’
One-day course

You will learn about…

Body language
How to give off confident vibes: i.e. how to sit, stand or walk so people take you seriously, and so that you feel good about yourself.
Learn to use pauses, pace and power so that people pay attention.
How to put requests to people in a way that’s neither rude nor apologetic.
How to handle requests that you are not keen on.
How to react to criticism creatively, without getting rattled.
How to let people know that you are not happy about what they are doing, without damaging the relationship. i.e. how to communicate a dissatisfaction productively.
How to give and receive compliments in spite of fears of embarrassment.
How to negotiate.
The Drama Triangle
You will learn about three corners of an unproductive triangle, and how to get off it.
The Assertiveness Matrix
You will learn about four classic behaviour types that we come across every day, and what they look like. Knowing about these is enormously empowering because it helps to give you a sense of assertiveness being a choice, rather than a gift that you have if you are lucky.
How to stop embarrassment or shyness from making you shrink
How to tame your inner Rottweiler without killing it
And more!…
Sign up for a place to find out.

Are you a manager?

Our course will help you to:

  • Stand up to pressure from your own boss.
  • Stand up to pressure from your staff members.
  • Keep your cool when you communicate tricky stuff to staff.

Course method

This course is about doing things, and not just sitting listening to the trainers talking to you. So there will be:

  • Experiential exercises: interacting with other course members (which is usually fun!)
  • Use of video to improve your impactfulness. NB We know that some people can’t stand the thought of seeing themselves on camera: no one is forced into it, but we nearly always find that people are ready for this after they have settled into the course day.
  • Input from tutors in informative, short chunks – no boring lectures!
  • Group discussion
  • Groupwork

Do you hate role-play? Think again…
Why people who hate role-play love my courses


Learn from a Psychotherapist: this one-day course will be led by me, Richard Mills, BA, PGDIM, BSc, LGSMD, BACP Senior Accredited Counsellor/Psychotherapist and CCI Co-Counselling Trainer. I bring to this course my 20 years’ experience in sensitive, careful and attentive work with all sorts of individuals who want to work out how to live a fulfilling life.

We are sometimes joined by Joanna Klopotek BA, Associate Trainer, assisting in delivering this training. Joanna is a professional Health Trainer, coaching people who want to make changes in the face of difficult challenges.

Joanna is also a qualified yoga instructor, and has extensive experience in assertiveness training, co-counselling training and other interpersonal group work.

Group size

Maximum of 8. It’s important to keep the size of the group small, for two reasons:

  • We want people to feel comfortable enough to participate in the group exercises, which are designed to encourage ‘trying on’ (i.e. experimenting with) new and useful ways of behaviour.
  • We want each course participant to get some individual attention over the course of the day: it’s no good if you get lost in the crowd.


Times: 10.00am – 5.00pm
Date: A Saturday… the date is not yet set for the next course. Please email us to let us know you are interested.
Venue: Oakwood House,
637 Roundhay Road,
Leeds LS8 4BA


£97 Early Bird, if you are paying for your place out of your own funds.
£120 Full price, if you are paying for your place out of your own funds.
£129 Early Bird, if your own business or your employer (or some other sponsor) is paying for your place, or reimbursing you.
£149 Full price, if your own business or your employer (or some other sponsor) is paying for your place, or reimbursing you.

Ready to book?

Book here

‘If you know anyone who is lacking in confidence and perhaps is struggling to communicate at work (or indeed anywhere!) then in my opinion Richard is the chap to contact. We had reason to enlist the help of Richard for a new young employee that had these issues and I cannot express enough how much Richard has done for this young man – the transformation is incredible. Clearly Richard knows what he is doing! Our employee found him easy to communicate with and we the employer also found Richard to be very accommodating and very easy to deal with.’

Carol Rochnia

Finance and Personnel Officer, York Trust LLP

5 Assertiveness Tips

  • Stand up straight, or sit up straight, shoulders back and down.
  • Take your time. Don’t reply to a request or question straight away if you need  time to think.
  • Give compliments freely.
  • See criticism as information, feedback, a gift from the other person, even when it hurts and you think they are ‘out of order’.
  • Avoid unaware apology (‘sorry to bother you, but…’)

”Stand upright, speak thy thoughts, declare
The truth thou hast, that all may share;
Be bold, proclaim it everywhere:
They only live who dare.”


Inner Mouse-Speak
  • ‘Of course I’ll do it’ (‘Damn! Why did I agree?’)
  • ‘I know I’m asking a lot, so don’t worry if you can’t, but…‘ (‘How come people brush me off?’)
    (‘I’ll ask tomorrow: he’s probably busy today.’)
  • ‘It’s not my fault…’ ‘My hands are tied…’
  • ‘I’m sorry to bother you…’
  • ‘I hope you don’t really mind but would it be all right if . . .‘ ‘I’m afraid that…’
  • ‘Any chance you could…?’
  • ‘I hope you don’t mind my asking…’
  • ‘I’m awfully sorry, I know this must put you in a terrible mess’
Inner Rottweiler-Speak
  • ‘No’. ‘Like it or lump it.’
  • ‘Keep you hair on!’
  • ‘I’ve had enough of this.’
    (‘They need pulling up short’)
  • ‘You are thoughtless’
  • ‘You are too quiet’
  • Global criticism: ‘Your attitude is all wrong.’
  • Generalisations: ‘You always…’ ‘Everyone who…’
  • ‘Shoulds’ and ‘oughts’: ‘You must pull your socks up.’ ‘You ought…’
  • Threatening questions, which turn an interaction into an inquisition: ‘Why on earth did you do that?’ ‘Haven’t you come up with a solution yet?’
Hidden Dagger-Speak

This the language of passive-aggressive behaviour. Examples:

  • Generalised blame, often with no constructive statements about change: ‘Well, I blame the youth/workers/management of today’ ‘Production missed the deadlines, as usual.’
  • ‘Oh come on, it’s not asking much’
  • ‘Everybody else thinks this is a good idea’
  • Dismissive comments:
  • ‘That won’t work.’
  • ‘Nobody wants to do that.’
  • ‘That procedure is useless.’
Assertive Language
  • ‘I’d like to talk with you about your X…’ ‘The effect on me is that X… and I have a need for X…’
  • ‘I’d like to see if we could find something that works for both of us: what I would like is…what would really help me is…I’d be much happier if you…’
  • ‘Can we agree that you will… (and I will…)’

A: ‘You are always late’
B: ’I don’t see it that way, and I’m interested to hear why you have that impression.’

A: ‘I’m fed up with you taking later lunch breaks, leaving me to staff the shop floor during the busy period in mid-afternoon.  You’ve never asked me about that.’
B: ‘I didn’t know that was quite such an issue.  Perhaps we can divide up the lunch rotas so we both get a few late lunch breaks each week.