Assertiveness Self-Test

Are you assertive in the workplace and/or your personal life? Take the following test and find out your communication style. If no one is looking over your shoulder, be honest!

  1. Your supervisor approved a week of vacation time several months ago. Although you aren't going anywhere, you have committed to some activities with your family. Besides, you are exhausted. Staffing is terrible at the station, and you have been asked to postpone your vacation. The station is on mandatory overtime.
    1. Accept that staffing shortages are part of the job. Postpone your vacation
    2. Agree to postpone your vacation. When the week arrives, call in sick every day.
    3. Explain how important this vacation is to you and your family and that you are willing to work extra shifts when you return.
    4. Tell your boss that your family comes first; you have done your fair share of overtime. Remind him he gave you the time off, it isn't your fault the department can't figure out the schedule

  2. A buddy of yours borrowed $1000 six months ago, and promised to repay it within a month. He is now stonewalling you and you need the cash to buy a car.
    1. Say nothing. There's no need to break up a friendship. The dealership is offering a 1.6% financing charge, which is doable.
    2. The next time you have dinner with him don't order anything, explaining how strapped you are for money and that your car is on its last leg.
    3. Explain why you need the money now. Find out what the hold up is. Negotiate a payback plan if he can't pay all of the money now.
    4. Confront him, and demand your money. Take him to court. Enough is enough.

  3. You have been rotated to the graveyard shift. Your neighbor's dog barks all day long. Despite attempts to soundproof your bedroom, you still can hear him. Friendly conversation with the neighbor has been futile.
    1. Say nothing; this isn't worth causing a war with the neighbor. Try buying some better earplugs.
    2. Record his dog barking. Play it back by loudspeaker towards his house all night while you are at work.
    3. Again explain your situation and insist that a reasonable solution on his part be found; offer suggestions.
    4. Poison the dog.

  4. Your sergeant calls you about a complaint from a citizen. The woman was not satisfied that you did not take a report for litter in her yard; she suspects a neighbor. She had requested you fingerprint a paper cup and look for DNA. You told her, "I don't think so." She believes that your response to her was rude and unprofessional. This is the second complaint by this citizen against you.
    1. Apologize; it was a rude comment. Promise it will never happen again
    2. Acknowledge the complaint. On your off days, strategically place some additional litter in her yard (wear gloves). Let someone else deal with her.
    3. Explain the situation; the repeated calls for service at this residence, and that you had to break and cover a partner. Acknowledge that you should have chosen your words better.
    4. Remind the sergeant that this was a "(you choose) call." Question him on the appropriateness of calling you in from the field for (you choose), and suggest he spend some time in patrol to "get real."

  5. You discussed some personal information with a trusted friend/partner in the department. Now several other officers have approached you with their solutions to an exaggerated version of your problem.
    1. Avoid your friend as much as possible. Tell him/her that the problem has worked itself out and thank him for his concern and support.
    2. Tell him/her that you are devastated by their insensitivity; play the guilt card.
    3. Discuss the breach of trust with your friend, related to the situation this has put you in with your peers. Firmly request that he/she refrain from talking about your personal life in the future.
    4. Let him/her know that the behavior was beyond despicable, and that not only are you done with this relationship, you will be taking this to IA.

  6. A member of your team is a known slug. He has just been assigned as your beat partner. Every time you cover him on a call, he tries to manipulate you into taking the paper.
    1. Accept it; he is a decent guy, and you really don't mind the extra work
    2. Don't answer up to cover any of his calls that are probably paper
    3. Set some limits; find out why he needs so much help with his paper; share some time management techniques
    4. Call him a slug to his face. Demand that the watch commander reassign you to work with someone who can pull their own weight.

  7. Your mother-in-law, whom you see regularly, tends to throw veiled insults at you whenever possible. At a large family holiday dinner, she states that you should have been a doctor, lawyer or CEO, as such jobs are more "respectable" and pay better.
    1. Say nothing. Make a point of getting on her good side to avoid future insults
    2. Refuse to go any other family functions, and explain to everyone exactly why.
    3. Address the comment, "Wow, that was rather rude." Explain why you feel your chosen profession is honorable.
    4. Fight fire with fire. Point out her flaws, as well as the flaws of her not-so-lazy alcoholic son in painful detail.

  8. A crusty "know-it-all" corporal makes inappropriate comments and jokes about your response to a call at a subsequent briefing. The sergeant had told you that you had done an admirable job on that call. The captain and lieutenant are also at the briefing.
    1. Say nothing; everyone knows that this is typical from him
    2. Laugh along while making sure everyone present knows that he was the last person to show up on a critical call on his beat.
    3. Explain the call to everyone there from start to finish; ask for constructive feedback from others in the briefing.
    4. Tell him that he is a (you choose) and that he can (you choose) as you walk out of the briefing room, slamming the door. Ask him to meet you outside to handle this the old-fashioned way.

  9. A partner of the opposite sex has made it clear that he/she wants to date you. You have explained that you are not interested. He/she asks others about your love life, and continues to flirt with you. Rumor around the department is that the two of you are an item.
    1. Rumors are part of the routine of the station; ignore it. Avoid being seen with the interested person.
    2. Talk about what a joke he/she is with everyone else at the station
    3. Discuss the problem with him/her. Explain why you are not interested in a relationship with him/her. Ask him/her to help stop this rumor, pointing out that it could be damaging to both reputations.
    4. Let him/her know what a loser he/she is, and explain that you would never date someone who looks like (you choose) or acts like (you choose).

  10. In reviewing your performance evaluation, you find it minimizes your strengths and accentuates your weaknesses.
    1. Forget about it, it won't affect your salary anyway.
    2. Say nothing; stop the proactive work on your beat. It obviously is not appreciated.
    3. Discuss with your supervisor the areas you disagree with, telling him you are disappointed with the evaluation; request a development plan to raise your performance as well as for regular feedback.
    4. Tell the supervisor what a crock the evaluation is; put in for an immediate transfer based on his/her poor leadership skills.

Scoring Your Communication Style Test

Mostly As:
You are passive; in fact, you border on being a doormat. You avoid unpleasant situations and confrontations at all costs. You probably spend most of your day thinking that people are taking advantage of you. Even worse, you think you deserve it. Your communication style is of inaction and indecision. You apologize frequently. You are easy to get along with because you let people walk all over you. You are uncomfortable expressing anger and choose to suppress or deny that feeling. You won't stand up for your rights because you are afraid you will offend someone else. Generally, you feel hurt, anxious, disappointed, frustrated, or resentful. As you are unable to reach you goals, you may become angry and your self-esteem suffers. Get a grip; you can't please everyone.

Mostly Bs:
You are a victim and a martyr. You get what you want primarily through guilt and manipulation. Your goal is frustrate others subtly and indirectly to make them angry. You believe in payback. You appear cooperative while purposefully annoying others. You are probably a slacker. Sarcasm is second nature to you, and you mutter under your breath. You are critical of others but not openly, you have a constant negative attitude. You generally feel powerless, stuck and resentful. Try playing a board game instead.

Mostly Cs:
You are assertive, with healthy communication skills. You understand your goals, needs and rights and possess the skills to stand up for the same. At the same time, you remain sensitive to the rights of others. You have the ability to persuade people to understand your point of view without alienating them. You are an active listener, and recognize the opinions of others. You take responsibility for your feelings, actions, and words. You are willing to negotiate sensible compromises as needed. You are viewed by others as fair and strong. You probably have a good sense of humor. Your relationships are free and honest. Your self-esteem is intact and you have long range goals. You should test for a promotion, others could benefit from your insight and leadership potential.

Mostly D's:
You tend to be intrusive, confrontational and aggressive. No one will get the better of you. All's fair in love and war. You are overly suspicious. You usually get what you want, but often at the expense of others. You get people to comply with your wishes by force, humiliation and/or intimidation. Your angry and domineering manner tends to alienate others. It is probably difficult for you to develop close, trusting and caring relationships. Who says you can't always get want you? Then again, what is it that you really need in the big scheme of things?


An assertive person has the ability to express his/her feelings and thoughts to others while keeping the lines of communication open. The benefits of assertiveness include the ability to communicate your needs and feelings honestly and directly. You will feel more relaxed, self-accepting, self-confident and self-assured. Your decision making ability will improve. You will be able to manage conflict more effectively. Assertiveness can increase your chances for honest relationships. Being assertive results in a win-win situation; you make your needs known and others feel good about being around you. The bottom-line benefit is that assertiveness will improve your chances of getting what you really want in life.

The next time you want to be assertive, try these steps.

  1. Take a moment to determine your feelings and goals.
  2. Select an appropriate time and place to be assertive.
  3. Research suggests that 7% of our communication is verbal, 93% is non-verbal.
  • Make direct, accepting eye contact.
  • Speak clearly, directly and loudly enough to be understood.
  • Make sure your words and facial expression are congruent.
  • Keep your stance relaxed, stand tall, keep your shoulders straight and your feet side by side. Put your hands by your side, except to make normal gesturing.
  • Make sure your verbal message contains the following:
    • Identify the behavior(s) you find problematic. "When you do (what)."
    • Let the other person know how you are feeling. "This (situation or action) is affecting me (how)". Use "I" statements.
    • What you want in the future. In the last step, tell the other person what you would like him/her to do in the future, in a similar situation. Be specific and realistic in your request. "I'd prefer if you (do what)".
    • As a last resort, you may have to give the person an ultimatum, "If you don't (what) I will do (what)."
  • Listen carefully to the other person. They have a right to a different point of view.
  • Ask for feedback.
  • Be willing to compromise if appropriate
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