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Diary of Peter Smith


I got up late again this morning and I ran to the station to catch my train. Just as I reached the ticket machine, a young man in a shirt and tie pushed in front of me. As he turned and grinned I wanted to say something but I bit my tongue and said nothing.

As my train pulled into the station I pushed through the crowd and squeezed through the doors. I spotted a spare seat halfway down the aisle and as I struggled to reach it, a woman dived in front of me, crushing my toe with her stiletto. I stumbled and put my hand out to stop myself falling and as I did so I accidentally pushed the woman. She managed to twist herself around and sank into the seat with a look of triumph. I apologised and stood up, embarrassed and irritated. Why was I apologising? She pushed in front of me — she should have apologised! I was angry but again I said nothing.

When I reached the office I held the door open for a colleague who sailed through the open doorway without so much as a thank you. “Well really!” I thought. “Some people have no manners.” But again I stayed silent.

Later in the day I thought about my journey to work. Why did I find it so difficult to stand up for myself? Why did I apologise when I wasn’t in the wrong? Could I have handled the situations in a better way? Over the years I had heard about behaving assertively, but I didn’t want to start the day by arguing with people or being abusive.

Behaving Assertively

Does any of this sound familiar? Have you ever found yourself in a similar situation? Peter assumes being assertive means being abusive — is this correct? In fact, behaving assertively means standing up for your rights without trampling on the rights of others, not arguing or behaving abusively.

To find out more, please view our assertiveness section.