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Positive assertiveness begins with character education and includes the abuse of cigarettes, alcohol and drugs.

There are three kinds of assertiveness: (1) positive, (2) negative, and (3) absence of assertiveness. Positive assertiveness always involves the use of the scientific process of decision making. Negative assertiveness typically involves trying to live as an adult before one has reached the adult stage, and typically involves the "get rich quick" mode for operation. The absence of assertiveness too often involves fear of making mistakes, and such action typically creates excessive fear patterns.


Today, as never before, it is essential that the counselor and school psychologist help our teen age youngsters understand the role of "positive assertiveness" in their future growth and development (Cassel, 2002).. It should be clearly recognized that "assertiveness" ranges from "positive assertiveness' through "non assertiveness" to "negative assertiveness." The selection of which one of these choices one makes impacts more favorably on the personal development and later success in life than anything else that one does. The problem, then, is for our youth to understand the difference between the three different approaches to life, and more specifically what to expect from different choices as a consequence; so they can make a clear judgment of which choice to select.

Nature of Assertiveness

First, it is important that we understand what it means to be assertive, and then we can try to understand the difference between the positive and negative approaches. The dictionary says: "assertive means to put one's self forward boldly and insistently." It is clear that to be assertive means to be involved, and that personal action is always initiated in relation to such involvement. Things don't simply happen in this world; rather people make things happen, and whether or not what happens is for the better or worse for an individual is determined largely on whether or not it involves "assertiveness;" and second-and most important-to be sure that the assertiveness is "positive" in nature.

Positive Assertiveness

Since we learned that "assertiveness" means putting one's self forward boldly and insistently, it is clear that both positive and negative assertiveness have that same quality. The real question, then, is what makes "positive assertiveness" different from "negative assertiveness." Positive assertiveness means that an individual is involved in a very specific direction, but always in relation to expected positive outcomes from such involvement. In general, positive consequences means future growth in a direction toward being more prepared for the life in the later adult world. Typically, this often means a willingness to forego some immediate pleasure in order to gain greater stature to face the many crisis states in that future world of tomorrow (Rogers, 1945).

Goal Setting

Both "positive" and "negative" assertiveness at times involve careful goal setting, but there is a major difference in the nature of the goal setting process. "Positive" assertiveness involves the scientific process for decision making (goal setting),, and which is sometimes referred to as the "systems" approach. This process must be learned early in life, and typically it is introduced at the beginning of the adolescent years; usually early in 9th grade when the individual is about 14 years of age. The following stages have been clearly defined to serve as the basis for scientific decision making (Cassel, 1973):

1. There must be a clearly defined goal, this means expected outcome as a result of some well defined action.

2. There must be full consideration of "constraints," and this means moral or religious reasons why one would not accept such goal-, not only, to gain wealth.

3. Examine "full" range of choices., and this always includes from -militant" through "middle of the road" to "Passive" ones (often persons in each of these positions will not permit an examination of any other position).

4. Examine the likely consequence for each of the possible alternatives; always including the full range of such alternatives-militant, middle-of-road, to passive

5. Examine the usual hazards for each of the full range of choices.

6. Identify the three best choices based on a careful assessment of likely consequence vs. usual hazards for each of the possible choices.

7. Select the best of the three choices to identified and use it on a "trial' basis, carefully observing to determine truth by your personal evaluations. If it clearly fails to deliver as promised, shift to the second best choice, and with the same attention to insure that your evaluation of choices was correct.


Of all the things that an individual learns in a whole life time, scientific decision making serves to benefit one more than anything else. It is so critical to later success in fife that it serves as the very best way to reduced delinquency and crime. Failure to provide scientific decision making skills to our youth must be considered to be child abuse of the highest order by the high school administrators, or persons responsible for such actions. If success in life depends largely on one's decision making skills, a failure to provide such skills as a preparation for life is a very serious matter, and must be considered as such by parents, and even the child as h/she grows older (Cassel, 1996).

Negative Assertiveness

Negative, assertiveness is clearly the cause of most failures in life and serves as the major basis and roots for delinquency and crime (Cassel, 1998). To be negative means to have expected outcomes that are in opposition to the rules and laws of the land, and which is always in strong opposition to the personal development and success of each and every individual. It is typically at odds and quite different from the behavior of the full group membership of a nation or community. Often the choice is based largely on monetary gains, and sometimes such gains involve the possible destruction of others, like the use and abuse of alcohol and drugs.

Following Group Leader

Negative assertiveness more often than not, is group oriented, and it means following the group, and believing that other more assertive individuals can serve one's personal goals better than self. It means "following the leader" who has become a kind of role model for early development beyond the usual, and promises delivery of gains by other than legal and morally accepted means. As often as not, such promises are really false and never delivered, and when and, if delivered, the price one pays is excessive in nature.

More often than not that price includes personal pain and sorrow in high degrees; not only in terms of real money, but in terms of prestige and achievement; too often there is little or no consideration about the illegal involvements and possible consequences for such actions.

Deviant Goal Setting

This often as not may include a scientific process and where the expected outcomes are pictured by the grandiose gains including money and other adult kind of considerations. At times it means arriving at full development long before the usual teenager has a chance to grow in reality to the adult levels imagined in the process. In this sense, then, it is a dream world where reality is left behind; which includes the bank robber, selling of illicit drugs, and other similar types of exotic behavior. The attractiveness of a new suit of clothes, a fancy automobile, or money in one's pocket here and now become basis for one's decision.

Absence of Assertiveness

The absence of "assertiveness" is not unusual in the world of the teenager and while growing up, and largely because of the fear of making a negative move, or an action that is in a direction that would not benefit the individual personally (Maier, 1949). Often it is created by over caution of making a mistake in life and causing something to happen that is at odds to one's good and sound growth and development.

Serious Consequence

The absence of assertiveness is reason to be vitally concerned by parents and teachers, and individuals must be urged to become personally involved in their own growth and development. Becoming involved always mean "positive assertiveness."

Underlying Youth Goal

Always, the implied and underlying goal of every youth is to become an adult, and too often it means that achieving one's goal must be accelerated. Typically, to be an adult means behavior associated with being an adult. The use of cigarettes, use of foul language, and then followed by the abuse of alcohol and drugs is too often a reality. Sometime early in the youth developmental stages every youth must clearly understand that the use of cigarettes as an index or appearance of adult status is misinformation, and that it really is just the opposite because it serves to destroy one's healthy functioning body.

Goal Setting

Assertiveness always begins with the personal setting of some goal or aim in life; so that the completion of that goal means to be "assertive." Psychologically, then, to be assertive means to begin with a real goal in mind, and for which the "assertiveness" becomes an activating element.


Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy: The exercise of Control. New York: W.H. Freeman.

Cassel, R.N. (1973). The Psychology of Decision Making. North Quincy, Massachusetts: The Christopher Publishing Company.

Cassel, R.N. (1996). School accountability beyond test scores: a student-centered approach. Education, 116(40,580-585.

Cassel, R.N. (1998). Examining the emerging hierarchical categories of atypical youth. Psychology, 36(1), 15-18.

Cassel, R.N. (2002). A course in Personal Development by a Boarded Psychologist must be a basic requirement for high school graduation. School Psychology Journal. (pending).

Maier, N.R.F. (1949). Frustration: the study of behavior without a goal. News York: McGraw-Hill.

Rogers, C.R. (1945). Becoming a person. Austin, Texas: The Hogg Foundation.

Russell N. Cassel, Ed.D., ABPP, FAASC, Editor, Education and John Blackwell, Ph.D.

Correspondence concerning this article may be addressed to Dr. Russell N. Cassel, 1362 Santa Cruz Court, Chula Vista, California 91910.
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Author:Blackwell, John
Publication:Journal of Instructional Psychology
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2002
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