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LifeSkills Handbook Activity 20

This is a single activity session plan from The Lifeskills Handbook. There are 61 activity sessions altogether. The handbook is available from our resources section where you’ll also find downloadable storybooks, books and posters to help you in your work.

LifeSkills Handbook Activity 20
Communication: How Assertive are You?

Purpose of activity: To find out how assertive we are

Life skills: Communication & interpersonal relationships, self-awareness, critical thinking

Important points

Assertiveness is about defending your right to what you want or need. Assertiveness requires two basic ways of communicating:

  • asking for what you want
  • refusing what you do not want.

How to be assertive:

  • State clearly what you want or need.
  • Defend your right to have what you want or need.
  • Say what you feel or think.
  • Refuse to do what is not in your own best interest.
  • Respect other people and never threaten, punish or humiliate each other.

Many people find it difficult to be assertive because they don’t like conflict. They prefer to keep quiet and hope the conflict will go away. The problem is that the conflict does not go away. In addition, girls and women are often brought up not to be assertive.

It is also difficult to be assertive in some situations, for example, adolescents talking to older people. It is important to discuss with the group what are acceptable assertive behaviours with parents, teachers, religious leaders, elders etc.


  • Three Signs:
    • M = Most of the time
    • S = Some of the time
    • A = Almost never
  • Poster of a scorecard
    • 0-5 = You need to practise hard.
    • 6-10 = You are doing okay, but you still need to practise.
    • 11-15 = You are doing very well. Keep it up!
  • Paper and pencils for each child


  1. Put the signs on the wall before starting the activity.
  2. Explain that assertiveness is a way of being strong for yourself. It is the best way of communicating in many situations. This game will help the children find out how assertive they are.
  3. Give each child a paper and pencil.
  4. Go through the instructions for the activity:
    • I will read 15 statements. As I read each one, think about how often you do what the statement says.
    • When I finish reading, move to the sign that indicates how often that statement is true for you. If you do it most of the time, go to M, some of the time go to S and almost never, go to A.
    • Take your pen and paper with you. For each statement, note on the paper where you are standing. Write M for most of the time, S for some of the time and A for almost never.
  5. Practice this once and then do the quiz.

Quiz: How assertive am I?

  • If I disagree with a friend, I say so, even if it means they might not like me.
  • I ask for help when I am hurt or confused.
  • I do what I think is right, even if I know it may make me unpopular.
  • I let people know when they disappoint me.
  • If a friend borrows money and is late paying it back, I remind them.
  • I say no when classmates want to copy my homework or test answers.
  • If a friend is talking or making noise during class, I ask them to be quiet.
  • If I have a friend who is always late, I tell them how I feel about it.
  • I ask my friends for a favour when I need one.
  • When someone asks me to do something that goes against my values, I refuse.
  • I express my views on important things, even if others disagree.
  • I don’t do dangerous things with my friends.
  • When I don’t understand what someone is telling me, I ask questions.
  • When it is clear that a point needs to be made and no one is making it, I say so.
  • When people hurt my feelings, I let them know how I feel.
  1. Repeat this process for all 15 statements.
  2. Ask children to add up the number of Ms on their papers.
  3. Show the assertiveness scorecards you have made. Go over the numbers on the scorecard and explain what they mean. Make the following points:
    1. Many people achieve only fairly low scores on this survey.
    2. People with scores higher than 7 should be glad they have learned how to speak up for what they want and say ‘no’ to things they don’t want.
    3. Boys and men generally score higher than girls and women on assertiveness surveys such as this one.
    4. People are more likely to treat others with respect when they treat themselves with respect.
    5. People with scores below six can easily improve their score by practising assertive behaviours.
  4. Say that many of us would like to behave assertively. We will practise being assertive in the next two activities.

Final discussion:

  • What makes it difficult to be assertive? (The other person is more powerful or stronger, for example, an adult or parent. The person is someone who you want to please, like a friend.)
  • Can you think of a situation in which you would like to be more assertive?
  • Do you know someone in real life who is particularly good at being assertive and standing up for their rights? What about on radio or on television? Describe that person and their assertive behaviour.
  • Can you describe a situation when you were assertive? What happened?
  • Can you suggest how to be assertive without being aggressive? (For example: be calm but firm, do not demand or threaten; be firm about standing up for yourself; use a normal tone of voice and keep your body language relaxed; use I statements.)

Do you have a friend who needs to learn to be more assertive? Explain. How can you help?

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