Professionals learn assertiveness in GV’s Excellence Series

GVL / Liz Garlick
Assertive Training Presentation

Liz Garlick

GVL / Liz Garlick Assertive Training Presentation

Liz Garlick

Assertiveness is not only a tool that needs to be developed when in college and developing careers and professional relationships, it is also a skill that needs to be honed even after years of experience with dealing with people in the workforce.

The Human Resources Department at Grand Valley State University hosted a presentation on assertive communication, which was put on as part of the Excellence Series and Journey to Professional Excellence, according to GVSU’s Human Resources website.

Shirley Jallad, a professional development coach and trainer from Plymouth, Mich., presented the assertiveness training Tuesday on GVSU’s Allendale Campus.

“I thoroughly enjoy teaching assertive communication,” Jallad said. “Most people attend an assertive communication workshop because they are fed up with being fearful of not speaking up and letting people take advantage of them, not knowing how to handle a difficult situation, or they have received feedback that they are too rough or too meek with people.”

Jallad said she has lead assertive communication skills workshops all over the United States and different parts of the world, and she has found that people have the same wants, needs and fears no matter where they are from. She said she has also found that most people are hungry for better ways to live and communicate.

GVSU Counselor John Zagura said assertiveness and learning to say “no” is an important aspect of relationship building because it promotes honesty and openness.

Zagura also said a lack of assertiveness can lead to conflict in relationships.

“Assertiveness can be beneficial when standing up for what you believe in, either from a value standpoint or trying to create a case for a business process change when done with professional communication, earns the respect of associates,” Troy Farley, director of career services said.

About 25 professionals from GVSU attended the event, including five from Institutional Marketing and many other on-campus departments, including the coaching and professorial staff. The participants learned how to communicate using four assertive tools: paraphrasing, asking open questions, reflecting feelings and using “I” statements.

John Bancheri, head rowing coach from the Office of Student Life, said he attended this event because his boss suggested that he take a few courses to improve interpersonal skills and the Human Resources Department offers a “great flavor of continuing education classes for University staff.”

“One area [to develop] as a coach and working with student athletes is realizing that there are many different world views and backgrounds,” Bancheri said, adding that he has been assertive and maybe aggressive in the past, depending on the situation. He called himself an “opportunistic” person when dealing with other people.

“I’ll say that I need to take the time to reflect before answering, and to improve problem solving, taking time to reflect and understand the other person’s position before I answer them,” he said.

Jallad said two challenges to communicating assertively after the workshops are practicing the learned techniques everyday and having one’s relationships change.

“Modern technology is changing the way people communicate,” she said. “I’m sad to say that way too many people are being abrupt with texting and not talking face to face or by phone. We miss important facets of the communication when we can’t see facial expressions and hear vocal intonations.”

Jallad also stressed the importance of projecting one’s voice in order not to sound too aggressive or sarcastic when delivering feedback, the latter being a trait of passive-aggression.

“Communicating assertively is appropriate in any field of study or work place,” she said. “When you are assertive, you are respectful.”

For more information on GVSU’s Excellence Series, go to

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