The Sexes: Assignment: Assertion

The supervisor strolled casually over to one of the secretaries. "Do me a favor, will you? Stop by the bank on your lunch hour to pay my phone bill—and still get back on time." Coolly, with only a flicker of hesitation, the secretary answered: "Look, I love working with you, but I feel very strongly that people in secretarial positions should not be asked to do personal favors for their bosses."

Such a rejoinder would not be universally applauded. But students observing the mock confrontation in Washington, D.C., considered the answer perfect. The scene was staged during a ten-week course called "Assertiveness...

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