Refusing What You Don't Want Print

A Lesson Plan from Life Planning Education: A Youth Development Program (Chapter Three)

NOTE:  Life Planning Education (LPE) is currently being revised. The printed/for-sale version includes an older version of this lesson plan. Please make sure you have looked at the PDF of Life Planning Education before purchasing - that is the version that is available to buy.   

Purpose: To role-play assertive behaviors; to practice refusing requests

Materials:  Newsprint and markers or board and chalk; index cards; pens/pencils

Time: 45-55 minutes (Session One); 45-55 minutes (Session Two)

Planning Notes
  • Make  a poster of the rights listed in Step 4 and a poster of the role-play assignment in Step 10.
  • After Session One, review the scenarios that participants have written and choose enough scenarios so that each pair of adolescents will work with one.  Eliminate any that are inappropriate or so explicit that they give away the identity of the writer.  Feel free to add your own scenarios.
Session One
  1. 1.    Remind participants that there are two ways to get what you want or need:
    • Asking for what you want
    • Refusing what you do not want.
  2. Explain that in this session, participants will practice refusal skills. Ask the participants to think about the following scenario:
    Rachel and Denise have been at the mall all day when Denise says, “Hey, there's a sweater in that store that I really want, and I think it's on sale.”  She pulls Rachel into the store, then finds the stack of sweaters.  She whispers to Rachel, “Ask that sales clerk a question, and I'll put the sweater in my backpack.  Rachel whispers back that she doesn't want to, but Denise pleads with her.  She says the sale merchandise won’t cost the store much and she promises to swipe a sweater for Rachel as well.
  3. Ask someone to describe what Rachel is probably feeling in this situation.  Write the feelings on the newsprint or board. The list should include emotions like “pressured,” “confused,” “frustrated”, “nervous,” and “scared.”  Point out it is also normal to feel angry if a friend puts you on the spot by asking you to do something the friend knows is not in your own best interest.
  4. Point out that Rachel has rights in this situation, like anyone does when asked to do anything.  Go over the list of rights you have prepared:
    • The right to say how I feel about this situation.
    • The right to say “No” without feeling guilty.
    • The right to act in my own best interest.
    • The right to change my mind (even if I have agreed to do what was asked).
  5. Ask for questions or comments about Rachel's rights.  Then mention that sometimes parents, teachers, employers, or others in authority make requests of adolescents. The requests may be contrary to what the adolescent wants or may not seem to be in the adolescent’s best interest. Ask how an adolescent’s rights are similar to or different from the rights of a parent or a friend. Clarify that some adults, such as teachers, parents, and family members, have the right to make requests of adolescents.  Unless the adult is asking for something that is illegal, harmful, or seriously disrespectful of the adolescents, it may not be appropriate for the adolescent to refuse the request.  However, adolescents always retain the right to say how they feel about the request.
  6. Now ask the group to brainstorm the behaviors Rachel needs to use to be assertive. Write the youth’s responses on the board or newsprint and be sure the list includes the following behaviors:
    • Saying “No” in words
    • Saying “No” with body language, including making eye contact while saying “No” and moving away from Denise
    • Repeating “No” without giving any excuses or reasons
    • Turning the conversation around and saying how it feels being pressured about doing something not in her own best interest
    • Leaving; refusing to discuss the matter anymore and walking away
    • Offering a compromise and trying to find a solution that does not require Rachel to do something she does not want to do.  (For example, Rachel might offer to lend Denise the money to buy the sweater or to go with her to a second hand store where sweaters cost very little.)
  7. Ask for a volunteer to role-play Rachel while you play Denise.  Tell the rest of the group to coach Rachel so she can remain assertive in the face of your pressure.
  8. Reread the scenario. Then role-play with Rachel, using lines like the following to pressure her:
    • “Come on, you're supposed to be my best friend. I really want this sweater and I don't have any money.”
    • “This store is so overpriced, ripping them off is fair!”
    • “What’s the matter, are you a chicken?  Salisha would do it if she were here.”
      Keep it up for a minute or two, encouraging the audience to coach Rachel.
  9. After the role-play, ask participants to identify the behaviors Rachel used to be assertive.  Check them off on the poster.  If there is time, have another volunteer try the role, changing the names if a young man volunteers.
  10. Ask the participants to write a similar scenario in which someone pressures an adolescent to do something not in their own best interest.  Explain that in the next session they will practice role-playing some of the scenarios. So, they should work to be realistic in writing the scenarios.  Distribute index cards and have participants write their scenarios.  Collect the cards.
Session 2
  1. Divide participants into small groups of four or five and give each group one of the scenarios from the previous session.  Explain that if someone recognizes her/his own role-play, it’s okay to say nothing about it; no one will know.
  2. Go over the instructions below (also displayed on newsprint) for preparing the role-play:
    • Read over your scenario and decide who will play the characters.  All other group members will be coaches now. Eventually everyone will role-play.
    • Review the refusal skills and decide which ones work best for your situation.
    • Write a script and rehearse the lines.  Each actor should have the help of a coach.
    • Present the role-play to the large group.
  3. Have small groups begin working and allow them 10 minutes to prepare.  Then ask for volunteers to role-play.  Have the large group give feedback on every role-play, especially if they see that additional refusal skills could have been used, when an actor was especially assertive, when someone became aggressive, and so on.
  4. Conclude the activity using the discussion points below.
Discussion Points:
  1. When might a “coach" be helpful if you are faced with real pressure from a friend or a romantic partner?
  2. Which is more difficult for you, speaking up for your wants or refusing what you do not want?  Why do you think that is so?
  3. Think of a recent situation in which you wanted to refuse a request but did not feel able to do so.  Which refusal skills could you have used?
  4. Do you face a situation now where someone is pressuring you to do something that is not in your best interest?  What could you do to be assertive in that situation?

Life Planning Education, Advocates for Youth, Updated 2009.

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