Series on Assertiveness: Make promises and keep them

Many times both professionally and personally we accept situations despite our misgivings. The story below highlights the stance taken by a filmmaker to consciously be assertive in all aspects of her life and how this so positively impacted her confidence levels.


Katie Torpey is a filmmaker and screenwriter. Assertive executives and insistent dealmakers dominate the industry she works in. Katie was successful, making several movies and television episodes, but she often held back in meetings, rarely saying what was on her mind. Instead she said what she thought others wanted to hear. “I was a people pleaser. I didn’t want to piss anyone off or hurt anyone’s feelings,” she says.

When Katie pitched work to producers they often low balled her. “I was getting work, but I was not getting what I was worth.” She blames no one but herself. “I would take what they offered because I was afraid to demand my asking price,” she says. She was worried the project would fall through or they’d find another director. It became clear to Katie that this was hindering her career.

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To change, she made a promise to herself: if she left a situation without saying what she really wanted, she would have to remedy it within 24 hours. For example, when she walked away from a meeting without telling her boss that a product wasn’t actually ready, she forced herself to contact him within 24 hours to fess up. This practice paid off. After cleaning up several of her messes, she realized it was much easier to be assertive from the outset. “Living a life where you speak what you think and feel is so much more freeing than holding everything in,” she says.

This has changed her career for the better. “People respect me. I still have the same abilities but I now have more confidence. People know that I won’t take a job unless my heart’s in it and I’m paid well,” she says. And if producers ask her to take a lower price, she stands up for herself, saying, “I will do an excellent job for you, but you have to pay me my asking price.”