When I was younger I struggled with being more assertive. It took me many years working at it before it became second nature. And guess what it made me happier and it could you too. Here’s how.
I had a wonderful but very traditional childhood, dad was in the RAF and mum looked after us, 3 kids. As the only girl, I knew I had a special place in the family but at the time I didn’t appreciate how that would impact me as I went out into the world. Like many girls, I was brought up with traditional values about the different roles played by men and women in society and this came with the rules around what was and wasn’t consider appropriate behaviour and work for a girl! My parents were of the generation that you didn’t ask questions of your doctor as they were busy so you just accepted any medication they prescribed without asking about side effects etc. As an adult, I have had to work on becoming more assertive and on being less deferential to people in authority and also opening my eyes to all the possibilities for women. No surprise then that I have always loved running assertiveness training programmes and seeing the difference that the techniques can make. What is it about becoming assertive that has made it the holy grail of communications?
When we talk about being more assertive, we generally want to feel more positive, increase our personal power, confidence and our choices of how to behave.
Being assertive is about giving you more choice in how to behave. You do not have to be assertive all of the time but you are in control and can choose the right style mix for the right occasion.
What is Assertiveness?
Assertiveness is based on a philosophy of personal responsibility and an awareness of the rights of other people.
- Being assertive means being honest with yourself and others.
- It means having the ability to say directly what it is you want, you need or you feel, but not at the expense of other people.
- It means having confidence in yourself and being positive, while at the same time understanding other people’s points of view.
- It means being able to behave in a rational and adult way.
Being assertive means being able to negotiate and consider all options. Being assertive means having self-respect and respect for other people
What it is not.
Being assertive is not:
- Becoming aggressive
- Shouting and being domineering
- About getting your own way all the time
Being aggressive means:
- Getting your own way at the expense of others.
- Making sure you always come out the winner and never mind what happens to anyone else.
- Giving no consideration to others at all.
Being passive means:
- Putting up with all kinds of things in order not to rock the boat.
- Holding back, not speaking up.
- Being a victim.
- Not saying anything in a difficult situation and afterwards feeling “What I should have done, what I could have done, I’m useless etc..
So what are the situations that you feel you need to be more assertive in? For most people it is the following:
- Asking for something you want or need
- Saying No
- Giving bad news or criticism
- Receiving feedback or criticism.
- Receiving praise or compliments
- Disagreeing with others.
4 steps to being assertive
If you need to be more assertive then start by following the 4 steps listed below
The four basic steps to assertiveness are:
- Show you listen and understand.
- Say what you think or feel.
- Say what you want to happen.
- Achieve a workable compromise.
Naturally, you will need to practice these and it will become easier with time. The result you are aiming for is a win/win for both of you. This is done by reaching a workable compromise.
What is a workable compromise?
We all face problems even in ordinary day-to-day situations, these can range from differences of opinion to differences in values and many more. Usually, in order to solve them, we have to work together with others to find a practical solution which is acceptable to all. If we don’t do that we get into a “win”, “lose” situation which often has difficult or unpleasant repercussions.
Workable compromise means giving each person room to manoeuvre in order to work out a solution that will be amenable to all. It means each person giving up a bit of what they want in order to move from an extreme position to a middle one. It really means looking for a third or alternative way forward.
If you need to be more assertive, start with using the four steps and working on reaching a suitable compromise. In time you will be able to move onto using other assertive technique.
If you would like to learn about other assertiveness techniques then look out for my downloadable pdf. and also coming shortly my online programme which contains modules with self-assessment questionnaires, tools, hint and tips to help you with the above and also many other more advanced techniques.
If there is something you struggle with or have found useful then please leave a comment below.