4 weeks ago · lizzie · 0 comments
Does being assertive get you into trouble sometimes? I’m sure you’ve heard a lot about the importance of being assertive. If you have tried to be be assertive and it backfired, it may be because of the way you delivered your message, or simple that the receiver was not used to your new stronger self.
When you think about being assertive, you may be confused with being aggressive or argumentative – these concepts are often misunderstood. Being assertive means conducting yourself in a manner that is in line with your values – standing up for yourself because you you have a right to your beliefs and to stand up for what you believe is right too.
The problem with assertiveness is that most people are focussed on the outcome. In other words, the outcome of standing up for yourself. This is where anxiety over being assertive develops, because you can quickly be deterred from being assertive if the person who received your message was unhappy as a result of what you had to say. This anxiety leads to a lot of internal stress and struggle as you hold disappointments and anger inwards in an effort to keep the peace. Of course, what tends to happen in this case is your negative emotions come out in the most unlikely place and when you least expect. So, it’s not the best trategy for coping with negative experiences in your life.
How to be assertive at work
One place which can be very difficult to be assertive is at work, because of the fear of getting into trouble, being unliked, or being fired. However, once again this misses the point of being assertive. The reason negative things happen as a result of being assertive, is because the message was not delivered effectively. When you are acting in an assertive manner, it’s important to only deal in the world of facts – do not being emotion into the conversation – particularly at work. For instance, if your boss is being a bully and asking you do so something that you think is unethical or just wrong, the best way to respond here is to state the facts (such as the internal policies or protocols within your organisation, or the more Senior person who has requested work be undertaken in a particular manner). When you deliver this message it’s best to be calm and factual, because others cannot argue or intimidate against facts. They can, however, argue against emotion (such as when you say “I don’t feel comfortable”, or “I don’t like that”). Whilst your emotions are valid, they are not the best way to address issues at work. Your best approach is to say things like “this is not acceptable behaviour or is not in line with company policy“, or “according the policy, or to the Manager, the best approach is xyz”. Then, your assertive conversation is more likely to deliver a favourable response.
How to be assertive in relationships
In relationships it can be a bit trickier to be assertive, because there is a risk of someone getting upset with you. However, the same rules apply in terms of sticking to facts, rather than emotion. Whilst it’s appropriate to tell someone how you feel in a relationship, when it’s time to be assertive, the best course of action to stick with the facts. In this instance you would describe the behaviour and avoid name calling, or attacking the person’s character. For instance, if you feel a friend or partner is regularly lashing out at you, or is speaking to you in a rude manner, you are better off assessing the situation and making a judgement call about whether the person is more likely to be receptive of your assertive conversation in the middle of the emotional outburst, or once he/she has calmed down. Then, picking the right time, focus on the behaviour itself but calmly saying something like “there is no need to speak to me in that tone – I will speak to you when you can talk more calmly”. This is going to generally work better than saying “you’re really upsetting me”, because you are not addressing the problem – the tone of voice in which you have been spoken.
KEY: How to be more assertive
The 3 key ingredients to being assertive are:
- Stick to the facts – what you are trying to address
- Be confident that you have a right to stand up for your beliefs
- Pick your moments to be assertive wisely
The purpose of being assertive is not to guarantee a results, because human beings are different and will/won’t be receptive of your assertive conversation based on a myriad of reasons. Being assertive increases your chance of being heard, it removes the heated emotional nature of conversations that can lead to very negative consequences and it boosts your self-esteem by being your true self.
Lizzie O’Halloran, BBSc, MASR, NLP Prac
Founder of Help for Mums and Author of Perfect Mum and Refresh Your Life