Assertiveness - 5 top tips
Assertiveness training at its best can be a life-saver for those who endlessly find themselves accommodating their behaviour to suit other people and what those other people want.
At Impact Factory we don’t believe there is any one right way to be assertive since trying to follow ‘rules’ means being on a hiding to nothing. Too many Assertiveness Training courses tell people what to do and how to they should behave. We don’t like the word should either.
Every single unassertive person became unassertive in their own way, so any training which is going to help has to be shaped to each individual. People may decry their unassertive behaviour because it means they get taken advantage of but the plus is that in our experience people who aren’t assertive tend to be kind, thoughtful, helpful, insightful and sensitive, all wonderful qualities.
Having said we don’t believe in rules about how to be more assertive there are some really simple techniques that can help any unassertive person right away and that don’t require people to become someone they aren’t.
Here are five we’ve taken from our Assertiveness courses for you to try out.
1- Consciously use what you already do
There’s no point trying to be someone you’re not and any assertiveness training worth its salt won’t ask you to change who you are. To be effective, however, you have to consciously choose behaviour that you already do and make it work better for you. For instance, if you find yourself apologising all the time, apologise more. Instead of “I’m sorry, I wish I could help” which leaves you open to coercion, try “I’m really, really sorry I can’t help; I wish I could, but I’m so sorry it won’t be possible.” Interestingly, by over-apologising you set a clearer boundary that makes it harder for the other person to push against.
2- Wipe that smile off your face!
Another common trait of unassertive people is that they smile even when they are attempting to say no. If you’re one of those people then you need to be aware you are sending mixed messages. A smile is welcoming, warm, friendly and will signal to the other person that you are open to negotiation. You can practise this in front of a mirror: first, say this with a smile - “I’m so sorry I won’t be able to stay late tonight.” Next, say the same words without a smile. You don’t have to look mean, just say the same thing without smiling. We guarantee you’ll experience it differently, just as someone asking you to do something will feel it harder to push back.
3- Have some good excuses up your sleeve
Being caught on the back foot is very common when you’re unassertive. Someone asks you to do something and you become tongue tied, scrabbling to find the right thing to say. If it doesn’t come out of your mouth right away, you’re a gonner. And of course, you will think about what you could have said long after you’ve been hooked, yet again. A few good excuses can include: “I’m right in the middle of something; I’ll ring you back later.” “What a shame you didn’t contact me earlier, I’m already committed that night.” This is all about buying yourself some time so you can collect your thoughts and decide what you really want to do.
This goes hand in hand with the good excuses and is designed to cut people off at the pass. You know the people who take most advantage of your good nature so when they corner you or ring up, you know the drill: they’ll ask a ‘favour’ and you’ll give in. When you see them coming toward you stand up (literally or metaphorically) and let them know you know what they want: “Before you ask me to stay late again tonight, I should let you know I already made plans.” “I bet you’re going to ask me to work on the Bingham report. Oh dear, I’m chocka and can’t fit another thing in.” “You have the look of someone who’s going to ask me to do the school run again. So sorry, I just won’t be able to the rest of this week.” Pre-empting is one of those things that takes the wind out of the other person’s sails; it’s hard to come back when you’ve ‘outed’ them.
5- Take the waffle out of your language
Much like smiling when you’re trying to say no, too much verbiage also gives mixed messages. “I was wondering if perhaps you might think about possibly……” That’s like waving the white flag of surrender; you’re expecting the other person to say no, so you pad your language with apologetic words in the hope that they might take you seriously. The more padding you use, the less impactful you are and the easier it is for others to take advantage. Take a look at a few of your emails or remember a recent conversation and see if you can identify the unnecessary filler that made you come across as weak or dithering. Cut the waffle and get straight to the point – it will make a significant difference in the way you are perceived.
These are just a few of the many tools and techniques we offer on our Assertiveness courses. Everyone’s individual situations are taken into account and our material is adapted to suite the distinctive needs of each delegate. Our courses are a great place to practise new ways of choosing behaviour that will work for you.
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