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Learn to Be Assertive
Being assertive is a means of putting your point or opinion across while maintaining a respect for another's point of view. The aim being to ideally achieve a solution that meets your needs and those of another - a healthy compromise. The object should be that all parties leave the situation without feeling uneasy, or upset. You have the right to express your needs, feelings, and wants (as do others). The techniques can be applied to many situations whether in the workplace, at home or other everyday scenarios.
Learn to be Assertive
In earlier articles we have talked about the importance of assessing workload, saying no to some tasks or events, and finding time for yourself but have not as yet considered how to get your opinion across to others (particularly those in authority or in the workplace).
The solution is to do this assertively.
Being assertive is a means of putting your point or opinion across while maintaining a respect for another's point of view.
The aim being to ideally achieve a solution that meets your needs and those of another - a healthy compromise.
The object should be that all parties leave the situation without feeling uneasy, or upset. You have the right to express your needs, feelings, and wants (as do others). The techniques can be applied to many situations whether in the workplace, at home or other everyday scenarios.
We have already mentioned how the 'fight or flight' response can be triggered at times of stress. We have discussed how the 'flight' is the modern equivalent of running away from the problem or event - this can be considered as 'passive' behaviour, whereas the 'fight' response of attacking the problem can be considered as 'aggressive' behaviour. Assertiveness lies midway between these two states.
Passive behaviour often includes surrendering to the wishes of others even if it is against your own wants or needs, often this includes suppressing these feelings and needs. Passive behaviour often means that others have to guess at what those needs are - which can often be wrong. Someone who is overly passive often do not want to upset people, are often unnoticed and rarely get what they want.
People exhibiting aggressive behaviour goes to the opposite extreme and will often try to get what they want in any way that works including threatening, cajoling, manipulating, using sarcasm or violence. In many ways this is the bully.
They do not have any respect for others nor consider their needs and as such this often results in bad feelings from others. The person that is often aggressive does not look for situations in which a compromise can be reached.
A person who uses assertive behaviour will state their needs in a direct and honest way while respecting the needs of others. They will speak with confidence and without undue anxiety. They will consider their words before speaking. They will be positive, secure, co-operative and respectful, and will actively seek a solution that meets the needs of all parties if possible.
To simplify they will discuss, argue and negotiate. You may notice that people exhibit certain characteristics with each of the three states. This is most commonly observed in situations where negotiation or discussions are underway.
The assertive person will often have a raised voice, folder arms, and may point with their finger a lot. Phrases that they may use include: "you'd better", "if you don't...", "should...", "stupid" or other insults. The passive person may have a whining voice, clenched or wringing hands, shuffling feet, may stoop, and often have their eyes cast downward.
They will often use phrases such as "maybe..", "I wonder..", "sorry... sorry", "excuse me..." or "I hope you don't mind...". The assertive person will be calm, controlled and relaxed. They will look others directly in the eye and uses phrases such as "I feel..", "I want..", "How can we resolve this? And "what do you think?".
Assertiveness can be summarised as:
- Valuing yourself and others equally
- Having the ability to say 'yes' or 'no' to anyone when you choose, without always having to offer a reason.
- Standing up for yourself and not be afraid to do so.
- Taking responsibility for your own needs, feelings and wants and ensuring that you have them met.
- Expressing your needs, feelings and wants while being respectfully, openly, clearly and honestly.
- Not being afraid to admit to your mistakes and ensuring that you learn from them.
- Not being afraid to ask for help when you need it.
- Ability to handle conflict when it arises, being prepared to confront difficult people when necessary.
Assertiveness training tackles each of these points, providing techniques and methods to encourage assertive behaviour.
Applying these techniques can reduce our stress through how we interact with others particularly in events where you are expecting a great deal of stress.
The following article was contributed by Martine H McFarlane
Martine H McFarlane is a Stress Management Consultant and has a background in Clinical Hypnotherapy, Complementary Therapies and Information Technology. Martine has previously worked in two city centre universities.
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