Assertiveness: is the balance right?
Assertion training came into popularity in the 70's with Alberti and Emmons Book 'Your Perfect Right'. Since then there has been a great deal of literature on the subject. I first went on an assertiveness course in the early 2000's and it changed how I interacted with people, it gave me an awareness of how I could be more confident with an ability to manage conflict, to be resilient if on the end of a 'put down', to say what I thought in a comfortable way and also to face the fears that can come with saying what you mean and what you would like to happen.
I chose the header image as it reminded me of how it feels when you are feeling really comfortable with yourself, that you are using a skilled way to communicate - you get to smile and feel like all is good with the world, like basking in the sun!
In being more assertive you are creating your ability to increase your personal effectiveness. It can be used in situations to make requests for something you want, to be able to have a voice at work or in your personal life. You may wish to be able to make a complaint, deal with criticism, to question why something needs to be done a certain way. You may wish to improve your ability to set boundaries around what you will or won't do, to have more space for yourself or if you have been on my time management workshop perhaps to delegate or ask for support to have more time for you! With busier lives and more stress than ever in our daily routine it can feel like minor irritations can build up and if you are not feeling like you are being heard then resentment can increase. If there are fears that get in the way we look at these in my workshop and consider how to over come them.
Being assertive can be defined as:
‘behaviour that helps us to communicate clearly and confidently our needs, wants and feelings to other people without abusing in any way their human rights’ (Lindenfield 1986)
and as such nothing but good that can come out of this communication style. If developing assertiveness means that you increase greater self confidence and control over your life then this is something that can benefit everyone. It does not mean however that you automatically get what you want. It is about taking into account the other person's needs and recognising that although you have rights so then does the other party. It is a fine balance that often involves compromise.
This quote is particularly helpful and one that is central to my workshop:
‘The philosophy of assertion is made up of..resolving in your mind and heart to act assertively even though you may be uncomfortable…it involves you thinking about the other person before being assertive. This means that you maintain a balance between your own interests and those of the other person’. Dryden & Constantinou
So it is helpful to thinking in terms of 'rights and responsibilities'. We are ideally looking for communication in a constructive way that is open and honest based on the idea that everyone has rights. Of course with rights comes responsibilities. Other people are responsible for themselves and no one should take this away from them but on the other hand this means that you are too! It is worth having a think about how you can avoid being manipulated into take responsibility for others - assertiveness helps with this too!
So how then can we be assertive and build on the skills we already have and get the balance right between our own interests and that of the other person?
It is helpful to know what you want to get out of the situation so do your homework!
What is your goal?
What is the outcome that you want?
What is acceptable to you?
What are you willing to compromise on?
What would you like to happen in this situation?
Check your intent so that you are really sure that you are being respectful. Have a think about what you want to say and how you want it to come across.
Step 1 Describe to the other person the situation. Avoid using the 'you' word as that can easily without meaning to (check intent) come across as accusatory and get the other person on the defensive.
So in a situation where you want to find out more about why a website is costing you more than originally planned you might want to say, for example 'the situation is that we agreed the website would cost xyz and it is now becoming more expensive than we originally agreed within my budget , so it would be good to talk to you about this'.
Step 2 Express how you feel..sometimes offering a feeling can be really helpful if that feels like it would work for you at that point. 'I am feeling a bit confused and slightly worried about the cost'.
Step 3 Outline the outcome you would like to have happen taking into account your needs and the other persons needs.
'What I would like to do is to sit down and run through our orginal plan again and have a discussion about costs incurred so far so that we can look at how to move forward within my original budget'....
So in this situation you are setting the scene, knowing your goal which is to find out more in line with the original discussions around budget, approaching it without accusation and saying how we feel and what we would like to happen. It is also important to acknowledge the other person's point of view and check out how the other person is feeling/thinking about what you are saying. 'How does that sound to you?' for example is a great phrase to use. However being yourself is important so use your own words!
I hope this article has been of help to you and if you are interested in doing more please book a coaching session or a workshop or I can come into your place of work!
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strategies to improve your performance, leadership style and wellbeing. I offer a free 30 mins phone consultation so don't hesitate to give me a call on 07811 740580.
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