Assertiveness is a life skill; useful both inside and outside work. However, the reactions and behaviours we employ now are the result of years of fine tuning. Being assertive doesn’t happen overnight, but the more practice you get, the more skilled you become. And while you may not always get what you want, you will always know you gave it your best. So here are the top ten tips for improving your assertive behaviour:
1. Believe in yourself more. Always think positively and feed yourself with positive inner dialogue. (Stand in front of a mirror, look yourself in the eye and tell yourself how wonderful you are!) Your self belief and self respect is the key to being assertive: if you don't think you can do something, you probably won't.
2. Recognise that you can never change other people. You can only change what you do: your behaviours. Bear in mind that behaviours are what people see, and therefore believe of you: they have no idea what's really going on on the inside. Behaviour breeds behaviour and so a change in your behaviour will afford others the opportunity to behave differently towards you.
3. Learn to respond, not react. Start choosing how to behave, based on admitting and accepting the consequences. So if you aren't prepared for the consequences, decide not to go down a particular route. But above all, accept that you – and only you – have made that decision: nobody else has forced you into it.
4. Stop beating yourself up for your decisions and behaviours. Learn to look on the positive side and turn every situation into a positive learning opportunity for future behaviour change.
5. Watch your body language. Make sure it matches your words: people tend to believe what they see rather than what they hear. So if your mouth is saying "Ok, that's fine, I'll be happy to stay" while your mind is saying "I don't want to stay but how can I say no?" then your body language will most likely have sent them the message about what your mind is thinking!
6. Use the green cross code. Stop Look Listen - then think about how you want to respond. This will ensure that - importantly - you stay in control of yourself and the situation, thus affording others the opportunity to do so as well.
7. Aim for situation resolution, not self defence. Concentrate on the situation rather than your own feelings, and recognise that the other person is most probably angry about the situation - not with you. Stop taking things personally!
8. Consider and choose your words. Lose the words that signal “I’m a pushover” such as “I’m terribly sorry”, or “I’m afraid”, or “Could you possibly…?” or “Can I just …?” Substitute big “I” statements followed by factual descriptions instead of judgements or exaggerations. This will encourage the other person to do the same.
9. Say “no” when you want to. Don’t forget to afford yourself all of the rights you allow everyone else to have. If it helps, remember that you are not refusing them personally, you are refusing their request.
10. Take a “can do” attitude. Believe that things don’t just happen to you – but that you can make them happen.