This week, we have had a lot of requests about how to be assertive. Knowing the theory is all well and good but to put it into practice is much harder than we imagine.
I think we can all agree that it is much easier to think assertively than to actually put it into practice. It is a common occurrence to ignore or avoid situations where we feel threatened or where we have to confront someone.
Here are the basic rules of assertive behaviour. Firstly, we repeat the definition of assertiveness:
To stand up for your rights in a way that respects the other people involved and to satisfy the needs and wants of both parties’
Critical to assertive behaviour is remembering that how you think affects your behaviour. This in turn affects your body language and voice which then affects the outcome. So, accepting you can’t change the situation, you can change the outcome by changing your behaviour. Your behaviour is the only thing within your control. You can’t control someone else’s behaviour, you can only influence it.
Initial reactions to situations:
How we react to situations affects the outcome. For example, internalisation is a learned, specific response to specific situations much like a playback button on a video recorder. It allows no conscious thought process and is almost automatic which means that our brains act as a recognition machine in certain situations.
We then gear our behaviour to those situations which we learnt in childhood rather than to the outcome we want. This information stored in our subconscious is handled automatically. For example, when driving a car or knitting, we do not think about what we are doing (once we are competent at the task) as our subconscious handles it so we don’t have to! Our subconscious handles the association for us automatically and makes it difficult for us to change our programmed responses to situations.
Reprogramming – Changing how you react to situations requires conscious thought – you need to reprogram your subconscious to cause positive rather negative feelings toward a situation.
Staying in control of your feelings – Acknowledging, responding in a non-confrontational manner, demonstrating to the other person that you heard what they said without it affecting your emotions.
Standing your Ground – Clarify what the other person wants, communicate how you feel and state what you want.
Pointing out Discrepancies and Consequences. – This is useful where a person has not done something which had been agreed or where the behaviour or performance is below expectation or outside the norm. The benefits of pointing out the discrepancy are that it is direct and clear and non accusatory.
Pointing out a Consequence tells the other person what will happen if the situation persists. The benefit of this is that it is factual and precise. There are no ‘mights’. It can be serious without being heavy. The onus of responsibility is on the other person which is where it
should be. However, here, you need to be careful of facial expression, tone of voice and stance and it is advisable to point out what the preferable option/outcome is.
Combining the techniques above achieves the following:
-Keeps you focussed
-Behaviour geared to outcome, not feelings
-Rights remain intact
-Be careful of body language, tone of voice
And finally, remember you have rights, for example,
-To be ultimate judge of your own thoughts, behaviours and emotions
-To be treated with respect
-To state what you want and how you feel
-To have and express an opinion
-To be listened to
-To be imperfect
-To make mistakes
-To feel okay about yourself
-To put yourself first on occasions
-To stand up for your rights, or not, as you choose
And these are something to which you are entitled. You do not have to qualify for them in any way, there are no preconditions.
How we feel about ourselves impacts how we behave so self esteem is important. If we believe in what we feel and feel confident in our approach, the outcome is more likely to be positive. Remember:
-Think of yourself as distinct from your behaviour (don’t allow your robot to convince you that you are getting it wrong)
-Everyone makes mistakes, learn from them and don’t let them stop you
-Interpret criticism, it is someone’s opinion, not fact
-Don’t compromise your rights or be intimidated