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On the First Day of Assertiveness

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On the First Day of Assertiveness

Graham Smith

my true love complained to me...

Yes there it is, difficult conversations - whether it's with your true love, extended family, colleagues, even that shop assistant; it really can be difficult to say what we want or need in an honest, assertive way. 

If you haven't read any of my other posts on assertiveness, it will be worth checking out the previous blog 'What does it mean to be assertive?'  here

In brief  - being assertive is about letting others know what it is you want, in a direct, calm and confident way. Crucially it involves being honest about your feelings and opinions, whilst at the same time listening to the other person's point of view. It is a brilliant skill to use when dealing with conflict or difficult situations and, most importantly, it is a skill that can be learnt

But why is it such a struggle to be assertive some times?

Most of our beliefs, attitudes and behaviours are influenced by our experiences from childhood onwards, positive experiences, disappointments, losses and achievements, which includes our default position when communicating. This outlook is not fixed and so any tendency to be aggressive or passive can be changed to have a more positive, assertive outlook on life.

Our gender definitely has an impact, as culturally, even in these enlightened days, there is an acceptance of men as the more aggressive sex and women as more passive.

In these posts, over the next 12 twelve days, I will give you some insight into why we behave in certain ways, but I could be writing from now until the end of the year on this fascinating subject, so look out early next year for some more in-depth classes. Also, you will find lots of amazing books and articles on t'internet to help develop your understanding.

I am going to talk more about the various types of behaviour we adopt, when communicating, tomorrow, but given that this is the first post in the series - you probably want a quick win, so here it is.

If you have a situation coming up that you know is going to be difficult, here's an acronym that might help when you feel out of control, but still want to get a point across - C.A.L.M. 

Cool down

Assert yourself

Look them in the eye

Mean what you say

It's a bad idea to have a difficult conversation when you are cross, upset, frustrated or any other negative emotion, unless you want the other person to become angry, upset, defensive or whatever.

So put off that conversation until you have cooled down. There is nothing wrong with saying, " I am feeling quite upset / concerned/ annoyed right now. Can we talk about this later /tomorrow etc etc."

When you do have the conversation, don't say - "you are making me feel..." the reality is that we all have the ability to make choices about how we feel. Our feelings are not someone else's responsibility, no matter how hard the situation is.

You have a choice.

That's it for today - tomorrow I'll explain a little more abut aggressive, passive and passive aggressive behaviour and why we might find ourselves responding in those ways.