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How to be assertive and retain your self respect


How to be assertive and retain your self respect

Gill Donnell

In our final post in this short series on assertiveness, we are going to look at some techniques to help keep us in an assertive frame of mind.

It might be helpful to think about why is it so difficult to be assertive and express openly and simply what you want, without compromising other people's wishes and feelings.

    Are you are scared or confused by the other person?

    Are you are fearful that the other person may become angry or upset?

    Are you are tired or stressed?

    Are you are not sure of your rights in the situation?

    Do you lack confidence?

Fear of someone or something, is usually at the heart of why we do not assert ourselves and even when we do, it does not mean we will always get our way; but confidence increases when we are honest about our feelings, despite the outcome.

Acting in an assertive way demonstrates that you have self- respect, whist still respecting others. For most of us, that means making sure that we deal with our feelings about ourselves, as well as other people, whilst seeking an appropriate end result.

We talked about passive and aggressive behaviour (as well as passive-aggressive) and established that those behaviours have their roots in a lack of self -confidence or fear of the outcomes of situations.

Only you will be able to decide what is assertive for you, depending on those internal feelings. It is also worth remembering that we always have a choice about how we behave and for a variety of reasons, you might decide not to behave assertively in any given situation.

Also, just because you behave assertively, this doesn't guarantee that others will do the same, nor will it guarantee that you get the outcome you want. If you follow the process, though, you will feel better about speaking up for yourself and come to realise that actually expressing your feelings is a worthwhile thing to do.

Never forget, the more you practice, the easier it gets!

I have previously shared the C.A.L.M. acronym - to help you respond in an assertive way:-

Cool down; Assert yourself; Look them in the eye & Mean what you say.

Being calm when asserting yourself is essential to allow you to express your thoughts, emotions, opinions and beliefs in an assertive, positive way. Your body language needs to reinforce your ability to be assertive. Walk steadily, hold your head up, relax your shoulders and jaw and spread the weight evenly on both feet.

It might help, if you have time before 'entering' the situation, to take three deep breaths, but not such a good idea if you are already standing in front of the Boss!

One popular technique to use is called the 'broken record' technique. This involves repeating your point, time and time again, but importantly without raising your voice, become angry, irritated or side tracked. The parents amongst us may well have practised this before.

If you are returning something faulty to a store, it might go like this.

You - "I bought these shoes last week and the sole has come off. I would like a refund please."

Assistant - "It looks like they have had excessive use, they are designed for occasional wear."

You - "They are faulty, I have only had them a week - I would like a refund please."

Assistant - "They have clearly been worn out, I can not give you your money back"

You - "The sole has come away after only a week, I would like a refund please"

Now I could keep that up all day, and of course it also helps to know your rights in such a situation. The key here is to stay calm and also maintain eye contact. Glancing nervously down and hesitating can result in becoming easily side-tracked or just giving up.

Be clear what you want, stick to your guns, don't give up and be very, very calm. If necessary, practice at home in front of a mirror, so your responses become second nature.

The second tip is for use when communicating with someone who is acting aggressively.

When someone is communicating aggressively, they usually want you to respond in an aggressive way in order to escalate the situation. It is vital, therefore, that you do not do this. (Unless you want a full scale fight).

It's much better to use a technique known as 'fogging', which allows you to stay in control and hopefully diffuse the situation.

To be able to pull this off,  you need to find a small part of their argument to agree with, this is likely to be the last thing that they are expecting and something that can totally wrong foot them.

The Boss - "Why don't you ever work late? You clearly have no interest in your job and this company."

You - "It is true, I rarely work late. I work extremely hard on the management of my time to make sure that I meet all of the tasks I am set within my agreed working hours. This allows me to spend quality time with my family as well as doing my job to the best of my ability."

If you are being criticised, it may help to agree with some of the probability that's often stated.

Mother - "If you don't get more sleep, you are going to make yourself ill and lose your job."

You - "You're right I may become ill."

Don’t forget your body language, another ingredient necessary to be successfully assertive, is demonstrating that you are listening to the other party, such as nodding and using interjections to show you are paying attention and understanding.

As I have said previously, maintain eye contact, appearing interested and alert (even if you aren't). Don't stare though, that can just make you look scary!

I hope this brief insight into the benefits of being assertive have been helpful, click the link to get a free copy of our guide to being assertive ‘How to say what you mean and get what you want’

This blog first appeared as a guest blog on the Springboard Consultancy website