Assertiveness Skills

The link between a lack of assertiveness and stress is not difficult to see. Not asserting ourselves can lead to stress - we don't express ourselves, don't communicate to others our likes and dislikes, and, if we're passive, put others before ourselves, and denigrate our opinions and the value of our contributions. Problems can occur because others don't know what it is we like and dislike, because we don't tell them, for fear of upsetting them. Even worse, if we've spent our lives putting others first, and burying our own preferences, we can end up not knowing ourselves what our real values, opinions, likes and dislikes are. Assertiveness is about relationships, and if we don't express ourselves as we would want to, it can lead to relationships we're not happy with, at home, at work, wherever. Learning how to be more assertive won't change other people. However, it's likely that assertive behaviour on our part may well change the way that others behave towards us. The purpose of assertiveness is to express ourselves, our feelings, emotions and opinions, and achieve our goals. This way, we maximise the chances of people behaving towards us in a way we find acceptable and appropriate. (When we're not assertive, it may well be that we don't communicate well, don't get our message across, so others don't know what we're after). It may be that you want to
  • improve the quality of your relationships, some of them, all of them, and improve your self-confidence, as relationships at home/at work aren't all how you want them to be
  • persuade others to do as you wish, without coming across as bullying as you are in a position of authority at home/at work  

So assertiveness is about relationships, and how we deal with, relate to and interact with others. Clearly how we feel about ourselves - and issues around self-confidence - will very often determine how we feel about and relate to others too. When we're assertive, we're alert to and take into account, listen to and acknowledge the needs of others, as in "I feel okay about who I am, and about who you are too". As a result, I'll tell you what I think, how I'm feeling, but I'm also interested in what you think and how you feel too. In this way, we're more likely to have a constructive and mutually beneficial relationship or interaction. And because I've asserted myself, said what I need and want to say, I feel satisfied and comfortable with it, and can move on, no matter whether you take on board my point/agree with me/agree to do what I'd like you to do. I am therefore less likely to waste time and energy going over what I could have said or done, or what should have happened etc.
Being Assertive At Work
How about being assertive at work? This can be difficult sometimes can't it, especially if asserting ourselves will lead to problems for us if we express our (possibly negative) views about our manager for example? It's healthy though if an organisation promotes a culture where staff feel able to challenge constructively and feel able to input their ideas and views. That way the organisation benefits, and the individual benefits too as we've been listened to and feel that we can make a difference/our contribution is valued. 

The '3-step model'* can be useful when we find ourselves being asked to do something we're not 100% happy with, or we don't feel we'll have time for, given our other priorities or preferences or whatever. It can be used at work or outside work - I'm using a work example below. It involves
Step One: Actively listening, to show that you have heard and understood what has been said
Step Two: Saying what you think and feel
Step Three: Saying what you want to happen
However is a good linking word between STEP ONE and STEP TWO.But tends to be a challenging and unhelpful word
And is also a very useful word between STEP TWO and STEP THREE.
Step One:    'I understand you want all five reports by Monday'
Link word:                              However
Step Two:    'I will only be able to complete 3 by Monday and the remaining two by Wednesday'
Link word:                               and
Step Three:  'I would appreciate guidance on which three you would like by Monday'
This is a fairly straightforward way of saying:
'This is what you need - Here's where I'm at - Here's what needs to happen from my perspective'. 
Why not give the above a try next time you need to assert yourself? 
(*from 'Assertiveness Step by Step' by Windy Dryden and Daniel Constantinou)
Here's a link to our training page: How to be Assertive.
You might also like to take a look at this Self-Help Guide to Being Assertive from Moodjuice (Moodjuice Forth Valley is an internet site developed by Choose Life Falkirk and the Adult Clinical Psychology Service, NHS Forth Valley).
SMP's Assertiveness Skills training course provides strategies, tools and techniques for improving assertiveness at home/at work. For more details, please contact Marc Kirby on 0118 3283246, or via email. You might be interested too in our one-to-one Coaching Service.

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