Post about "People"

3 Things People Get Wrong About Assertiveness

I’m running some workshops this week, on Influencing Skills and Dealing With Difficult People. In both, I’ll be talking about how to be assertive.But I’ll also have to be careful to warn the groups about 3 things that people often get wrong about being assertive.What do I mean by being assertive?A common definition is “standing up for your own rights while respecting the rights of others”. In practice, this means that you state clearly what you would like other people to do or how you feel about something they’ve done but, at the same time, you acknowledge that they don’t always have to do what you want and they have their own needs and feelings as well.So you don’t just let other people tell you what to do, or behave any way they want, without saying anything about it (which is non-assertive). But you don’t go around telling other people what to do or what you think with no thought for what they want (which is aggressive).The three things that people get wrong about assertiveness are:1. Thinking that assertiveness is selfish.Some people feel very uneasy about stating their feelings or saying clearly what they want from other people. They think it’s selfish, putting their wishes before those of others.This isn’t how I see assertiveness. As I mentioned above, it’s about accepting that you have just as much right as anyone else to express an opinion and to have your voice heard. No more right, no less. You’re not saying you’re more important than anyone else or that your wishes have priority, just that you have a right to state them.And, in any case… see the next point.2. Thinking that assertiveness will get you what you want.There’s more chance that you will get what you want if you are assertive. Why? Because people will know what you want. They won’t have to guess or read your mind.But that doesn’t mean you will always get your own way. People may still choose not to behave the way you want them to. After all, they can make their own minds up. They can be assertive as well.Don’t think, just because someone has not acted on the way you wanted, that assertiveness “didn’t work”. That’s not the whole point of assertiveness, it’s also partly about building your own self-esteem and confidence. Also, assertiveness isn’t a one-off thing, don’t write it off just because you didn’t get the result you wanted the first time.3. Thinking that other people will react well when you’re assertive.I blame some books on assertiveness for this. They often suggest that, if you’re assertive to someone, they’ll probably be assertive back and everyone will be calm and reasonable. That’s not what happens.Sometimes people react badly when you’re assertive, especially if they’re not used to it. Some people can get aggressive because they see you “standing up” to them. They’re used to getting their own way.Others can be confused because you’ve never done this before, it’s not the reaction they were expecting. They might get upset or try some form of emotional blackmail, telling you how disappointed they are in you or how you’ve let them down because you don’t want to do what they asked you.So it can sometimes seem that being assertiveness makes things worse, at least in the short term. You’ve got to be prepared for that and be prepared to deal with people’s reactions.So I would encourage you to be assertive but be clear about why you’re doing it and have realistic expectations about what it can achieve.