Being assertive in the face of ….
Continuing on from the last post and the subsequent discussions I’ve had – mostly in LinkedIn discussion groups – there are a number of issues people face when dealing with others. The most common expressed issue is that “other people don’t behave the same way” ie they are either submissive/passive or they are aggressive.
I repeat, behaving in an assertive manner is something which people can learn and develop, whether they are currently submissive, aggressive or passive-aggressive. For those who haven’t seen this particular phrase before, it describes the more subtle, possibly sarcastic, way some people behave. They are not overtly aggressive, yet when you reflect on the conversation you realise they are bullying in a different way. If people are used to doing things in a way which avoids conflict or just gets the job done without a fuss, they will need to think about why they do what they do as well as how to behave differently.
There are a number of steps to go through to develop the skills to behave assertively, if it’s not your natural style and, to me, the first one is believing it is okay to do so.
Rights or responsibilities?
Assertiveness training will usually cover “rights” and “responsibilities” … I prefer to think of it as “taking responsibility” which gives you the “right” to stand up for yourself. If a person really believes they can only take responsibility for their own actions and that they are responsible for all their actions, then they stop being responsible about the other person’s reaction. That’s a fundamental shift – yes, you need to anticipate the reaction of others to what you say and do, but, if you are behaving assertively and responsibly, it is not your problem if the other person isn’t. That doesn’t mean it will be pleasant or easy … particularly if the aggressive behaviour is coming from the boss or the customer.
In a nutshell, I am responsible for my behaviour and I will do all I can to behave assertively when dealing with you. If you choose to be submissive, eg say little or refuse to discuss the issue, then I will do all I can to encourage you to do so. Likewise, if you choose to be aggressive eg shout, wag your finger, be sarcastic or condescending, I will not respond in kind and I am likely to tell you that I don’t like the way you are behaving and it’s not appropriate or professional. I will do all this in private, you can choose how and where you respond. Ultimately, I can’t force you to change your behaviour, even if you work for me or I work for you.
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