You may sometimes feel that you are:
- letting other people’s priorities override your own
- saying ‘yes’ when you would really like to say ‘no’
- agreeing to do work which has no direct benefit for you.
The result can be feelings of frustration, low self-esteem, anger and depression.
Developing assertiveness skills can help you to be more honest about how you feel, leading to a greater sense of control and improved self-esteem.
What is assertiveness?
Assertiveness is being able to express your own needs confidently, maintaining a good relationship with those you are communicating with. Being assertive is not the same as being confrontational. It involves recognising that the other person is not automatically wrong just because their view may differ from yours.
This Assertiveness Checklist from A Coach for Champions Inc. may help you to assess how assertive you currently are.
Working assumptions for assertive behaviour
- You have rights and you should expect others to respect them
- Other people have rights, which you should respect
- You should be honest with others, and with yourself
- You should communicate what you need, feel or want both directly and confidently.
- Listen to what the other person wants or needs
- Communicate clearly what you want or need
- Try and find a solution that serves you both.
- Make eye contact but do not stare
- Nod or give verbal cues (‘yes’ or ‘uh huh’) to show that you are listening
- Summarise what the other party has said, to check you have understood
- Ask questions to clarify anything that is unclear.
- Don’t apologise, make excuses or give lengthy explanations
- Be succinct. State what you want or need as clearly as possible
- Recognise that you are often stating opinion rather than fact. Use “I think that...”, “I believe that...”, “in my opinion...” This allows room for the other person to express their opinions too
- Be prepared to re-state your position if the other person does not seem to have accepted or heard it the first time
- Make good eye contact
- Be positive and friendly
- Stay calm.
- Identify and state the things that you agree on
- Avoid blame. Focus on finding a solution
- Aim for a win/win situation, i.e. one that you are both happy with
Most universities run workshops on assertiveness skills. Contact your Staff Development Unit for more information.
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