Might you learn how to be more assertive at work with this
London, UK based assertiveness training course?
Here is an example of a problem we often see from people who come to our training course because they want to be able to be more assertive at work. Over the years lots of participants who have attended our assertiveness training courses to develop their skills have done so because of issues such as this. Does this ring any bells for you or someone you know?
The problem - why is it important to be more assertive at work?
A project leader who was a competent and thorough organiser. She was very successful with people who were highly motivated, understood what she wanted and were willing to co-operate. She was less successful with those who were not as co-operative. She didn’t like having to be firm with people or critical of them, and would have been more assertive at work if she knew how to. She would back off and accept defeat rather than confront disagreements because she equated assertiveness for pushiness or aggressiveness. Sometimes when competing for resources she lost out to other project leaders who were more assertive at work, and persistent in pushing for what they needed. She often felt discouraged and said very little in meetings with senior managers when others were more assertive, noisy, and aggressive than her because she felt they were not taking her seriously. Her boss, who knew how ambitious and capable she was, was concerned that she was in danger of being seen by senior managers as ineffective and that this would damage her career if she wasn’t more assertive at work.
The diagnosis – what stops people being more assertive at work?
A clever, clear and lucid thinker and talker who always supported her points with reason, fact and logic. She was very sensitive to people’s feelings, and quick to notice from facial expression and tone of voice when people were resisting her point. When this happened she would try again to debate and reason with them. If this failed, instead of being more assertive, she would secretly feel impatient, frustrated and defeated, because she assumed that since the other person was being emotional there was nothing she could do about it, no matter how assertive she became. Her one method of persuasion, relying solely on fact and logic, was unable to deal with emotional responses. In spite of, or perhaps because of, her sensitivity to emotions she had never learned to deal with them and always did her best to avoid them, and was therefore nervous about being more assertive at work.
The obstacle - what needs to change before being able to be more assertive at work?
Her approach was governed by an assumption she had held deep down for as long as she could remember, that “it is safer not to reveal how you feel” than to be more assertive at work and give away her feelings. She thought that it would be unprofessional to express emotion. She was not aware of the underlying assumption, although she would probably admit to it if asked. Nevertheless it often governed her approach to people, especially when she sensed she was in danger of getting into conflict. So, she kept her feelings hidden in order to avoid conflict, rather than being more assertive at work. By doing so she not only failed to get what she needed but often courted the very danger she was trying to avoid.
The remedy – how to learn to be more assertive at work.
First, she needed help to become aware that restricting herself to fact and logic was a self-imposed handicap when dealing with people who were resisting. Second, she needed her underlying assumption - that it is safer not to reveal how you feel - challenged and replaced by a quite different idea, namely, that “you can prevent misunderstanding and are more likely to achieve what you want if you talk frankly about your own feelings and show respect and, acknowledgment and appreciation of the other person’s”. Then she needed to be shown a safe and professional way of being more assertive at work. In other words, she needed to learn and practise two skills, speaking assertively and listening with empathy. Finally, she needed help to practise using these skills in the kinds of meetings and conversations she had been finding difficult, where she needed to be more assertive at work. This was a challenging learning experience for her because of her fear of the dangers of revealing how she felt. But she knew she had a lot at stake and so with determination and practice over several months was able both to be, and be seen to be more assertive at work, and a more effective influencer.
Why learning how to be more assertive at work is not easy.
Many of us are find it difficult being more assertive at work because of mental habits we're likely to be unaware of. The assertiveness training course we specialise in can help you become aware and overcome the habits that are holding you back.
Here is a list of common obstacles that get in the way of being able to be more assertive at work. See whether any of these difficulties ring a bell for you:-
- A lack of empathy. What often prevents people from being more assertive at work is that they don't know how to show empathy. Being more assertive at work on it's own can come over as uncaring and aggressive, and most people are reluctant to give a bad impression, so showing empathy demonstrates your compassion. By showing your empathy it frees you up to be much more assertive. This is why we include both empathy and assertiveness skills in this assertiveness training course.
- A lack of awareness of your own feelings. Many of us are too preoccupied with our own thoughts and problems to stop and ask ourselves, “What am I experiencing right now?” Most of us have fallen out of the habit of tuning in to our own feelings. It may even be that we don't like to dwell on them because they're uncomfortable. A consequence of shutting them off is that it can inhibit our ability to connect with others. It's difficult to be more assertive at work if you’re unaware how you feel. This assertiveness training course will help you become more aware of your own feelings, so that you can express them safely to other people - see listening with empathy.
- A reluctance to express feelings. Many people have not had much practice in expressing feelings, especially if it was not part of growing up. What if being more assertive at work means our feelings get out of control? It can come as a relief to realise that being more assertive at work, and talking about feelings acts as a safety valve, preventing the build-up of tension and destructive outbursts, rather than causing them. On our training course participants have lots of practise and experiment with being more assertive in a safe environment until they’re more comfortable with the idea of being more assertive at work - see emotional intelligence training.
- The belief that other people know how you feel without being told. Being more assertive at work is making your feelings known. Many people believe that their feelings are already known. But this is usually not correct. Other people are usually unaware of your feelings. They may be aware you’re in a bad mood, but be unaware of exactly why, what’s caused it, or what you’d like them to do about it. If we want them to know, we have to tell them. Being more assertive at work will help clear this up.
- The fear of being disliked. Some people find it hard to be more assertive at work because they believe it will make them disliked. But, again, this belief is not correct. Most people react to frankness, firmness and assertiveness with respect. This is especially true if you can couple your assertiveness with compassion and empathy. Again, the safe learning environment of our assertiveness training course can help you overcome any nervousness about being more assertive at work.
- A mismatch between verbal and non-verbal behaviour. When the words you speak are matched by your body language, your tone of voice, your facial expression, your pace, your posture and your gestures, the message you send is likely to be convincing. However, if there is a mismatch, other people often get confused by the misleading signals you are sending and end up not knowing which clue they should trust then most, and your attempts to be more assertive at work can be undermined by an impression that you don’t really mean what you are saying.
- Not saying what you mean as though you really mean it. If you wish to be more assertive at work practise saying what you mean as though you really mean it. In other words say it as if your life and theirs depends on whether the other person takes what you are saying seriously. Each of us has our own unique way of speaking when we are being sincere and congruent. When you do this, incongruent habits fall away. On our assertiveness training course we encourage participants to experiment by speaking honestly and earnestly in a way that makes it easier for others to take them seriously when they are being more assertive at work.
- Expecting failure. Some people carry around (probably unconsciously) an expectation of failure. This can turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy. It means they’re reluctant to be more assertive at work because deep down they’re convinced they’ll not get it or don't deserve it, and the anticipated failure is too painful to risk. However, self-limiting beliefs can be changed. But before changing them they have to be brought to the surface where we can see them and challenge them. Talking about them to someone who can listen patiently and with empathy can help.
- Stating my opinion rather than saying how I feel. Saying, “I feel that …”, following by your opinion isn’t the same thing as giving any information about your emotion. The trouble with giving your opinion is that others receive it as an invitation to argue. If you want to be more assertive at work it is much more effective to give them a fact they can't argue with – by naming your feeling and making it clear what it is about, and why you feel it. When we teach people how to be more assertive at work we help them become more conscious of the words they’re using and how to coming across more affectively.
If so, you can have a FREE exploratory coaching session. It'll give you a foretaste of what you can get from the course. You make no commitment to proceed beyond this until you're sure this training is relevant to your own particular need.
How to accept this offer
Simply contact us for a preliminary chat and to arrange your free exploratory coaching session.
What this session will do for you
In this session we'll aim to give you something practical you can use right away that'll help you handle a difficult situation more successfully at work. All you need do to prepare for this session is think about the kinds of situations you want to be able to handle more successfully.
You'll find answers to many of your questions about the content and method of this course under FAQs (in the main menu above).