How to be more assertive?

A JOKE (on how to be more assertive)

A mild-mannered man was tired of being bossed around by his wife so he went to a psychiatrist.

The psychiatrist said he needed to build his self-esteem, and so gave him a book on assertiveness, which he read on the way home.

He had finished the book by the time he reached his house.

The man stormed into the house and walked up to his wife.

Pointing a finger in her face, he said, "From now on, I want you to know that I am the man of this house, and my word is law! I want you to prepare me a gourmet meal tonight, and when I'm finished eating my meal, I expect a sumptuous dessert afterward. Then, after dinner, you're going to draw me my bath so I can relax. And when I'm finished with my bath, guess who's going to dress me and comb my hair?"

"The funeral director," said his wife.

by Elia Strange

The benefits of Assertion

Assertiveness is an attitude towards yourself and others. It should be helpful to both and honest. In assertiveness, you ask for what you want: openly, appropriately, respecting others, and confidently.

It helps, if before 'difficult' and 'stressful' situations you can prepare yourself, and, literally, rehearse your role. Practice it with somebody at home if you can, or even on your own. Remember about your body language – the way you stand and look, your tone of voice and what you are going to say. You might write it down – everything you want to say to another person.

Remember to dress appropriately, you want to feel confident in your clothes, perhaps not too casual but may be not too overdressed or you will feel uncomfortable. So how to be assertive when dealing with others?

When dealing with others

Whether you are dealing with neighbours, restaurant managers, offices, banks or institutions, remind yourself that you are dealing with people and that it is possible to develop a good assertive relationship with people.

Of course, there will be times when you meet difficult people who refuse to acknowledge you as a person. They may behave in a very dismissive (aggressive) manner, but don’t let them put you off. Continue to behave assertively and say what you want to happen. Remember these people are usually the exception.

It is usually easier to deal with people if you know their names. It’s more personal. Remember that your new assertive behaviour is all about communicating in a better way with people. If you don’t know their name then you start off with a disadvantage.

When dealing with organisations where several people answer the phone or deal with inquiries, always write down the name of the person you are speaking to. It will also save you time the next time people ‘look for your file’, and then ask you the same questions you were asked in the first inquiry. When you establish a relationship with someone in the organisation, that means you are already becoming ‘an individual’ in their eyes. Sometimes, only asking for their name may improve their behaviour. Some people might think you can report them to their boss, whereas others might see it as a professional or more personal approach.

Be persistent. This applies especially when you are trying to get through the switchboard which puts you on hold or even loses you. Or you can use it in those situations when the manager is always ‘out of the office’. Being assertive and persistent is the way forward.

Don’t be intimidated. Large institutions, anonymous telephone voices, or officials quoting regulations can make you unsure of yourself. Don’t let them intimidate you. Remember, you have the right to be heard. You are an equal member of the community. Say what you want and if necessary, ask them to explain their official terminology clearly and in plain English.

The rules of assertion

All people have basic human rights and this includes you. Sometimes you might forget and think that other people’s rights are more important than yours. They are not.

Remember your rights are equal to everyone else’s.

Read them out loud (if you can), particularly before dealing with other people:

- I have the right to be treated as an equal.

- I have the right to ask for what I want.

- I have the right to disagree.

- I have the right to be independent.

- I have the right to be assertive.

Are there any others you can think of?


'How to be assertive' Summary

There is a difference between passive, aggressive and assertive behaviour. But now we know that to get noticed as an individual it is better to use assertive behaviour.

There are rules of assertion that can be practiced:

- remember about your rights – to be listened to, to have your opinion, to respect and be respected, and so on;

- prepare yourself, rehearse your speech. Remember about your body language, the way you dress, the way you approach, the tone of your voice and your words;

- say how you feel about the situation and what you want to happen.

- be persistent and don’t be intimidated.

- remember to put your ‘assertiveness hat’ on.

'How to be assertive' Reference: Walmsley, C. (1991). Assertiveness: The right to be you. London: BBC Books.

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How to solve problem quickly

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