Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Assertiveness a.k.a how to kick butt in the nicest possible way

I've been thinking a lot about assertiveness recently, probably because I've found myself in a number of situations with very strong people with very strong agendas. It can be so easy to be buried under other people's demands and the only person to suffer is you! As I've been reading around the subject I've also been talking to some friends about it over a glass of vino and it seems to be a common problem, especially – dare I say it – with women.

I don't know whether as women we are hard wired to expect that everyone else's needs should be met before ours or if we are just so busy trying to be nice but most women I know have trouble with being assertive. This is also credited with the wage difference between men and women that still exists in the UK. Men ask for pay rises, women take what ever is given to them or back down too quickly. I've been reading a book called 'A woman in your own right' by Anne Dickson on the recommendation of a very assertive woman I know and I have been getting some useful tips that I have been putting into practice with some surprising results.

I have simply started stating what my terms are. In a meeting last week the anxiety-o-meter of the group started to rise a few notches over a really unimportant admin task. As the administrator I stepped in and stated my terms, that as I am new to the role I wouldn't take comment on nor deal with the task until three weeks time when I was settled in to how to simply do the job rather than starting to change things. I expected uproar or at least some kind of disgruntled noises but everyone just looked down at their papers and said, 'Ok then'. Since then this mundane task has reared it's ugly head again and I have simply and calmly repeated my initial statement, that I will be dealing with it in my own time on my own terms. And it's working!

The thing about being assertive is that it is neither aggressive nor doormat passive, and if you are calmly asking for what you need then you are much less likely to get frustrated and snap at someone or my favourite trick of all, end up weeping in the bathroom. I can't even count the number of times I've been a doormat and then silently seethed about what I've had to give up for days. No more! And as is written in the front of another book I am reading about dealing with difficult people, if we all learnt how deal with each other in all our weird and wonderful ways we would be significantly closer to a peaceful existence with one another. Yes, world peace is at stake!

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