When I’m running my assertiveness seminars it is obvious that some people seem to be more naturally assertive than others; they have a degree of confidence in dealing with people. But that doesn’t mean others can’t learn to be more assertive and acquire the skills necessary. It’s great to get to the end of an assertiveness session and see how people have grown in confidence, even in just one day!
Here are my ten top assertiveness techniques. Practise them regularly and you will really see if a difference.
1. Distance and personal space
We all have our personal space limits so make sure people keep to yours. It’s important not to let someone you don’t know intimately invade your space (this is passive aggressive behaviour; it’s manipulative). When you start to feel uncomfortable that’s your cue. Set your boundaries clearly, either verbally or non-verbally. You might, for example, step backwards to give yourself more space.
2 Broken Record Technique
I am slightly ambivalent about including this as it can turn out to be aggressive behaviour itself. But done correctly, with people you don’t need to have an ongoing relationship with (cold callers for example) it can be very useful. You state clearly and politely what you want (or don’t want) and when you meet with resistance you simply politely repeat it, again and again and… Warning -I don’t think this is helpful with a colleague as it doesn’t actually resolve anything and will irritate the pants off them! But in the right place it can be very effective indeed.
Sharing some information about yourself can be very effective when you want to honest and upfront about something you feel the listener may not fully be aware of, or understand. An example of this could be someone with hearing loss asking the other person to speak up because they are a hard of hearing. Or perhaps sharing how nervous you feel in a situation, and how you would welcome their support.
Fogging is simply agreeing with what the other person is saying and not allowing it to get to you. Literally in through one ear and out the other. When someone criticizes you, you agree by saying something like “You’re right, my dress doesn’t really match my handbag,” or “I think you’re right, I have put on weight over Christmas; I ate too much.” When you use the fogging technique it’s best to see all criticism as feedback. You let it ride over you and don’t get involved with what’s being said. It can be a really good way to defuse a verbal attack and shows your critic just how adult and confident you are.
5. Maintain eye contact
Good eye contact makes your listener feel that you respect them and it makes you look more confident to the other person. If you spend the conversation nervously glancing around you will look shifty, or gauche, or look as if you don’t care or respect what the other person is saying. Although be careful, too much eye contact and it may look as if you are staring them out and cause more trouble than you bargained for.
6. Watch your posture and body language
If you slouch down you are making yourself physically smaller and this can appear less confident; you may also appear lazy or shy. Nether do you want to be ram rod straight and military (unless you are military, of course!) Try to hold yourself comfortably ‘tall’ and walk slowly when entering a room and you will look more assertive, however you are feeling inside.
7. And when seated..
When you sit make sure you are sitting upright. Don’t cross you legs or fold your arms – it’ll make you look nervous or aggressive. Sitting up makes you look more alert, interested in the listener and interesting to the listener. And remember, people LOVE being listened to. Listening well is the first rule in being more assertive so make sure you show that you are listening as well as doing it.
8. And while we’re on listening…
Make sure you are an active listener by practising active listening skills. Repeating briefly what the other person has said when appropriate is a good assertiveness skill to learn. Make sure you keep it short and don’t interrupt the speaker when they’re in full flow. You can use phrases like “Can I just check that I have this right, your view is…” or “So you’re saying… is this correct?”
9. Tone of voice
Often when we get nervous our voice goes up a few octaves and a bit of a high pitched squeak comes out. This is not good to listen to and will weaken your points. You may speak faster too with everything coming out in a nervous full on rush. If you have a tendency to speak quickly in stressful situations try silently counting to two each time before you speak. And deep breathing helps, (but don’t hyperventilate). A few deep breaths before you speak will also help calm you down. If your voice tends to get higher pitched then imagining the sound coming out of your chest will help to keep it at a deeper tone making you sound more confident.
10. Value your time
Value your time but also value others. If you are always late for meetings etc you are not being respectful of other people so can hardly expect to be treated with respect yourself. Also consider this, being consistently late for meetings or appointments can indicate a lack of self-worth. If you are always late spend some time thinking about why. And don’t over compensate by giving lots of time to other people when it isn’t necessary. You need to value yourself first.
I hope that quick run down has been helpful. Of course, there is masses more on the topic but these are just a few tips to act as an aide mémoire. Assertive women usually have high confidence levels and levels of inner self belief. And learning how to be more assertive can increase your confidence levels too.
What are your favourite tips?
Posted on January 6th, 2011 by Jane