.....How Assertive Are You?, by Donna Deeprose
Tips for the Passive
No more Milquetoast for you! From now on you will:
Say no. When you don't want to do something -- and your job doesn't call for it -- it's OK to refuse. There's a nice way to do it: Agree the person has a need; that shows empathy. Then say what you have to do instead, e.g. "I know you have a really heavy workload. I'm sorry I can't help. I need to leave on time today to get to my son's soccer game." (Don't be afraid to give that kind of response; it's a perfectly legitimate reason for not doing someone else's work!)
Ask for what you want. Don't ever assume the situation is too negative. It's amazing what you can get just by asking for it. Even better, back up your request with a dramatic demonstration of what the other person or the organization has to gain by granting what you want. Got your eye on a new printer to replace your cranky old one, for example? Find one you can test out, and use it to run off -- in splendiferous fashion -- part of your boss's important new report. You'll have your boss salivating along with you.
Disagree out loud. No more keeping it to yourself when you think someone is wrong. You can disagree quite respectfully if you start by paraphrasing the other's point-of-view and agreeing with its good points. Then state your concerns and present your ideas for a better solution. One more tip: Use an "and" instead of a "but" between what you agree with and what concerns you. That changes your tone from confrontation to cooperation.
Respond to unjust criticism. Don't shrivel. And don't get defensive. Put responsibility for unfair accusation where it belongs, with the person making it. If you start by saying, "I didn't do that," you might sound defensive, maybe even whiny. So begin by stating calmly, "You are mistaken." Then explain how what you did was right.
Accept deserved criticism. Don't hide. Don't make excuses. Admit your mistake in the fewest possible words. Then say what you'll do differently next time. Far from being demeaned, you'll earn respect and even others' confidence.
Look for the lessons when you don't get what you want. Don't be defeatist. Find out what you need to do to get it next time. Let's say, for example, someone less qualified gets an assignment you wanted. Sure it looks like favoritism, but don't let that hold you back. Ask your boss what skills you need to improve to get the next plum that comes along. Brush up on those things and you'll be the favorite next time.
Confront anyone who takes what is rightfully yours -- such as taking credit for your work. If you don't, it's going to eat away at you until you lose your self-confidence and your initiative. You don't have to make accusations: you can treat it as a misunderstanding that you know the other person would want to correct. If you do it that way, you can do it right out in public so the person can't conveniently forget to follow through.
Confront others' irritating behavior good-naturedly. But good nature doesn't mean accepting. Put on your biggest smile and make your request that they desist sound like a deal between friends. The response to an interrupter in question eight is an example: "I'll stop talking in five minutes if you'll hold off that long."
Express your anger appropriately. My mother used to say, "I'm so mad, I could chew nails and spit tacks." When you get to that point, it's time to let your anger out. To avoid undermining yourself, state your anger rather than acting it out. Here's an example of a three part statement for owning your anger while respectfully putting responsibility for causing it right where it belongs: "When (you interrupt me), I (get angry), because (I want to make my points and give others a chance to respond)."
Don't give up. Get help. When you want something badly, enlist the best help you can find to prepare yourself to go after it, even it looks like a long shot. Winning athletes all have coaches. So should you. A good coach will help you increase your skills and your confidence.