How to be more assertive

How are you at being assertive? I asked that question in a group training session recently and was met with silence and a sea of blank faces.

The group didn’t really know what being assertive actually meant. ‘Being assertive means putting your needs in front of others doesn’t it? It means getting your own way regardless of anyone else?’

Actually, being assertive is not about getting ahead whilst others don’t get what they need. Being assertive is about knowing yourself, and knowing what you want, and feeling confident enough to state it, and remembering that others have the right to refuse your request, or challenge what you’ve requested, without you thinking that it’s an attack on you as a person.

When a conversation occurs between two people who both feel able to say what they want, but are open to negotiation and can keep it from feeling like a personal attack amazing things can happen.

I was doing a bit of operations and marketing work for a friend and after about a year we had a very courageous, assertive conversation about our needs and wants. I wanted to focus solely on Bird, she wanted someone who had more marketing experience. We had the conversation, we parted, I’m working fully on Bird, she has a great new member of the team. We have an even stronger relationship because of that conversation. It was scary, sure, we were both battling the cultural gremlins that suggested we might hurt each others feelings, but luckily we both had clear ideas about what we wanted and we were able to find a creative solution.

Culturally we operate within a passive, or subservient narrative, we queue, we wait our turn, we say sorry when other people bump into us. That narrative is something that runs deep, and so when we challenge it, and say what we really want, it’s like we’re challenging the system, and challenging the system can be very scary.

But the pay offs, if you do as Susan Jeffers explains and ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’ are way bigger than maintaining the status quo. When you say what you want you actually end up building stronger relationships with those you are expressing your wishes to, you often actually get what you want whilst inspiring the other person to say what they want, and hey presto you both get what you want!

Being assertive can end up being win win for everyone, it’s just about pushing through the cultural barriers, and ignoring inner gremlin voices that suggest ‘I’m so rude in asking for this’ ‘I might upset the other person if I say this’ ‘now isn’t a good time to talk about this’ etc.

It is courageous, inspiring and creative to be assertive. It is an act of leadership to be assertive. The world becomes a clearer and more progressive place when we are more assertive. So I dare you, to head out into the world today, and bring more assertiveness into your life.

Sending love, Hannah

We now have our venue for the Bird Retreat – it will be taking place at Knockerdown cottages in Derbyshire. Click here to book your ticket. 

*Image by Rodien Kutasaev

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