Being more assertive


How often do you wish you'd spoken up about something you believed in or something you didn't like, then the moment passes, or the situation happens again and we feel we have to accept it because we didn't speak up the first time, or we just don't know where to start.

Last week as part of our Professional Development training we ran a Webinar for the Educators and Teachers from the PLS member Early Learning Centres and Primary Schools, which was all about self-leadership and leadership of others and how we build our skills in both.

And one of the important key concepts we explored in this teacher professional development experience, which relates to all of us, is assertiveness.

Speaking up when it matters to share our opinion or feelings about a topic builds our feelings of confidence, and builds our self-leadership skills, which in turn provides a role model to others.

Consider this scenario:

You've been working at the same place for years, and you generally get along well with others. Lately you've been hearing some of your colleagues making some really unkind comments about the new boss. You've heard the term 'old bag', and heard them speaking poorly about this person's choice of clothes and car.

You think this is terrible.

Up until now you've tried to avoid them or sometimes you pretend you haven't heard. Today they try and get you involved in the conversation at lunch again.

What do you do?

You could:

A) Just smile as the others talk. ‘As long as I don't say anything I’m not agreeing’ you say to yourself.

B) You make an excuse to have lunch on your own again. 'Not my circus, not my monkeys' you think.

C) You've had enough. You've listened to this too many times. When your colleague makes another disrespectful comment, you erupt, 'You're all a bunch of children. Stop being so bitchy and get over yourselves!!'

Are any of these approaches assertive?

A business consultant I used to work with many years ago said 'Silence is passionate agreement!' which encouraged me to start speaking up in meetings if I had an opinion different to the one being presented. So that cuts out option A.

And avoiding the issue sometimes only prolongs it or you can then be seen as someone who looks like you aren't a team player.

If you bust out with an emotional outburst after never saying anything before about a problem, chances are your colleagues will just think you're having a bad day, or the problem could get worse. That's more passive-aggressive.

So what do you say? How can you be more assertive? These tips might help:

Talk about how you feel.

Using the sentence structure 'When ............, I feel........' keeps the focus of the conversation on how you feel, and no one can argue with your feelings because they're yours. Alternatively, if you say, 'When you gossip, I think you're being mean', others can start to argue about any labels you've chosen. If you say' When you talk (about people) like this, I feel uncomfortable', that's simply a statement of how you feel and is less likely to encourage a disagreement.