5 Practical Ways to be Assertive in a Challenging Situation

  1. Stay calm. Easier said than done you might think. Yes it is. But think to when you last encountered an angry shouting person. How well did you hear the content of their message? Or do you mainly remember their raised high-pitched voice, flailing arms and red sweating face? So to communicate your side of the story more effectively stay calm. Try the following:
    • Count to 10, with deep breaths in between
    • Inject humour into the situation…if the other person is being stubborn, image a donkey in their place with long fluffy ears and a purple ribbon on its tail. Try being angry now…
    • Imagine yourself rising above the conflict and looking at it from a bird’s point of view. How different does it look and feel from up there?
    • Put it into perspective…how will I feel about this situation in 1 hour, 1 day, 1 month, 1 year, 5 years…How much will it matter then?
    • Think of something or someone that makes you happy and relaxed. For me, it’s the limitless ocean and sunflowers…
  2. Research your rights and be persistent. State the facts, your rights and what outcome you want from the situation. Do not get sucked into an emotional argument. Do not accept solutions that do not work for you. Just keep repeating your message over and over until the issue gets resolved.
  3. Remember that someone’s criticism is just their opinion. Stay calm (see tip 1 above). Do a quick reality check on whether the criticism is well meant by the person giving it and is justified. How can the criticism be useful to you? What can you learn from it – about yourself or the person giving criticism? Remember that you are the expert in your world. Others can only judge you to the extent of their own expertise, experiences and abilities. What qualifies them to criticise you? Consider using the following:
    • “Thank you for your feedback. What specifically could be improved?”
    • “What is your evidence for this?”
    • “What is your intention for highlighting this?”
    • “Thank you for your opinion. I do not agree with it.”
  4. Practise saying “No”. How often do you agree to do things for others that you would rather not? Or accept solutions that do not address your needs just because you don’t want to inconvenience someone else? How does that make you feel? The key is to start small.
  5. Explain your needs, wishes and feelings. Sometimes when something is obvious to you it may be so to others. If others do not know what you need, want or feel they will find it harder to be considerate. Picking the right moment, staying calm and taking a non-blaming line will help here.

How will you be more assertive today?

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