Think of a commonplace scenario, on a typical workday. The usual corporate meeting. The boss is, as usual, inviting ideas for a new plan that could boost the company’s image — not directly, but subtly, for a change.
This is just enough to throw the creative doors ajar — and, for many of my colleagues to emerge with their ‘quickly-engineered’ ideas.
I am all ears. I think.
Some of the ideas, I understand, are quite good. But, most are not.
I sit motionless, dreading the thought of being caught ‘heavy-eyed’ when my turn to speak comes.
When it does, I ‘freeze,’ not because I do not have an idea — a good one at that — but, for the simple reason, I am just too worried to extend, or elaborate, on the given initiative.
Two thoughts simultaneously run through my mind in a flash. First, I do not want to look brainless if my idea was given the short-shrift; two, I do not want to take the thunder away from my more articulate colleagues, who are adept at ‘bouncing’ their ideas swiftly.
This, I now feel, was a terrible mistake — more so, because my boss ends up opting for an idea that wasn’t just good enough.
Put simply, I’ve lost yet another good professional opportunity — quite like it happened in the past. Why, I mull — although I may not be the most confident person around. Likewise, I am not a doormat.
I kick myself in disgust, saying, why I didn’t tell just what I wanted — maybe, not so articulately as some of my colleagues did, but at least in a manner that was understandable?
Perhaps you’d agree that the illustration cited could be something similar to what you’d have gone through yourself. It happens with many of us — sort of — for one reason, or the other.
Maybe we need to reprimand, if not blame ourselves, for it. Right? Wrong. Because, as one wise man once said, “Assertiveness is not what you do; it’s who you are?”
Either way, the big question is — how do you assert yourself, or develop the element?
You should first learn to say ‘No,’ like you did as a kid. An easy expression, which became formidable to use, as you grew up. Next, you need to stay true to what you believe in — with assured self-confidence. Not that being assertive is ‘easy-come’ and ‘easy-go’ too. You’d need to cultivate it, step-by-step, like any other attribute in life. You need to grow and evolve on the foundation of assertiveness for and of yourself. It’s, doubtless, never too late to begin.
How do you go about it? Think of assertiveness as the capacity to express yourself, because you feel confident about your choice. This you need to nurture and express without feeling apprehensive, insecure, or big-headed.
Assertiveness, ironically, is sometimes the wobbly chasm between being a bully and being a timid individual. You sure would think that the ‘divide’ as a thin dividing line. Fair enough. You need to, in so doing, think of the prospect in the Zen manner — to take the middle path as you, perforce, do in all walks of life. No problem, if your friends and others do not agree with your thoughts, opinions, or beliefs. This, they will do — anyway. But — remember, you’ll emerge with your head held high and respected. When this happens, you are more likely to cut through and complete your tasks with more positive and better results.
So, there you are. You have pleased yourself while pleasing others by being assertive — and, not by being hesitant, or arrogant.
You may sure now ask — if assertiveness helps us to be more productive than being belligerent or passive, why are most people not assertive?
The reason is simple — most people think of being assertive as being aggressive. This may also be one big reason why most people don’t want to sound, or come off, as ‘aggressive’ or ‘bossy.’ Besides, we have also cultivated ourselves to being people-pleasers, no more, no less, by putting the needs of others before our own.
The best thing to do is to make assertiveness a choice. Not the ‘end-all’ of things. Remember — when you choose to be too forceful or too submissive, you’re placing yourself at risk to feel annoyed, maneuvered, disturbed, and offended. It is precisely for this reason that behavioral experts say that being not assertive is detrimental to good parenting and upbringing.
This is not all. You also need confidence to be assertive. Well, if you are not self-confident, what would you do? You cannot buy assertiveness off-the-shelf. But, there is something you can do — it is simple, also profound. Just ‘kick-start’ your own assertive aspiration-cultivation plan with the following supportive tips in mind:
Think and focus on a purpose for being assertive. No point being assertive for a cause that is, for example, confined to your attire
Give adequate thought to your body language and facial expression
Face and look at the person directly in their eyes, without any presentiment
Avoid, or give up, gestures or expressions like an indifferent smile and nod. Instead, make statements about how you really feel, or believe. Make actual statements, not statements based on opinion. Remember — you’d need to back them up when required
Choose your words carefully — not haphazardly. Use, for example, “Would you please…” instead of “Would you mind…”
Try to use and talk in first-person narrative. Take control of your thoughts. This will make your messages or ideas sound more effective and genuine
Don’t be selective in your assertive ‘gear.’ You need to employ where it is needed — not where it is not
Seek clarification, as and when needed — this will help your confidence and drive you to make better choices or decisions
Do not be a face or mind reader with every person you meet, or talk to. Not everyone can possibly reason, or think, what you feel or state. You need to be more clear and ‘assertive’ by speaking up — not by being closed, or aloof
Bear in mind, that it’s one thing to think about the possible outcome of your words, or actions. It is quite another to let improbable prospects or vigorous imagination stop you from being practical, or upbeat.
Remember — that by being more self-confident you will have more happiness, a better image of yourself, more positive results in your life, career, and also relationships. This will, in turn, assist you to be more self-assured and assertive, without self-doubt.
So, what are you waiting for? Assert yourself, right now!