There are only four major behavioural types. And only one of these is any use.
The four types are…
The useful one is assertiveness, of course. This is because you stand not a snowball’s chance in hell of developing self-confidence unless you are assertive.
Assertiveness is the ability to remain calm but firm under pressure.
Here are a few questions for you –
- Do you get upset very quickly when others question your views?
- Do you avoid difficult conversations?
- Do you say things you immediately regret?
- Do you agree with people when you’d really don’t at all?
- Do you feel you have fragile self-esteem?
If you would answer “yes” to any of these questions on any kind of a regular basis, then that’s indicative of your assertiveness skills being a bit rubbish really. This is not good for you and merits a wee bit of remedial action.
Whatever could the matter be?
Are you passive?
When you behave passively you tend to just let stuff happen. You usually don’t speak up when you don’t agree and even when you do speak up you are deferential and back down far too easily.
Being easy-going is one thing. Being passive is being a doormat.
Are you aggressive?
This is Mr Shouty. He’s rude, makes threats and uses bullying. The occasionally aggressive person may be the passive person who has blown a fuse.
Are you assertive?
What characterises this saint-like behaviour? Well, usually it’s –
- An ability to remain calm (relatively!) and
- An ability to stand your ground.
You are happy to listen to others as they do not intimidate you. You can be changed by a good argument but if not you will say so and hold firm. You may compromise and you will keep bashing away at the issue until a satisfactory outcome is reached.
Are You Passive Aggressive?
I HATE this one. It’s the silent treatment. The you’ve-got-to-guess-what’s-wrong-with-me game. The use of silence or sulking or being deliberately obstructive are all signs of the passive-aggressive.
More subtle is the “poor me” routine. “I’m the only one who does anything around here…” and similar.
The tactic here is for the passive aggressive to get their own way by making you feel guilty. No chance.
So, how to be more assertive?
No 1…Right Think.
Get your thinking right. Someone who works for you storm into your office, bitches about someone else in your team and asks you to go “and sort them out”. You can be upset by your staff member confusing you with their Mum or you can say to yourself – “this person is clearly upset herself. I’ll try to understand why this is and from there I can try to work out what, if anything, either of us should do.”
No 2…Right Emotions.
Get your emotions right. Having got your thinking right, the right emotions flow easily. Instead of feeling angry, or challenged, or burdened by your staffer, you feel OK. OK’s fine in this situation. You are unruffled.
No 3…Right Behaviour.
Get your behaviour right. Now that your emotions are correct, you will do the right things. You are assertive. You listen, you acknowledge your colleagues concerns and you focus on finding a solution with them. (Assuming this isn’t a “no-solution-required” conversation, but that’s another blog post).
No 4…Right Outcome.
Get the right outcome. You agree a way forward with your team member. Relations are maintained and self-esteem is intact. (OK – this might not happen, but that doesn’t mean assertiveness is a flawed strategy. Not everyone is rational all of the time and it takes two to tango).
Here’s an exercise for you (no sulking)…
You know that difficult conversation you’ve been putting of for weeks (passive) because when you bring it up things degenerate into a shouting match (aggressive) and then the huffy/sulky thing (passive-aggressive)…? Well, get your assertive thinking cap on (as per the above example). This will lead to an emotionally neutral state instead of something worse. Then, sit down with the person and have the assertive conversation you need to have.
You may get an agreed solution. And even if you don’t, that’s OK. You tried. You will feel better because you have opened a door to self-development and in the long run you will get the desired result more often than not.
There’s no gene for assertiveness. It’s a mindset issue and it takes practice.