Assertiveness Skills Training Tips

Assertiveness Training

A practical approach Saying No. Here we look at managing the difficult feelings that go along with assertiveness issues, rather than wishing they could be made to go away.

Managing feelings around Assertiveness

Am I A Lost Cause Then?

Good question.

A lot of unassertive people get caught up in a cycle of behaviour: being over-accommodating, building up resentments, exploding into aggression (the aggression, by the way, may be internal as well as or instead of external), going back to compliance, and then the whole thing starts all over again.

Looked at from that point of view it's not about assertiveness, it's about extremes, isn't it? Compliant and passive at one end of the spectrum, aggressive and attacking at the other!

When you behave primarily at the two ends of this spectrum, you've left out a whole lot of alternative assertive behaviour in the middle that could suit your personality, resolve some tricky issues, and make your life a whole lot easier

So, no, you're not a lost cause!

What you may have to do is reframe your idea of assertiveness and look at how to operate in the middle bit of the spectrum to get better, more effective results.

Managing Strong Feelings

It needs to be acknowledged that the strong feelings associated with changing behaviour are real and valid. Once people do that, then these (usually difficult) feelings can be looked upon as a good thing, a sign that something new is happening. At this point people can start to 'choose' to have these feelings rather than having to endure them or trying to pretend they are not happening.

The idea of choice is very important. If people feel they have real choice about how they behave, they start to realise that it can be OK to put up with something they don't like. They can choose it because they want to; it is to their advantage. They then avoid the disempowering tyranny of always having to assert themselves. (Which is almost as bad as feeling you always have to be compliant or nice.)

Many people think that in order to be assertive, you need to ignore what you are feeling and just 'stand your ground'. In fact, you ignore those feelings at your peril.

Often the magnitude of peoples' feelings is way out of proportion to what the situation warrants. They may well reflect a previous difficult event more accurately. But because that previous difficulty was so difficult, it feels as though every similar situation will be the same.

It is only by beginning to experience and understand how crippling these feelings can be that people can start to work on assertiveness and begin changing their behaviour. Many people know what they could say; they know what they could do. Most 'unassertive' people have conversations in their heads about how to resolve a conflict they're in; but still, their mouths say 'yes', while their heads say 'no'. Knowing what to do or say is not the issue here.

Therefore, in looking at practising 'the art of saying no', it is wise to broaden the assertiveness brief so that it isn't about becoming more assertive; rather it's about changing your behaviour to fit the circumstances.

While in many circumstances assertiveness can be a straight jacket of it's own (often creating resistance and resentment), the full lexicon of behaviour can be freeing, because there is choice in the matter. Using charm, humour, telling the truth or even deliberate manipulation, may well get you what you want without having to attempt assertive behaviour that may go against your personality.

If you add a dash of fun or mischief, The Art of Saying No becomes assertiveness as a doable prospect, rather than another difficult mountain to climb.

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If you want some in-depth thoughts about Assertiveness, read the article called
Is Assertiveness the Only Way


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