On being assertive

Confidence is often associated with assertive behaviour. Stating clearly what we want and how we feel about a given situation. Listening to how other people may see that situation and reaching an appropriate agreement with them.  Unfortunately many assertiveness skills books/courses encourage participants to act assertively rather than be assertive.

At the heart of acting assertively, is imagining oneself as assertive and taking on the speech, tonality and body language of the ‘ideal’ assertive person. Much like an actor would take on the part of a character. However, it invariably leads people to see themselves as being inauthentic and even a fraud.

More importantly, what acting assertively ignores is what Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Professor of Business at Harvard Business School, argues is essential to having confidence. Namely, the ability to make an honest and thorough assessment of a situation and the courage to accept responsibility for dealing with it. Consequently, the first step to being assertive is to be clear on what we know/ don’t know and need to know to about a particular situation. The second step is being clear about the outcomes we are working towards and the different ways in which they can be achieved. The third step is to share what we want to happen and reach an appropriate agreement with the other person.