Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Assertiveness - the nice factor

The key to really good Assertiveness Training.

We’ve been running assertiveness courses for over twenty years, only we didn’t used to call it Assertiveness Training. We called it The Nice Factor, about being too nice for your own good.

That’s because way back then, assertiveness training had a bit of a bad reputation. It was all about standing up for yourself, being a broken record saying the same thing over and over and our favourite, “Just say no.”

As we heard many times on our courses, “If I could ‘just say no’ then I’d say it. But I can’t.”

And that’s what separates our Assertiveness training from so many others. We don’t ask people to fundamentally change who they are; indeed we don’t ask people to change much of anything. Yet we still get results.

That’s because our take on Assertiveness is that you have to work with what people already do, using the natural bent of their personalities. You don’t have to take people out of their comfort zones; you have to make their comfort zones bigger.

It’s really tough when you’re unassertive. People consciously or unconsciously take advantage, you often feel hard done by, you feel you have no options but to keep behaving as you always have. “It’s just the way I am,” people will say as the reason for their unassertive behaviour.

We all adapt our behaviour in certain situations; unassertive people adapt their behaviour more than most: they say yes when they want to say no; they give in under even the mildest of pressure, they act as though everything is fine on the outside while seething on the inside. All of this leads to a build-up of pressure and often the slightest distress will send them over the edge so they explode outwardly or implode inwardly.

See – it’s not fun being unassertiveness.

On the flip side, our experience over the years has shown that unassertive people are often considerate, attentive, respectful, intelligent and really nice in the best sense of the word. They know what’s happening to them but they don’t feel able to change it.

Being assertive



The key to really good Assertiveness Training is to take those two extremes (getting taken advantage, giving in, etc. VS. being thoughtful, caring, etc.) and make them work together.

Here’s an example. 
Let’s say you’re someone who says “I’m sorry” a lot. People who apologise a lot generally are pushovers; other people sense those weak points and pounce so they can get their own way. That’s why you end up staying late, doing the extra school run, changing your plans to suit someone else’s agenda.

Instead of trying to find the courage to “just say no” and stand your ground, we’d recommend doing more of what you already do: apologise. But this time, we’d suggest over-apologising. “I really wish I could stay late. I’m so sorry I won’t be able to tonight.  What a shame you didn’t let me know earlier. I’m really so sorry.”

At no time have you presented yourself as difficult, obstructive or unwilling. You’re still being your lovely self, only this time through over-apologising, you haven’t given in.

It might feel quite odd at the beginning; odd but not necessarily bad. This is what we mean about making your comfort zone bigger. You’re doing something you already know how to do – you don’t have to learn a new skill – you’re simply turning up the volume, as it were, on behaviour that’s familiar.

We also recommend that you practise as much as possible so that this new way of behaving becomes second nature. When you ‘revert to type’ as you inevitably will do, you have a new ‘type’ to ‘revert’ to.

This is just one simple exercise that helps you change your behaviour slightly in order to achieve a different outcome rather than asking you to take on a whole new personality.



On our Assertiveness Training courses we have numerous uncomplicated processes like that one to build confidence, make life easier, help you feel more in charge of what happens to you and supports who you are.

Find our next Assertiveness Training Course - this one-day open course explores issues around assertiveness. 

We also offer a two day Assertiveness Skills Course - designed to help people recognise the patterns of thought and behaviour they have acquired which leave them feeling disempowered. 

By Jo Ellen



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