Hey, I’m Jenna and I’m a people pleaser. Sometimes that’s great, sometimes it isn’t. If collaboration with other staff members is one of your goals this year, you need to be one-half people pleaser, one-half assertive boss.
Sometimes it is really hard to be assertive. If you’re more worried about another person’s feelings than your own, you might be manipulated into saying YES, when you just don’t have time. Saying “no” is sometimes hard, especially if the person just keeps asking. One of the ways I get better at being assertive, is to write out my thoughts before I meet with someone. I write an email I never send. This helps me organize my thoughts. I write whatever I want, then edit it and take out the emotional statements and just leave the facts.
Assertiveness is the ability to honestly express your opinions, feelings, attitudes, and rights, without undue anxiety, in a way that doesn’t infringe on the rights of others. It’s not aggressiveness, it’s a middle ground between being a bully and a doormat. (source)
One of the books for a class I read this summer, The Relaxation & Stress Reduction Workbook, focused on strategies when another person is manipulating you. I said “manipulating you” but it also works for people who don’t realize they are pressuring you. I wanted to summarize some of those strategies here. If you’re working in collaboration with other staff members this year, utilize these strategies to be assertive.
When a staff member refuses to accept your answer to a statement, utilize one of these strategies:
Broken Record: Choose a concise sentence to say repeatedly. “No, I do not have time to be on the committee. No, I do not have time.” Repeat x 10. Make your statement strong. Take out “maybe, right now, and might”.
Content-to-process shift: Shift the focus away from what is going on between the two of you. “we seem to be off topic.” “I realize I’m doing all the talking. I get the impression you don’t feel comfortable talking to me about this right now. And I correct.” “We’re talking about old issues now.”
Defusing: Ignore the anger and statements until he/she calms down. “I can see you’re really upset right now. Let’s discuss this later this afternoon.”
Assertive Delay: Put off a response to a challenging statement until you’re calm and informed. “Yes, interesting point, I need more time to think about that issue.”
Assertive Agreement: Acknowledge the criticism you agree with. “You’re right. I did miss the deadline.” Don’t feel like you have to give an excuse.
Clouding: When someone puts you down as a person, acknowledge something in the criticism you agree with and ignore the rest. Rephrase the statement so that you can honestly concur. By giving the appearance of agreeing without promising to change, you soon deplete the critic of any reason to criticize you. “You’re always late with the report” –> “You’re right that I was late with the report this time.”
Laugh it off: If someone deflects with humor (“Only 5 days late? I’ve got work on being less punctual!”), use a content-to-process shift and be a broken record. “Those jokes are getting us off topic. You turned in your report late again.”
The Why Guy: When you give an assertive statement and it’s blocked with many WHY questions (“Why do you feel that way?” “Why did you change your mind?” ) the best response is to shift back to the main topic. (“Why isn’t the point. The issue is that I’m not willing to lead that group this year.”)
Threats: If someone threatens you, use an assertive inquiry. “If you keep pushing this issue you’re going to have to plan the event yourself.” “What is it about my request that bothers you so much?” You can also shift the focus again, “This seems to be a threat.”
Denial: If you are told “I didn’t do that.”, or “You misunderstood my intention.”, assert what you have observed and experienced. “It may seem that way to you, but I’ve observed …”
Being assertive can be hard, especially if you would rather be miserable than to say “no” to anyone. So be brave my friends!
2008, Davis, Eshelman, McKay. The Relaxation & Stress Reduction Workbook, 6th Edition.
P.S. This is a topic I need to come back to often and get a pep-talk. If you’re the same way, Pin It to your Pinterest Board using the image below!
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