Dr Gary Wood from Unlock Your Confidence
Non-assertive people let things happen to them without saying anything or making their feelings known. Some people may even describe themselves as ‘doormats’. They know it’s happening, don’t particularly like it, but often feel powerless to do anything about it, except ‘beat themselves up’. So what’s the alternative? Well, for many people the difficulty lies in working out the difference between assertive and aggressive, especially as the words are often used interchangeably. There’s a fine line between the two, between being reasonable but forceful, and being overbearing.
But if you lack assertiveness, you’ll be disadvantaged in many situations in life, both at work and in everyday life.
So, how assertive are you? Try this quick quiz and find out!
On a scale of 0–10 rate the following statements, where 0 equals ‘totally disagree, not at all like me’ and 10 equals ‘totally agree, exactly like me’. You are free to use any point on the scale.
1. I say no without apology if people make unreasonable demands of me.
2. I express my opinions, even if others disagree with me.
3. I find it easy to ask friends for small favours.
4. I prefer to ‘nip’ problems in the bud rather than let them escalate.
5. When I think a person is being unfair I draw his/her attention to it.
For the remaining questions, the scale is reversed: 0 equals ‘totally agree, exactly like me’ and 10 equals ‘totally disagree, not at all like me.
6. I often feel intimidated by opinionated people.
7. I often end up saying ‘yes’ when I really want to say ‘no’.
8. I show my anger by swearing at people or belittling them if I think they need it.
9. I sulk or give people ‘the silent treatment’ to make a point or get my own way.
10. I tend to let others walk over me and treat me like a doormat.
Now total up your score…
As a general guide, as the items in the quiz are self-explanatory:
• 0–40 indicates low assertiveness.
• 41–60 indicates moderate assertiveness.
• 61–100 indicates high assertiveness.
Now, if you have a low score on question 8 it indicates a tendency for aggressive behaviour.
Aggression is not an extension of assertiveness. It’s a mask. Assertive-ness is firm and up-front but calm, relaxed, open and honest. Assertiveness is about believing that everyone has a right to express themselves honestly and make their feelings known. Aggression values none of this. Aggression is overbearing, threatening, demanding and often belittling. Aggression is about pushing for what you want with very little regard for the wants, needs and feelings of other people. If we measure confidence by relaxation and creating an environment where others flourish, only true assertiveness meets those criteria.
Being assertive doesn’t necessarily mean that you always get your own way. It means being able to speak up and put your case and yet recognize the right of others to hold different opinions. Aggressive behaviour gives rise to a culture of aggression, bullying and a lack of respect. Assertiveness builds a culture of respect where people feel comfortable speaking their minds and encourage other people to speak theirs.
Personal Experiments in Assertiveness
So, if you’re lacking assertivess, try this exercise. You might be scared at first, but embrace this fear and give it a go – you might even have fun!
Throughout Unlock Your Confidence there are repeated calls to build confidence in continuous, small but significant steps, assessing the feedback as you go, and building on it. This includes seizing small opportunities to pass on confidence to others. Here are some personal experiments.
Conversations with Strangers
One of the easiest ways to develop social skills, become more assertive and develop confidence is to strike up con-ver-sations. You can begin practising with friends before transferring these skills to the relative safety of the super-market. If Hollywood films are to be believed, there’s a lot of flirting done over the fruit and vege-tables. If this seems too bold, then simply ask an assistant or another shopper for directions to a particular aisle. Ask people for their opinions of products. If you see someone taking something off the shelf that you haven’t tried before then ask them about it. Queueing offers another opportunity to strike up conversations.
A while ago I realized that I’ve been passing the same shop a few times a week for about a year and not once have I said ‘good morning’ to the shopkeeper, who usually stands in his doorway. So I set myself the small goal of greeting him each time I passed. I now stop for the occasional chat and a laugh. So are there any people you pass by whom you could smile at and say good morning to?
Visit a car-boot sale and haggle over prices. Ask if that’s the best price. Half the price and then ask ‘How close can you get to that?’ Remember it’s only a bit of fun so don’t take it to heart. Similarly don’t get carried away and come home with a load of old tat. Of course, you may also want to try selling stuff at a car-boot sale to become experienced in being on the receiving end of the haggling.
Are you confident talking to others? How about negotiating deals? Or even saying no? The benefits of being confident and assertive massive, and Dr Gary Wood’s techniques means you can be more confident without being aggressive.
Unlock Your Confidence by Dr Gary Wood
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