“Work From Home” seems to be the new mantra today. The number of professionals who telecommute or work from home is increasing by leaps and bounds. This arrangement certainly has advantages for both the employee and the employer or more commonly for the independent self-employed professional. Way back in 2008, I had this post “It Takes Two To Flex”. Continue reading
My heart warms when I hear stories of people who have made it big by following their natural talents and passion. Here’s one in the New York Times by Amy Wallace, I am sure you will like: It’s the story of 40 year old Cesar Millan- the Los Angeles based “Dog Whisperer”. Millan, an immigrant from Mexico, has over the years become an indispensable trainer and coach to the dogs of America’s rich and famous.
Many clamoring for success in the competitive world- where resources are scarce and chased by too many- wish they could be more self-assured, self-confident and well, simply more assertive. Typical statements one hears include:
- “I wish I had voiced my idea earlier. Some one else has got the credit”.
- “I could have done a better job but I let it pass”
- ” I am helping so many others my work doesn’t get completed”
- “I want to say “No” but don’t know how”.
Assertiveness is defined as aggressive self-assurance and the ability to make bold assertions. Impressions of you are created- not by what you think, but by what you say and what you do. This includes other’s perception of how assertive or not you are in their eyes.
Scanning the develoment needs of managers in different companies in India, one finds almost a common theme. Many have “assertiveness” as an improvement area.
Assertive style of behavior is to interact with people while standing up for your rights. Being assertive is to one’s benefit most of the time but it does not mean that one always gets what he/she wants. The result of being assertive is that 1) you feel good about yourself 2) other people know how to deal with you and there is nothing vague about dealing with you.
Here are a few points to develop assertiveness:
- You are what you are, physical and intellectual capabilities can seldom be changed. You have to manage as best as you can with what you have.
- You have to decide what ‘s best for you. If you don’t decide, others will decide for you.
- You have to become assertive yourself. No one else can do it for you.
- You stand to gain by changing as soon as possible. The later you wish to change, the more difficult it is to change.
- You must constantly practice being assertive. Any skill is lost without practice.
- You must make the effort to be assertive. It does not happen automatically.
As the old saying goes:” The more you do of what you do, the more you’ll get of what you have got”
A word of caution though. Change should be gradual. Many people who have been told that they are unassertive come out snarling like tigers! Incorporate changed behaviours gradually, until you become comfortable in using them.
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My post today in the A Step A Day series was titled: Not saying “No” means “Yes”.
By co-incidence, a few hours later, I came across this article in the Washington Post which I found quite interesting. Laura Sessions Stepp asks “ Why is it hard for adults to say No?“.
A few things caught my attention: “In order to say yes to what’s truly important, you first need to say no to other things,” says William Ury, a social anthropologist by training and a professional negotiator based at Harvard Law School.
Ury who wrote ” The Power of a Positive No” this year says the significance of saying no is a recent epiphany for him. “It’s the defining challenge of our age.” he says.
Secondly, the actual word “no” — as well as “yes” — starts appearing when a child is about 18 months old, as signaling between parents and children becomes more complex.
Third, by age 15 or 16, young people possess virtually all the cognitive abilities to make good decisions that adults have, according to Baruch Fischhoff, a professor of social and decision sciences at Carnegie Mellon University.
Like adults, they must know 3 things to use those skills well:
- what they really want as opposed to, say, what their friends want
- what their options are
- what will happen if they choose one option over another.
Looks like these skills are best learnt during childhood. Can they be learnt later in life? I am sure they can but it would take that much more effort and time to master.
When I started “A Step A Day” I wanted to enhance the effectiveness of the series by using anecdotes and real life examples. This, to me, is the best way to illustrate principles. However, here’s a disclaimer! While the incidents are based on real life experiences the names used in them are chosen at random and are fictitious!!
Kishore looked at his watch. It was 6.30 p.m. He had promised his fiancee that he would take her out today as it was her birthday. Just as he was logging off, his boss came by. “Hi, Kishore ” he said ” I want this report analysed. We need the analysis for tomorrow’s management meeting. Finish it by 8.00 will you. There’s a good chap”.
Kishore just stood there with hundreds of thoughts racing in his mind. Amongst many others, these thoughts flashed by:
- This is unfair. Today is one day I simply have to go on time.
- Why should it me all the time? Can’t some one else do this for a change?
- Sheela will be terribly disappointed. I have promised her a big treat.
Sadly, these remained thoughts and were not vocalised into words. “Thanks” said his boss and walked off, looking for one more guy to analyze one more report.
Kishore had walked into a situation that we come across almost every day. Irrespective of the intensity of our thoughts and however valid they might be, our feelings can seldom be understood by others if they are not put into words. The human brain is the most efficient computer God ever made. It has tremendous capacity to process data. Our speed of thought is around 400-500 words per minute. Our speed of speech is around 125 words per minute.
Often we are at a loss to put across what’s in our mind. We may disagree with what the other person says. Thinking about that disagreement is not enough. However much we may curse inwardly what matters is what we finally say. If we don’t say what’s in our mind and instead maintain a silence, the other person is quite likely to take the silence as agreement.
Assume our friend, Kishore does not do the work that evening. Assume he plucks up the courage to tell his boss.” But I didn’t say “yes” or agree to do the task”. His boss is likely to point out ” I do not remember your saying “No” either.”
You can, I am sure, relate to this with many more examples from your own life. It happens at work as it does at home. It is far better to be assertive and state what’s in our mind.
In business and indeed in all walks of life, not saying ” No” means ” Yes” !
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