This will be an occasional series on the skills that you can learn and practice in order to achieve more success. A bit like a lottery ticket, victory isn’t guaranteed, but without it you can’t complain if you don’t win!
Successful people have certain habits in common, and these are all learnable skills rather than fixed inherited characteristics. Let’s look at what you can do to make yourself more successful at work:
Skill number 3: Assertiveness
OK so you’re organised – you’ve got control of your own world – the next step is to get the best from your dealings with other people. And the foundation of this is assertiveness – dealing with others on an equal footing, not too passive but not too aggressive either. This can be difficult because other people vary so much, and many can be passive or aggressive, or a mixture of both! Also, the animal side of us, our adrenaline system, encourages fight or flight and these are not usually conducive for success!
So the skill to practice is to control your emotions and calmly ask for your what you want, and to calmly express your emotions. To calmly say “It makes me angry when you..” is much more powerful than just getting angry. OK it might not have the instant impact, but you are in control, the other person is more likely to be helpful, you are better able to discuss options, and more likely to be able to agree a solution that is useful for you. Therefore the process is to calmly say how you feel and then calmly ask for what you want to be different. Which means you have to have thought about what you DO want, before the assertive conversation. Saying you’re not happy isn’t enough on its own.
Don’t let guilt stop you from doing what you believe is right. Other people might not be entirely happy, but you can’t please everyone all the time. If you believe in what you are doing then guilt shouldn’t be a problem, but if it still is then tell yourself that guilt doesn’t change the situation or your behaviour, only doing something different will change that. Successful people don’t sit around feeling guilty, they take action to improve the situation. Worry is the same – only action can cure worry.
Being assertive can be difficult if you are taken by surprise by someone, or if you’re not very practised at finding the right words to say. But remember that it’s never too late to go back – you can think about what happened, prepare your statement, and then go back to them with something like “I’ve been thinking about what you said / did earlier, and I’m not happy about it. I know you were upset, but still, what you said / did was unwarranted, and maybe next time (or even this time?) you could do X instead; what do you think?”. In your own words of course. But the format “I understand, I feel, I want, Will you do that?” is a great format for this kind of statement. You don’t have to ever let someone off the hook, just because the moment appears to have passed.
Coming soon…. skill 4!