Standing up for yourself is an art form. If you are too forward you may come off aggressive. But then if you’re too timid, it’s less likely you’ll be taken seriously.
Psychologist Adam Galinsky says in a blog post on TED that how we act depends on our personal range of acceptable behaviour.
When we step outside this range, we associate it with punishment. For example, being dismissed, or shut out by whoever you’re talking to, or even losing the raise you were working towards at work.
Being assertive is a key part of being successful. Nobody gets to where they want to be by letting people walk all over them. However, there are right ways and wrong ways of going about it.
We’ve come up with a list of seven tips from Galinsky, and other sources, to help you be confident and assertive at work. It might just help you out if you’re trying to negotiate a tough situation or you feel someone might be trying to take advantage of you.
Galinsky says your range of behaviour isn't fixed, it's dynamic. However, the amount you can stretch your range is determined by how much power you have. This comes in many forms, from your position in the company to the number of alternatives you have in any given situation.
Unfortunately, Galinsky says, the less power you have the more likely you will choose not to speak up, because the chances of punishment are greater. To tackle this, Galinsky says you need to find a way of expanding your power. A good way of doing this is by working out what gives you confidence.
'When you feel powerful, you feel confident and not fearful, and you can expand your own range,' he writes. 'When other people see you as powerful, they grant you a wider range. So we should find and use tools that help expand our range of acceptable behaviour.'
In a blog post on Psychology Today, Dr Leon F. Seltzer says that it's important to stand up to someone in a way that won't be damaging to yourself or anyone else.
Assertiveness is a good thing. It lets others know what you need, how you feel, and shows you have confidence and self-respect. You show the other person your needs matter, and that your point of view needs to be taken into account.
However, aggression isn't a good thing. People who are aggressive act like their opinion or needs are more important. This means it comes across like you have no interest in the other person at all. In turn, whoever you're up against will be similarly defensive and belligerent and you won't get anywhere.
If you feel yourself getting worked up, you might fall into the aggressive category.
'If you resolutely proclaim the righteousness of your position without attending to the other's wants, needs, and feelings, you'll be perceived as aggressive -- regardless of what may be your conscious intention simply to stand up for yourself,' Seltzer writes.
So keep in mind throughout the discussion what the other person wants to get from the situation. Seltzer recommends you consider where the other person is coming from by asking yourself what their thoughts and feelings might be.
Could you ask them what they want or can you work it out by putting yourself in their shoes? Remind yourself of this throughout the conversation, otherwise you could find yourself slipping.
One of the most important tools we have, Galinsky says, is this perspective-taking. If you put yourself in the other person's shoes, you might be able to figure out what they want. From this, you might be more likely to get what you want too.
Seeing yourself as the other person also helps you see them as a human being. Ultimately, as said by psychology professor at Brown University Dr Joachim I. Krueger in a blog post in Psychology Today, assertiveness means not shying away from confrontation. This is a lot easier when you stop putting your opponent on a pedestal and realise they have faults and needs too.
They found that although women tend to make less ambitious offers during negotiations and thus end up with worse outcomes than men, there was a situation where they ended up equal.
It was when they advocated for others, standing up for them and naturally becoming more assertive, like a mother bear defending her cubs. 'When we advocate for others, we can discover our own voice,' Galinsky writes.
Think about it -- if you were a salesperson, wouldn't you be more willing to talk to someone who was open about having a flexible budget? The same goes for people who are trying to negotiate or are having a debate at work.
In fact, Galinsky's research has shown that people are significantly less defensive when they're given several options, because it opens up the opportunity for a balance of needs. When someone has lower defences, they are more likely to listen to your reasoning, and will probably be more likely to accept what you're offering.
If you're open to seeing where the other person is coming from, you should expect that as a bare minimum in return. If they're being disrespectful, or not listening to you, they can make you feel like your perspective isn't valid. This isn't true.
'No-one has the authority to invalidate you,' says Seltzer. 'Unless you've been in flagrant denial about the facts of the situation, the prerogative to judge the validity of your thoughts and feelings belongs to you alone.'
If someone is being incredibly awful to you it could be a power play, according Dr Berit Brogaard. She explains in a blog post on Psychology Today that if the person is just a bully you should act confident, even when you don't feel it. This usually is enough to deter someone who's looking for a victim.
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