Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Challenge unassertive beliefs
Stress for Success
October 28, 2008

Being assertive lowers your stress partly because it enhances your self-esteem, especially within your most important relationships. If it’s sometimes difficult for you to act assertively, it’s because you have inhibiting beliefs. Uncover and challenge them and you’re more likely to successfully assert yourself.

Human behavior is driven by corresponding beliefs. For example, if I’m your supervisor and believe that people cannot be trusted, I’ll probably exhibit micromanaging behavior. The same goes for behaving assertively; assertive beliefs drive that behavior

No one is truly assertive all of the time. At times you may act aggressively or passively. No matter what your behavior, it's driven by your matching beliefs, such as:

Passive beliefs drive passive behavior:
* I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.
* I shouldn’t be bossy.
* It’s rude to say “no.”
* I shouldn’t disagree with authority figures.
* You’re more important than I.

Aggressive beliefs:
* I’m the boss!
* It’s my way or the highway.
* I’m more important than you.
* I know more.
* It’s important to win!

Assertive beliefs:
* I respect and value everyone.
* I work for inclusion, open communication and creative problem-solving.
* Everyone’s rights are as important to them as mine are to me.
* It’s better to set appropriate limits than to mislead people.
* I’m not responsible for others’ emotions.

To respond more assertively to challenging situations identify your underlying, hindering beliefs using "the repetitive why technique." Here’s how it works:
* Ask “why” you did something; then ask “why” again for each successive answer.
* E.g., I just agreed to do something by 3:00 but know I can’t get it done.
o Why did I just agree to do it when I know I don’t have the time?
ü Because he always helps me out.
o Why must I always repay someone even when I know I don’t have the time?
ü Because it wouldn't be nice not to.
o Why wouldn’t being honest be nice?
ü Because it might hurt his feelings.

In this example, the underlying beliefs of saying no isn’t nice and it may hurt someone's feelings are the beliefs that must be challenged.

One way to challenge them is to speak directly to the person about my fears and perhaps he'd dissuade me of them. Another way is to convince myself that if I promise to do something I know I can't deliver it’ll make me look bad and put him into a worse situation than had I been honest from the beginning.

To change repeatedly challenge your largely irrational beliefs with more rational ones. After each time you wanted to respond assertively but didn’t, identify the blocking beliefs and challenge them. Little by little you’ll loosen the grip of your unassertive beliefs. When you discover that the world doesn’t fall apart after you’ve asserted yourself you’ll develop more courage to stand up for yourself more frequently as time goes on. It’s such a freeing and powerful feeling and so worth the risks!

Jacquelyn Ferguson, M. S., of Inter Action Associates, is a trainer and a Stress Coach. E-mail her at www.jackieferguson.com with your questions or for information about her workshops on this and other topics and to invite her to speak to your organization.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Be more assertive to lower stress
Stress for Success
October 21, 2008

Without question, one of the best ways to lower stress in all areas of life is to become more assertive. But don’t confuse this with being more aggressive. There’s a significant difference.

The definitions I use for the four communication styles that exist along a continuum are:
* Passive: not standing up for yourself, or standing up for yourself so ineffectually that your rights are easily violated
* Aggressive: standing up for yourself in a way that violates the rights of others
* Passive-aggressive: the indirect expression of anger or frustration; it appears passive and non-hostile but you sabotage the other person
* Assertive: standing up for yourself in a way that respects the rights of others. You’re direct, honest and appropriate in expressing your feelings and opinions

Notice that these definitions depend upon whose rights are being honored. To be assertive you have to buy into the philosophy that other people's rights are just as important to them as yours are to you. When needs collide the assertive assumption is that you'll negotiate in a way that helps everyone get their most important needs met and their rights respected, which is easier said than done.

Respecting your own and everyone’s rights helps keep you assertive through difficult situations. Here’s a sampling of basic human rights. You have a right to:
* Express your own opinions and feelings
* Be treated with respect
* Refuse requests
* Have your own priorities
* Meet your needs
* Make your own decisions
* Be listened to and taken seriously
* Ask for what you want
* Not assert yourself
* Change
* Get what you pay for
* Make mistakes and be responsible for them
* Be successful
* Be left alone, etc.

When you behave passively you allow others' rights to be more important than your own. You cave in to them. If you're aggressive your energy goes into making sure you get what you want without concern about others getting what they need. Being passive-aggressive means you’re too indirect to assert your needs so communicate in a hidden way, like through sarcasm. Being assertive is standing up for your rights while respecting others'.

For every right there's a corresponding responsibility that we often forget in our rights-oriented society. For example, to be respected your responsibility is to act in respectable ways, which includes treating others with respect and honoring your word, etc.

Your choice of reactions -- from passive to assertive -- brings about different results. Identify your goal in a given situation and determine which of these four styles is most appropriate. Sometimes being passive may be your wisest choice. For example, someone speaks disrespectfully to you in a grocery line. Your goal is to avoid hassling and to remain calm so you ignore her (it’s an assertive choice to appear passive). This choice helps you accomplish your goal.

To become more assertive you need to challenge unassertive beliefs that drive your unassertive behavior; the topic for next week.

Jacquelyn Ferguson, M. S., of Inter Action Associates, is a trainer and a Stress Coach. E-mail her at www.jackieferguson.com with your questions or for information about her workshops on this and other topics and to invite her to speak to your organization.