Communication Skills: why can assertiveness be difficult to master?
On the face of it, assertiveness is very straight forward but the reality is that many people often struggle to stand up for themselves, especially in the workplace.
There are many factors that can influence this, often depending on the time of day, who we are with, how important the situation is to us personally and so on.
Consider a scenario in which you wish you had been or could be more assertive and ask yourself which of the following factors apply to you?
The Event itself – If an event is particularly important to you, such as a client event that you have meticulously prepared for or to use a social example, an important meal to celebrate a special occasion, there is more potential for you to be assertive as there is more at stake. If an occasion is not so important, we may be inclined to ‘let it go on this occasion’.
Our Rights – perceived or otherwise. These are important and are a pre-requisite to assertiveness. In the workplace, we all have rights, for example “I have a right to put my point across irrespective of my position in the firm”, or “I have the right to be treated with dignity and respect”.
If we fail to recognise or believe that we have these rights, because for example somebody in the Organisation is more senior than us, assertiveness becomes even more difficult to achieve.
Self-efficacy, i.e. the extent to which we believe that we can achieve what we set out to achieve. People with high self-efficacy tend to set themselves high targets and often attain them. People with low self-efficacy are likely to set lower targets to avoid the risk of failure – and even then may still fail.
The more we believe in our own success, the more likely we are to succeed. The importance of this idea lies in your belief about your ability to do something. The more you believe you can do something – for example, to change your behaviour – may well affect your success or failure.
Locus of control - Your locus of control reflects the extent to which you believe you’re in control of your own destiny, as opposed to believing that external events govern what happens to you. If you have an external locus of control, then you’re likely to believe that forces outside of yourself are largely in control of what happens to you.
You’re more likely to be influenced by other people and will have a tendency to believe that the results of your actions are due to luck or fate. You’re also more likely to presume your efforts may lead to failure, and you may be less active in looking for information to help you understand what’s happening around you.
If you have an internal locus of control, then you’re likely to believe that your destiny is controlled by your own actions. You’re more likely to attempt to influence other people than be influenced, and you’ll probably demonstrate more political skills. You’ll generally assume that your actions will end in success and you’ll be more active in seeking out information that can help you understand what’s happening around you.
Behaviour – Ultimately, our level of assertiveness will be dictated by how everything else affects us and it will determine how we choose to address a situation. It is important to recognise that the way we behave, the body language we display and the language that we use are always a choice, and that how we choose to behave will have a significant impact on how others perceive us.