Do not simply act, be there – Buddhist proverb
Have you ever thought about the qualities of a leader? If so, assertiveness must have been one of the first things you thought of. And on closer look, it’s not surprising. Indeed, innovators, the people who make the world go round, all have one thing in common: they think outside the box, question the established facts, fight for their values, etc. Where would we be today if Gutenberg had not invented the printing press or Steve Jobs the smartphone? One thing is certain: you would not be able to read this article!
From there to say that the secret of successful inventors and leaders lies in 3 words… it’s only a step that I happily take. If you open a dictionary, you will learn that assertiveness is defined as: expressing clearly what you think, what you feel and what you need. This is a whole program that can lead you down a slippery slope: the one that pushes you to dare to express an opinion that differs from the majority, to assume that you don’t please everyone or to not approve a decision when you disagree with it. Easy to say, not always easy to put into practice? Especially if your education did not encourage you to do so. And yet, it is possible to either develop or acquire it. How do you do this?
The first step is to get to know yourself. In other words: learning who I am by identifying the values that are important to me; by being able to recognize my needs and listening to them; by becoming aware of the motivators that drive me to action and by daring to share my emotions. To achieve this, you will find a whole series of books, videos or even serious training courses – like the one from Becoming Leader – or more crazy ones – did you say primal scream therapy? – that will allow you to get to know yourself and understand how you react.
Once you have taken this first step, the road to self-assertion can still be long. Indeed, knowing yourself is good… being able to express to others what you think, feel and need can be more complicated. To do this, don’t start telling your boss that his or her “new strategy” has no chance of working. Choose a less impactful topic and a supportive person to coach with. The more you dare to say what you think, feel or need to say, the more comfortable you will feel in expressing yourself on more sensitive topics. You will also notice that your fear that others will look at you the wrong way when you express yourself is far from being true. In most cases, the people with whom you share your ideas and feelings will listen to you. This is because you are in a relationship, and they want to continue to exchange with you.
Another benefit of assertiveness is that the weight on your shoulders will be lightening up. Indeed, there is nothing more tiring than constantly controlling yourself so as not to express what you feel, think or want. It’s a constant struggle to stay under the radar, always watching yourself and being careful what you say so that it doesn’t hurt others. Be aware that if you express your ideas and needs honestly and clearly, you will allow others to do the same. This will improve the quality of your exchanges, the level of your relationship and the trust you have for each other.
So, assertiveness is far from being innate, it is acquired and developed through circumstances. It is linked to a whole series of parameters such as education, family, studies, life experiences, etc. And it is true that the more you practice it, the more it will become part of who you are and you will continue to develop it as the days go by. Let’s leave the final word to William James, an American psychologist who said: “Start today to be who you are from now on!”