How many times have you had a client come up with a good idea for intervening in a problem only for them to think, “But I could never say that!” They don’t want to cause conflict. They don’t want to be disliked. They don’t want to alienate people they will need to continue to work with in the future. So they hold it in and say nothing. Yet they still feel it. Timidity is standing in the way of resolution, action, even goals. How long do you think that will work well?
Eventually, against everyone’s best intentions, emotions will come out sideways. Your client will begin avoiding people, or saying passive aggressive things, or making snide comments. Everyone around them will feel it but may not know why. This whole environment of tension could have been avoided if your client had found some way to say what they thought.
From Timidity to Assertiveness
The key is assertiveness. Assertiveness is saying what you want in an appropriate way. It’s the happy medium between aggression and passivity, and it’s almost always the best choice for communication when someone senses a problem.
Risks, Rights, Rewards Exercise
A key concept to address when timidity becomes problematic is confidence. Instead of a ‘Just do it’ attitude, it’s best to build confidence by gently pushing the boundaries of your comfort zone. It helps to list out uncomfortable situations and rehearse why it’s important to address them.
We aren’t talking skydiving or putting that bully in his place. Nothing dangerous, just a list of little things that you’ve wanted to address but timidity got in the way. Examples could be saving a seat in a movie theater, asking a stranger for directions, introducing yourself to someone you admire, or declining that invitation.
Now make a list of rights that seem to apply to everyone else but somehow you feel exempt. For example, you have a right to be seen and heard, to be treated with respect, to change your mind, to prioritize your needs…
Now follow it through by connecting the risks with the likely outcome of responding in polite but firm assertiveness. What happens when you introduce yourself to that person you admire? Brainstorm how you can approach this situation the next time it comes up with a coach or close friend. Find words that feel natural and try them out in low-stakes environments.
There’s Much More to Assertiveness
There are two basic stages of teaching assertiveness skills in a coaching relationship. The first part is willingness. It involves validating their ideas, helping them build confidence, considering their options, and just generally bringing them to a point where they are willing to take risks. No one can make anyone else be assertive. They have to choose to take that road.
The second part is strategy. Once your client has decided they are willing to have an assertive conversation with someone, you can come up with a good plan together. What exactly do they want to communicate? How do they want to approach the other person? How can they most effectively appeal to the other person? What kind of reasoning should they use?
If you want to help your clients work on their assertiveness skills, we have a coaching guide designed to help you do just that. It will guide you through these eleven steps as you work with your clients:
- Define your problem situation
- Check the gap and the context
- Build your confidence
- Prepare a script
- Set the scene
- Monitor the situation
- Communicate assertively
- Formalize your agreement
- Evaluate your own performance
- Learn and become stronger
The Resource Zone Assertiveness Skills Coaching Guide provides coaching questions and notes for each of these eleven steps. Help your clients take the steps they want to take so they can experience forward movement toward their goals.
In between coaching sessions, the Assertiveness Skill Builder is a fantastic resource to help your client work on putting timidity aside in favor of polite and effective assertiveness. In fact, the Risks, Rights, Rewards exercise above was adapted from this Skill Builder!
NOTE: Link go to loganleadership.com