While delivering a programme on ‘Verbal Communication’ recently, we touched upon the topic of ‘Assertiveness’. Why do we find it difficult to say ‘No’ to someone?
Some of the answers the participants gave were
- the fear of hurting the person
- the fear that they may lose trust on us
- the uncomfortable thought of causing a friction to the relationship
- the perception that they may get back with revenge when we ask for some help
While we continued probing and introspecting, we discovered that there is a hidden box of inhibitions within us that is layered with perceptions. Each of these perceptions has been accumulated either due to past experience or through conversations with others. It takes a gentle effort to shove away these perceptions to reach what is in the box.
One of the revelations that arose out of the introspecting session was that the position the other person occupies determines our degree of assertiveness. If a friend were to ask for a favour and if we were not in a position to commit, we would instantly say a ‘No’ without the fear of having wounded the relationship. Because, we know a ‘No’ from our side is perceived just as a ’No’ and nothing beyond.
On the other hand, if our Manager were to ask us to stretch beyond and complete a task, we would squirm and mumble a hesitant ‘yes’ despite yearning like a molten volcano inside desperate to say ‘No’. Because, our system automatically reaches out to the person’s position and switches on the ‘Non-Assertive’ mode. This in turn changes our style of communication. And it continues like a block of chain. We feel bad about ourselves for not having been assertive.
Being assertive is no rocket science. It takes conscious effort and deliberate shift in our perception about ourselves.
Saying ‘No’ does not mean we do not have an intention. It may mean we have other important priorities which need our complete focus.
Saying ‘No’ need not necessarily mean we lack initiative. It may mean we have a well chalked out routine and we work as per plan.
Saying ‘No’ may not always trigger a negative reaction from the other person. It may also convey a message that you like to work in a systematic manner.
Let’s take the first step by identifying scenarios that keep recurring in our daily activities that act as an indicator to be assertive.
The next step is to write down all our pre-conceived notions about what could possibly go wrong when we say ‘No’.
The third step is to work on our thinking. Identify the different ways the other person could probably appreciate our response of a ‘No’.
Finally, choose our words prudently to communicate our message.
Remember! Our goals and focus determine whether we should be saying a ‘Yes’ or a ‘No’!