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When the majority of people hear that a person is “assertive,” their first thought is to equate this with being ‘bossy’ or ‘pushy’. But assertive behavior is a fine way to not only get what you want, but determine mutually-beneficial solutions.
So I’m am a regular around my college rec center basketball courts as a way to work out. In the area I usually play, there are 3 basketball courts dedicated to full-court play. Often, I walk in to find a game on a court, and about 20 other guys just waiting to play with their team of 5, despite the fact that there are 2 open courts to play on. This is mostly because most guys are not assertive enough to start a game on one of the other courts. As I’m attempting to live assertively, I often organize a game by locating 9 other people who are also waiting to play. Not only does this benefit me, it benefits the others as soon after there’s a waiting line to play on my court.
This story suggests a number of few pieces of advice for how to become more assertive:
1. Start small
If you’re not used to being assertive, you probably won’t find much profit from taking on your bank to eliminate your monthly service charges for your account alone. Start with individuals before institutions. Learn to deal with individual, free-thinking people, before you start trying to change the bureaucracies of institutions. This approach will also start you on the right foot because you will learn how your position appeals to the individual interests of the person, which leads to the second point.
2. How will getting what you want benefit the other person.
Humans often act in their own interest. If you can determine how to tell a person that what you want is also what they want, you will find success. In the previous example, I want a game of basketball, and my starting a game will stop the other 9 men from waiting for the current game to end. This is mutually-beneficial and is often accomplished as I explain that what I want is in the interest of the others. This can be extrapolated further -“If you drop the price for this item, I’ll get something else as well.” Use human nature in your advantage, and figure out a way to explain how what you want is what the other person(s) want.
The first time you try to carry this out, you might fail, that’s OK. But, if you aren’t consistent in your attempts, you probably are unlikely to find success in abandoning your passivity. Figure out why your assertive approach did not succeed, and next time alter your approach. After a time, your assertive qualities will become routine, making you a better leader and overall more successful man.