By: Bruce A. Baldwin

Are you a mild-mannered manager who finds it hard to give orders?

A mother (father) whose children won’t obey?

Maybe, just a person who can’t say no?

Remember “what’s his name” (Rodney Dangerfield) who never “got no respect”, just laughs. 

Bruce A. Baldwin has a Ph.D in psychology and heads Direction Dynamics, a Wilmington, N.C., consulting service promoting professional and personal development. He is also the author of It’s All In Your Head and Lifestyle Management Strategies For Busy People. (The above article from him is condensed from PACE. Copyright @ 1986 by Bruce A. Baldwin. PACE. (Piedmont Airlines) (April ‘86) 338 N..Elm St., Greensboro, N.C. 27401.)

I n the best of all possible worlds, relationships would be characterized by genuine respect, easy, friendly communications and sensitivity to others. Alas, in my professional practice, I have found that such is not usually the case

Some individuals constantly push at others------asking, demanding, probing until they finally meet resistance. And, some people, too many if fact, fail to resist these probes; then they find rationalizations for always being victims.

Let’s consider these everyday examples

* Amy has a close “friend” who continually borrows things from her but she never returns the. (Sound familiar yet?) Amy just cannot bring herself to ask her “friend” for the items back. Her excuse: “If I confront her it will hurt her feelings, and she is my “friend.”

* At the office, John has a silver-tongued colleague who time and again talks John into helping him by taking over some of his work. John fancies himself as a kind, Christian person always willing to do a good turn. Yet, in his heart, he feels that his kindness just allows his colleague more time to socialize. John’s excuse: “It’s just never the right time or place to bring up the problem.”

* Andrea says yes to pretty much her two adorable children want, whether it is new toys, staying up late, forgetting chores, or watching television instead of doing their homework. Andrea’s excuse: “They’re just children. They don’t really mean to take advantage.”

People like Amy, John, and Andrea have learned, very often in childhood, to sacrifice their self-respect for the approval of others. Quite simply put, they do not know how to say no-----and they really suffer because of it. But, people can change if they really want to. Therefore, if you see yourself in Amy, John or Andrea, it is possible for you to learn how to state your honest feelings and expectations in ways that protect your integrity and engender respect at the same time.

The first step is to recognize and correct the bad communications habits that passive

people share:

Don’t give the other person a ready-made excuse.

Example: “You’ve been late many times for work, but I know you’re not a morning person and it’s hard for you to get moving so early.” When you provide an excuse, the other person gets the message that what’s been done by him is okay. This really sets the stage for continued abuse. Further, and more serious, you are perceived as wishy-washy and unwilling to follow through as a superior.

Don’t apologize for making reasonable demands.

Example: Three hours after asking his son to clean up his room, a father says “I’m sorry that I talked that way to you, son. You know I didn’t really mean it I know you would have cleaned up your room on your own.” BALONEY! When an apology is made after the fact, it is usually the result of guilt or fear that has built up. To undo a reasonable forceful statement in this way causes a loss of respect on the son’s part towards the father.

Don’t over-qualify your statement.

Example: “I really need that report by Friday, but it’s possible we could let it go until next week. I might not even need it then, if things go well.” Take out the “ifs” and the “buts”, always, thus leaving a clear expectation for completing the report. This would prevent miscomminications and provide a much better chance of getting the finished report, sometime. (Forget “if” and “but” as words)

Don’t shift responsibility for your actions to others

Examples: “The boss says you should.........or, “Your mother said she wanted..........” Or, The whole gang decided to..........” We ..............”

These statements let you non-assertive individuals off the hock alright---but also place you in the dubious role of a messenger without any real authority. (Is that what you want?) You will actually be perceived as a much stronger person if you make statements beginning with: “I want you to.....”, “I expect you to.......”, “I’ve stated many times......”.

Thus as you eliminate bad habits of communications; and it’s easy to do, start replacing them at once with more positive, forceful ones. Here are 8 techniques to try right now. Give yourself time. Begin by integrating 1 or 2 every day into your relationships; then move on to the other 6 or 7 suggestions.

Remember, consistency and persistence count right now in your learning curve.

1. Be direct. State your expectations clearly. Passive individuals often assume that others will know what is expected of them without being told. This leads to needless, unnecessary problems every time.

2. Think things through. Conceptualize issues before stating them. By taking a little time; thinking things through, before-hand, you will be better able to make a reasonable and rational case to yourself, before passing it on to subordinates.

3. Confront problems immediately. By avoiding problems you allow them to become more serious, quickly, and much more difficult to reverse when you finally tackle them. By confronting even minor ones early, you indicate your expectations from the beginning, and the other people know exactly where you stand on the matter.

4. Choose your issues carefully. Frequently, newly assertive people (That’s you, remember) overdo it and confront too much. (It’s fun to see that it actually works) So, don’t get shot down in flames. Watch it! Through selectivity, you can gain more control and more possibility of a positive outcome. (They have to get adjusted to the “new you” also)

5. Separate anger from assertiveness. It is a real cop-out to be assertive only when it’s driven by a full head of anger. Remember, if you cannot assert yourself calmly, softly in speech, your responses will probably be too aggressive. Besides, when you are angry, the other will normally become defensive. the issues usually won’t get resolved.

Now. A corollary is not to allow yourself to be provoked by the other person’s overly emotional reactions to what you are saying. In refusing to get excited yourself, at anytime, you reveal, to all in attendance, by contrast the immaturity of the other immaturity, and your calmness will often have a quieting effect on him.

6. Use your own turf. Sports teams more frequently win home games. It’s known to gamblers as the “home team advantage.” So it is with assertiveness. It is hard to confront a colleague on that person’s office or home. (So don’t) Asserting yourself by design on your home ground will give you a subtle but very powerful advantage. (Use it)

7. Use nonverbal cues. Maintain eye contact while you talk. Instead of continually restating your case, use silence for reinforcement. Act like your thinking for a few seconds. (No one will interrupt you) Make some appropriate (but not aggressive) gestures to underscore the important points you are making.

8. Avoid empty threats. Even real small children, and animals, know when you are bluffing. To establish your credibility, state your reasonable expectations and the normal consequence that will ensue if these are not met. Then follow through. Respect by all others is gained only from their sure knowledge that you mean what you say. Actually, you are one that respects everybody to keep their word, too.

The journey from passively to forcefulness is not easy. (No one expects it to be) However, the results are well worth the effort. A few old relationships will be lost, but being liked when the price tag is your own self-respect is just not worth it. And new, healthier, supportive relationships will develop as you teach others how to respond to the “new you.” and your reactions to them. For you, after all, are finally responsible for the quality of your relationships.

The Golden Rule - Do Unto Others

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