· 1 min read · Features

Dont be angry, be assertive

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Assertiveness is not to be confused with being aggressive. And if anyone tells you it is, try not to smack them around the head with a rolled up copy of Human Resources.


Its more about how to push and pull people into behaving in a certain way, explains Kathryn Harding, Enterprise Oils senior HR manager. In HR its very important you do need to disagree with people and be assertive with senior managers. You cant always say yes to them.


At Enterprise, the need for assertiveness training has come from all functions, sites and levels. We dont say its only for middle managers and below. It applies to senior managers as much as junior ones. But we must not confuse it with aggression you have to make your point heard, argue your corner and not snap at people.


Terry Gillen, an assertiveness trainer and author of Assertiveness, stresses that there is a genuine need for training. Most of us arent as good at interpersonal skills as we like to think we are, and that applies to senior managers as much as junior ones. A DfEE report recently highlighted it as a competency gap for senior managers. If you look at the people whom we listen to, those with personal credibility, what they have is assertiveness. They make good eye contact, work on their tone of voice, get their posture and gestures right and pay attention to the words they use.


All of us are programmed to fight or flight this means that when we face sarcastic, patronising or condescending attitudes we react in one of those ways. The key to assertiveness is to realise when we do this and then use our brains almost like a video recorder and rethink all our reactions, gestures and words. We have to go over the situation again and be assertive keep the focus on the issue.


It always helps to ask questions too. It buys precious thinking time and when you learn where the other person is coming from you can tailor your answer to take this into account.


Further reading


Assertiveness a Positive Process by Christine Beels, Barrie Hopson, Mike Scally, Mercury Business Books


Assertiveness by Terry Gillen, CIPD


Assertiveness for Managers, by Terry Gillen, Gower Publishing