So, if you’re someone whose knees regularly turn to jelly whenever you’re confronted with a nasty boss, or who’s told too often that “you’re too nice for your own good”, or if you come home regularly from work feeling like you’ve just gone 10 rounds with Mike Tyson… this self-delivered training that I’m going to show you is tailor-made for you.
But first I want to let you into a little secret. It’s about how I learnt the value of training resource packs. And you’re going to find this weird to say the least.
I learnt the secret of resource packs from someone who’s been called the most obscene writer in modern Britain. Someone who is a hugely successful writer, actor and scriptwriter, whose books are greedily anticipated by thousands of fans, but whose narrative you wouldn’t want to pass on to your maiden aunt.
This person is Irvine Welsh, writer of the hit book and film Trainspotting.
What’s the connection between Irvine Welsh and Assertiveness resource packs?
Well, strange as it may seem, I worked with Irvine Welsh in Scotland when he was a trainer and I attended one of his assertiveness courses as a humble observer. And the memory has stuck with me ever since.
For what Irvine Welsh did… unlike my approach… was not to lecture to his trainees, nor to follow a set programme, nor even to give any specific aims for the 2-day course. He simply offered his trainees a huge collection of materials, resources and equipment and let them decide what they wanted to do.
And the results amazed me.
Loosened from the usual straitjacket of course plans, the delegates took to this freedom like ducks to water. Some read articles on assertiveness. Some watched videos. Others shared experiences. A bandwagon started on role plays. And a small group designed the most amazing set of posters on assertiveness that I have ever seen. And all the time, the group’s confidence grew and grew.
I don’t suppose Irvine Welsh remembers me, but I certainly remember him. For, now, whenever I run an Assertiveness training programme, I go in with 8 resource packs, stuffed with goodies that I can simply pull out and use.
And it’s these eight resource packs that I’m going to show you how to build yourself.
In case you were wondering, a resource pack is any set of materials, whether in hard copy or on computer. It’s a pack that you should regularly review, use and add to. And you can resource it from any source you want. Like the Internet, your local bookstore, your workplace, friends and family.
OK? Now for resource pack number one…
#1. Models of assertivenessThe Models of Assertiveness resource pack is where I stick all the theory about assertiveness. But… and this is a big “but”… not in screeds and screeds of words.
If you want to read about assertiveness, buy a book. If you want to learn about assertiveness, create models.
Let me explain what I mean by “models” with some examples.
The most obvious assertiveness model is the Three Behaviours model of Aggression, Assertiveness, and Submissiveness. If you haven’t come across it, it’s easy to create. Just draw three circles on a page, insert one behaviour in each circle and then compare and contrast them with each other.
Another model is the OK-Not OK relationships grid. Just draw a square with four quadrants, and then enter the following in each quadrant:
- I’m not OK, you’re not OK (bottom left)
- I’m not OK, you’re OK (bottom right)
- I’m OK, you’re not OK (top left)
- I’m OK, you’re OK (top right).
These four relationship patterns correspond to depressive, submissive, aggressive, and assertive states.
A further example of an assertiveness model I frequently use is to contrast old and new styles of management. I draw a line down a page and on the left-hand side I list old styles and on the right new styles.
I can use this model to contrast confrontation with co-operation, favouritism with fairness; power to impress with power to perform; secrecy with openness; control with empowerment; conflict to destroy with conflict to build; and dictatorship with integrity.
I like models a lot because it’s how my mind works. I much prefer them to reading theories. If they suit you too, then stuff your Models resource pack with them.
#2. Self-assessment questionaires
I have no idea why but people love self-assessment questionnaires. I suppose it has something to do with our endless fascination with ourselves.
The fact is, you won’t come across any book on assertiveness or website on assertiveness, that doesn’t have one, in one form or another.
They all have the same aim: to tell us whether we naturally lean towards being aggressive, submissive, or assertive.
Of course, they’re only as accurate as the honesty of the person completing them. But, having said that, they’re invaluable as conversation starters. And that’s why they’re a mainstay at the start of assertiveness courses.
To give you three examples of the kinds of questions asked, try these…
1. You want to use up last year’s holiday before the end of the year, but it’s a busy time. Would you…
a. present a revised work schedule along with your request
b. be quite firm about your right to take a holiday
c. say you’d be prepared to cancel.
2. You’re in a committee meeting and someone asks your opinion on a contentious matter which is important to you. Would you…
a. come straight out and say what you think
b. prefer to discuss it after the meeting
c. acknowledge that others might not agree, then make your case.
3. You are in a busy restaurant and your soup is cold. Would you…
a. ask for the soup to be replaced
b. refuse to pay the bill
c. pretend you hadn’t noticed.
I trust you can work out which is the assertive, aggressive and submissive answers. No cheating now!
#3. Bought, borrowed or stolen
OK, OK. I know I shouldn’t include “stolen” in this resource pack but think of it as “taken for the time being” with every intention to pay back… with interest… at a later date.
Incidentally, while we’re on the subject, please “steal” anything you like from this article… or any others. I know you’ll pay back later, many times over.
Right, now I’ve got that off my chest, here’s what you can put in this resource pack of “acquired” material.
- favourite books on assertiveness. For me, these would include Ken and Kate Back’s Assertiveness at Work; Beverley Hare’s Be Assertive; and Gail Lindenfield’s Assert Yourself
- newspaper and magazine articles (there are tons of these these days in both upmarket and downmarket publications);
- anything from the Internet (and you could fill a hundred resource packs with what you’ll find on the Net, so be selective);
- workbooks, handouts and exercises from training courses;
- videos and DVD’s such as the excellent set from Video Arts, Longmans, Connaught, the Domino consultancy, and the BBC;
- e-learning courses on CD-Roms;
- audio-cassette programmes for the car, or jogging, or bedtime;
- chunks of material that you’ve extracted from any of the above;
- quotable quotes.
Since this is a resource pack, though, don’t hide it away. It’s got to work for its living.
One trick I use is to keep just 25 borrowed quotes in my pack and to put them on 3 x 5 cards. Then whenever I feel the need, I can just flick through them for an instant assertive pick-me-up.
#4. Case studies
I love pack 4, Case Studies, because it can be chock-a-block with real situations that people have to face day in day out.
There are three steps to building a great resource pack of Assertive Case Studies.
1. First, devise a series of tricky case studies that you might be faced with. Here are 5 to get you started…
i. The boss walks in and wants to know which “idiot” broke the photocopier. You know the machine broke down while you were on it but had no time to report it.
ii. You’ve arrived early for a meeting but know nobody in the room.
iii. Your boss tells you to make one of your staff redundant. The person to go is 58 and one of your mentors in the past.
iv. A senior manager tells you not to recruit a black person even though the woman in question is well-qualified for the job.
v. Your boss keeps picking on a colleague and insists they stay late without pay to catch up with their work.
2. Now, practise these case studies with others. You can talk them through, walk them through, or…
3. Video yourself acting these scenarios out.
Put all this material in your Case Studies resource pack, and you’ll have an ongoing record of your assertiveness progress.
#5. Role models
I was fascinated to read a while back that all successful people claim to have had a role model as their inspiration on their way up.
Alexander the Great had Achilles. Bismarck had Napoleon. Football manager Alex Ferguson had Matt Busby.
We can do the same. Just think about it. If you know and admire someone else for their confidence and assertiveness, you don’t have to live in thunderstruck awe of them. Simply copy them.
You can copy any and everything they do, such as…
- their body language, eg their posture, hand movements, handshake, facial expressions, seating and standing positions, walking pace, and so on;
- how they stand in relation to others;
- their language, the words they use, the length of their sentences;
- how they speak to people that you have difficulties with;
- how they speak to their staff;
- what they do in critical incidents, for example with a complaining customer
...and so on.
Of course, you don’t have to confine yourself to colleagues at work. These days our magazines and newspapers are stuffed with stories about celebrities. If you like to read these, cut out those you’d like to emulate and put them in your Role Model resource pack.
Mine’s stuffed full with stories about entrepreneurs that I admire; trainers I’d like to be like; and famous figures who just did something I thought was cool.
#6. Sub-skills practice
The next resource pack is perhaps the most important one to get you to change from unassertive habits to assertive ones. It consists of all the sub-skills, or techniques, of assertiveness. Things you can practise every day.
I have a core of 10 sub-skills. Which I still use. Even now, years after putting them together, I still catch myself occasionally slipping into old habits and have to consciously pull myself up. Here they are…
I find all these work. And what’s more, you can practise them every day of your life whenever anybody says or does something to trigger them off.
- “just” and “only” as in “I’m just a trainer” or “She’s only a typist”. Eliminate these words.
- “never” and “always” as in “You never put the toothpaste lid on” and “You always leave it off”. Change what you say to reflect what really happened.
- blaming others as in “You made me angry”. Take responsibility for how you feel as in “I get angry when that happens.”
- saying what you want without beating about the bush
- saying “No” to things you don’t want to do
- agreeing with people who criticize you for the bit that’s true and challenging the bits that aren’t true
- responding to praise with “Thanks” not self-deprecation
- asking for time when others bully you into making a decision
- saying “I don’t know” when you don’t, rather than pretending you do
- speaking a little louder than normal when making requests of others.
I remember with acute embarrassment an occasion at a wedding anniversary party when I was suddenly called upon to say a few words. I was unprepared and fell apart. The memory is still quite painful.
Now, if invited to a similar party, I’ll spend five minutes the day before putting down some thoughts… just in case. These go into my Projects resource pack. Then if I’m asked to say something, I’ll be ready and confident.
You can add all sorts of stuff like this to your Assertiveness Projects resource pack. I know people who put in their personal Bill of Rights… eg “I have the right to say No if asked to say a few words at a party”… and their one-minute “Who I am” self-presentation. Somebody else I know has a page on which they regularly complete the statements: “I am…”; “I can…”; and “I will…”.
In fact, there’s no end to what you can include in the pack. Just use your imagination.
#8. Quiz time
I know it may sound silly to write out your own quiz questions for this, the 8th and last resource pack, but, believe me, you’ll soon forget the answers and then you’ll have as much fun doing them as if they were being asked for the first time.
Plus you can always try them out on family or friends.
I divide up my Assertiveness Quiz Time resource pack into three main types of quiz question: True or False?; Fill in the Blank; and Multiple Choice. Here’s an example of each type from my pack…
1. It is assertive to tell people they’re doing well just to make them feel good. True or False?
2. Assertiveness is a form of communication that expresses needs in an __________ way. (Answer: honest)
3. Which of the following supervisory techniques of getting people to do something is most assertive?
a. telling them how they might benefit
b. asking clearly, fully and directly what you want
c. asking nicely
d. telling them to get on with it.
So that’s it. Your very own unique, practical and ever-evolving Assertiveness resource packs.
Use what’s in it and your transformation into an assertive, confident and respected individual is absolutely guaranteed.