Confidence... part three - confront with confidence, aka standing up for yourself...
I've always been naturally assertive, but I can still find confrontation quite nerve-wracking. As an assistant it's in our nature to be, for want of a nicer term, people-pleasers. I've met many assistants, and the executives they work with, over the years and those that lack people-pleasing qualities don't seem to last very long or to rise through the ranks to the C-Suite. Our role is, ultimately, to help.
They say that the most powerful word in the English language is "no". How you say it determines your success. It's not always easy to do so, but the best approach is to speak calmly, firmly, and don’t yell, ask permission, apologise or beg. Just state consequences/conditions as they are. Remember though, that your viewpoint is just that – yours. Many of us are brilliant at saying no on behalf of our executives, but seem to fall at the hurdle when it comes to doing so for ourselves. Not just professionally, but personally too.
So how do I approach a situation I'm not necessarily looking forward to?
1. Prepare. Anticipate as much as you can so you go armed with information. If you're going to say no to a task, can you offer a solution? Can you make it sound like their idea?
2. Try to seek a neutral setting, or as I've done in the past, in their room so I can walk away. If it ends up being at your desk, stand up (align pose - see 4) so you can walk off. I have a stack of irrelevant papers on my desk that I can pick up to walk off with, as though that was always my intention to do so, so that I can escape from a situation.
3. Try to find a good time. If the other person is rushed, they may re-approach the conversation at a later date, when you're not as prepared.
4. Body language. Stand tall! Make eye contact. Relax your arms by your side. Smile! Control your breathing. If possible, align your pose with whom you're talking with, it can help to build rapport.
5. Stick to the facts. Try to make positive statements that don't illicit conversation (some people will respond anyway).
6. Stay calm, speak slowly, don't justify, don't repeat. Allow silences.
7. Listen to the reply. If they ask questions, respond in line with 4, 5 and 6.
8. Say thank you and walk away.
If people treat you how you let them, then the result of assertiveness should be respect. Having respect doesn’t mean that you'll be liked, but which is better?