• SumoMe

Get what you want without offending others.

When most people hear that someone is “assertive,” their first thought it to equate this with bossiness or pushiness. However, assertive behavior is a great means to not just getting what you want, but working out a mutually-beneficial solution.

The best way to explain this is with a story. I am a regular around my university recreation center basketball courts as a way to get some exercise. In the area I play most often, there are three courts dedicated to full-court play. Very often, I walk in to find one game on a court, and about 20 people waiting in line to play with their team of five, despite the fact that there are two open courts to play on. This is largely because nobody is assertive enough to start a game on one of the other courts. As I’m always trying to live assertively, I very often organize a game by finding 9 other people who are waiting around to play. Not only does this benefit myself (I don’t have to wait to play), it benefits many others because soon after there’s a waiting list to play on the court that I started games on.

This story illustrates a number of pieces of advice for how to become more assertive:

1. Start small: take on individuals before institutions.

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. Explain how what you want will benefit the other person.

People usually act in their own self-interest. If you can find a way to tell someone that what you want is also what they want, you will find success in your assertiveness. In my example, I want to play basketball, and my starting a game will prevent the other 9 people from waiting in line for the present game to end. This is a mutually-beneficial arrangement that is often accomplished because I explain that what I want is in the interest of the other person. This extrapolates out in many ways–“If you drop the price in this item, I’ll buy something else.” Use human nature to your advantage, and find a way to explain how what you want is what the other person(s) want.

3. Be consistent.

The first time you try to get what you want, you might fail–that’s alright. However, if you aren’t consistent in your efforts (not necessarily this approach–there’s many ways to become assertive), you probably won’t find much success in abandoning your passivity. Learn why your assertive approach failed, and next time change it up a bit. When you try to get what you want out of life on a consistent basis, you are more likely to make it happen. After a while, your assertive qualities will become second nature, making you a better leader and overall more successful person.

What other steps can you take to increase your assertiveness? When was a time in which your assertive personality was a benefit to your successes? Share your stories in the comments below.