Assert yourself!

... how to say "No" assertively

What is assertiveness?

You're snowed under with work. You've stayed late every night this week. Your colleague is heading your way, clutching a pile of paperwork that you suspect they are going to pass on to you. This happens so often, but this time you're going to say "No". You suddenly hear yourself saying, "Okay, yes, I suppose I could fit that in before I go home". Being assertive does not necessarily mean that you would have avoided taking on the work. What it does mean is that you would have spoken up and been taken seriously. You would have taken the opportunity to protect your rights without violating your colleague's rights. Your communication takes on the form of problem solving - not winning or losing!

Why did you say "Yes"?

It's hardly surprising that saying "No" can be difficult. Acquiescing is rewarded with praise, whereas there is little reward for saying "No". If you're unassertive you have many reasons for saying, "Yes". You may like to conform, be friendly, co-operative or just desire a quieter life. However, the assertive person understands that it is perfectly acceptable to make choices based upon their own set of priorities, values and beliefs.

Saying "No" assertively

So how should the conversation have gone? The first thing to remember is don't immediately say "No"! To start by saying "No" can be aggressive and appear uncooperative. Maybe you should be dealing with that paperwork. Your colleague also has the right to express their views. So the secret is to assess the reasonableness of your colleague's request. Ask for more information with open questions. Clarify exactly what is needed, when it is needed and why you are being asked to deal with it. This is why assertiveness is not all about winning…you may decide that this is something that you should be dealing with.

Don't rush! If necessary ask for time to consider the request. "Okay, I understand what needs doing. I'll have a look at it and get back to you in five minutes to let you know if I can do this today". If you do decide that this is something you shouldn't be dealing with, say "No" in a simple, direct manner. Don't make excuses, believe in your conviction… "No, I am not going to be able to do this today. I suggest…." Move on to suggest some alternative courses of action or a possible compromise.

Of course, there are many other situations in which you may need to be assertive and many techniques that can be learnt. The key is to start by practising in 'safe' situations where there's no major consequence of making mistakes…perhaps when the salesman asks you to pay upfront!

protect your rights
without violating your colleague's rights

Back to Top

home page | training approach | 360 feedback | training programmes | case studies
news | articles | training guarantee | contact us | site map

Training Focus 7 Sudeley Place Brighton, East Sussex, BN2 1HF


Site design: Badger Designs | Sally