| James Innes

In the majority of working environments, there are people who are naturally dominant and those who are more submissive.  Generally, the difference between these two types of people is their level of self-confidence.  However, there are proven ways to increase self-confidence and, therefore, the ability to assert oneself.

What is Assertiveness?

Being assertive can be defined in a number of ways including the ability to resist the dominant behaviour of others.  Those lacking in assertiveness often find themselves doing things simply to please other people and agreeing with others just to keep the peace.  They may continually allow people to criticise them and, as a result, feel inferior to others.  Many workplaces have at least one person who is considered to be a “bully” and the more you are able to assert yourself the better equipped you will be to stand up to them.  Assertiveness also enables you to gain more control over challenging situations.  You can learn to be more assertive although this does come more naturally to some people than to others.

Good Leader or Bully?

There is a clear difference between a good leader and a bully.  A good leader encourages development within their team and involves others in decision making and group activities, whereas a bully tends to threaten the team into delivering results and fails to recognise the strengths and achievements of others.  Their dominance is usually rewarded by results from their team which they perceive as a reinforcement of their behaviour.  Their ability to control others often enables them to acquire a network of “supporters” who are, to all intents and purposes, at their beck and call.  However, take the bully away from their loyal allies and they are not always as tough as they first appear to be.

Coping with Bullies

When faced with a confrontation involving a dominant person or a bully, there are ways to improve your ability to cope with the situation. 

Firstly, it is important to know your aggressor and their behaviour so that you can anticipate what is likely to happen and therefore prepare accordingly.  Knowing that you are well prepared should be an immediate boost to your self-confidence.

Next, you should be equipped with all the facts necessary to enable you to make your case.  This level of organisation will help you to respond to any questions you are faced with and allow you to defend yourself should the need arise.  Ask probing questions that will require the other person to explain their position in detail.  Often, dominant people will be relying on their bullying tactics to win the confrontation and will therefore not have prepared as well as you have.  This will give you an immediate advantage over them.

Keep Calm and Believe in Yourself

The more you allow a bully to dominate, the more they will continue to do so.  Allow yourself time before answering to ensure that your responses are what you want to say rather than what they want you to say.  Do not allow yourself to show fear and try not to react to their shouting.  Play to your own strengths and use your particular style to defend your position. 

Be nice to bullies!

Strange as it may seem, bullies do actually deserve your sympathy.  Their behaviour is often the result of their own insecurities and can be rooted in their childhood experiences.  Often, they have been victims themselves in the past and are using their aggressive behaviour to help restore their own confidence.  If you show sympathy to a bully, they will automatically be at a psychological disadvantage as they come to realise that their dominant behaviour has failed to control you.

Developing assertiveness

There are training courses and workshops available at many colleges and education centres that are designed to help you practise assertiveness.  However, be prepared for the changes you will see in yourself.  Those around you may feel uncomfortable with the person you become, but the people that know you best will very soon adapt to the new, more confident you.  By becoming more assertive, you should find that you are able to express your needs and emotions in a much clearer and more concise way and, as a result, that they are satisfied much more than before.

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