14 Blog Posts on Assertive Communication

We’ve blogged on the topic of assertive communication for many years, as well as taught courses and led workshops on it. Assertiveness has the power to challenge our thinking at a deep level, and change our behaviour though small adjustments. We love assertiveness so much that we spent the whole of August blogging and tweeting on it, and promoting our coaching service for those who want to improve their assertiveness.

Here’s a collection of our favorite blog posts on assertive communication. I’ve gathered them together under relevant headings. Some blog post titles are self-explanatory while others were written to pique your interest. Give them a peruse and read those ones that interest you. Comments, questions, stories and objections are all welcome.

The Mental Side of Assertiveness

Assertiveness and Emotional Detachment

Bill of Assertive Rights

Fear, Obligation and Guilt

The Resolution of the ‘Adult ‘

A Playful Assertiveness

How to Stop Being Nice

Verbal Assertive Communication

Mohicans Do Not Call Themselves Subject to Much at All

5 Assertiveness Techniques

Non-Verbal Assertive Communication

Assertive Body Language

How to be Brave: The Return

39 Ways to Conquer Fear

Assertive Communication in Different Situations

What is Bullying?

How to Confidently Run Meetings Without the Creeping Ennui

Last Year, I Saved £8000 Pounds Just By Complaining

Coaching and Support at Bully Karma

Finally, I want to highlight the online and person-to-personal coaching service we can provide to help your assertive communication. Maybe you are experiencing aggressive and bullying behaviour in the workplace? Then read this blog about Bully Karma, an online support group for those who are navigating their way through workplace bullying and want to learn new assertiveness skills. You visit Bully Karma on Facebook directly.

If you’d like to talk about any of the issues raised in these blog posts, give us a call.

How to Confidently Run Meetings Without the Creeping Ennui

Ennui? It’s a French word that means listlessness, langour. Think Daisy Buchanan and Jordan Baker languishing in The Great Gatsby. We’ve been having something of a Long Island-fest lately and exploring every version of The Great Gatsby we can find. Superfans might pick up a few references in the headings!

This blog post is written from the point of view of meeting organisers and chairs who arrange and attend physical meetings where attendees must attend in person.

It’s So Hot, And Everything is Confused

I usually try to highlight what I think is the most important point in my blog posts. This is it: Open the dang window, or door! Almost every meeting I’ve attended has taken place in an airless room. As an HSP, I’ve almost fainted a few times. Take care of your HSPs.

  • There are some nasty things that happen with human aromas when you don’t open the window. I’m just going to leave that hanging in the air.
  • People’s brains stop functioning optimally. And when they stop functioning, people think, speak and decide slower. Slower is not a good thing when it comes to meetings.

There are Only the Pursued, the Pursuing, the Busy and the Tired

First, think carefully whether the meeting could instead take the form of an email, a conference call or a Skype. Then if a meeting is absolutely necessary, implement the following.

  1. Get rid of the circular emails.
  2. Stop requiring everyone and his cat to attend.
  3. Inform only required attendees of the agenda.
  4. State the start and stop time. Finish early.
  5. Learn some Assertiveness techniques to shut down the pontificators.
  6. Reduce minutes (if any) to bullet point decision summaries, together with dated, assigned tasks. Send it to the invitees only. Assume they will forward it on to anyone else who needs it.

Once in a While I Go Off on a Spree

You know the type. They talk and talk and talk. They’re called extroverts. What they’re doing is thinking out loud. It’s just what they do. It helps them come to a conclusion.

  1. First of all, examine the behaviour of your team. Figure out who’re the extroverts (those whose energy expands in a crowd, who tend to talk more) and who’re the introverts (those whose energy depletes in a crowd, who tend to talk less).
  2. Extroverts need a little corralling. Learn how to use Assertiveness to curtail them when others need an opportunity to speak. But they provide great energy, drive and impetus, so don’t corral too much.

With An Effort, She Glanced Down at the Table

So what do you do about passive, quiet or shy types, who hardly contribute? I fit into and have chaired meetings with the “quiet” category, so here’s what I know about these types from a career of over 20 years.

  1. Give them time to prepare. This means no last-minute meetings. Send the agenda. And the attendee list.
  2. Offer them an opportunity to present a short talk or demo at the meeting. Quiet people (introverts) do best when they have time to prepare.
  3. Ask them a direct question, one that is obvious based on their job title, skills and experience. Address them by name, so there is no confusion.
  4. Give them a few moments to collect their thoughts. Quiet people think internally. They will take a few seconds longer to answer.
  5. Thank them for their contribution.

Human Sympathy Has Its Limits

Regardless of personality, you’ll encounter the ramblers, the aggressive types and the whingers.

  1. People who talk too much, often without saying anything of value just like Daisy Buchanan need to be stopped. Again, be assertive more rudeness is not acceptable. Divert: Ask a direct question to another, named person.
  2. If the louder, talkative ones are also the naysayers, ask for specific examples and solutions. Insist on solutions.
  3. Thank aggressive types for their contribution, but ask others for their reaction. If you have the room on your side, this can work well to quell a riot. If not, cut it off sharply but respectfully. Remind everyone of the agenda. Do not allow them to take over the time.

So We Beat On, Boats Against the Current

It’s always been done this way. We never have food at a lunchtime meeting, people can eat when they’re back at their desk. We always meet in the soul-sucking conference room with the 1970s drapes.

  1. Order in snacks. Everyone will come! It helps break the ice particularly when attendees are not all acquainted.
  2. Ask someone else to chair. Enable people to either discover new talents, or empathy for your usual role.
  3. Hold a standing meeting, an outside meeting or one in a different place.
  4. Finish early. You’ll be the talk of the town!

I’d love to know which of these tactics you use to confidently run meetings. Which do you like? Which will you try? If you need help running meetings or helping change a company culture, get in touch. We’d love to work with you.

Image credit: cjroarty

How to Be Brave

Captain Frederick Marryat (July 10, 1792 August 9, 1848) was an English novelist, a contemporary and acquaintance of Charles Dickens, and is noted today as an early pioneer of the sea story. He is best known for the autobiographical novel Mr Midshipman Easy and his children ‘s novel The Children of the New Forest.

Why am I telling you this? Because it gives some context to one of the powerful quotes on courage and overcoming fear that I ‘ve ever read. These words come from Teddy Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States of America, and an incredibly brave man.

Having been a rather sickly and awkward boy, I was, as a young man, at first nervous and distrustful of my own prowess. I had to train myself painfully and laboriously not merely as regards my body but as regards my soul and spirit

When a boy I read a passage in one of Marryat ‘s books which always impressed me. In this passage, the captain of some small British man-of-war is explaining to the hero how to acquire the quality of fearlessness. He says at the outset almost every man is frightened when he goes into action, but that the course to follow is for the man to keep such a grip on himself that he can act just as if he were not frightened. After this has been kept up long enough, it changes from a pretence to a reality, and the man does in fact become fearless by sheer dint of practising fearlessness when he does not feel it. (I am using my own language, not Marryat ‘s.)

This is the theory upon which I went. There were all kinds of things of which I was afraid at first, ranging from grizzly bears to ‘mean ‘ horses and gun-fighters; but by acting as if I was not afraid I gradually ceased to be afraid. Most men can have the same experience if they choose.

So, to put it in American English, you ‘fake it until you make it ‘!

In my opinion, it offers one of the chief ways to develop confidence in yourself as an individual. And it ‘s not just fluffy sentiment and wish-fulfilment. There is a sound psychological basis for it. Read what Williams James, American psychologist and philosopher, had to say about it.

Action seems to follow feeling, but really action and feeling go together; by regulating the action, which is under the more direct control of the will, we can regulate the feeling, which is not.

Thus the sovereign voluntary path to cheerfulness, if our spontaneous cheerfulness be lost, is to sit up cheerfully and to act and speak as if cheerfulness were already there. If such conduct does not make you feel cheerful, nothing else on that occasion can.

So, to feel brave, act as if we were brave, use all of our will to that end, and a courage fit will very likely replace the fit of fear.

These are some of my favourite quotes ever. What do you think of them?

Photo by Benjamin Davies on Unsplash

How to Stop Being Nice

People don’t ask us how to stop being nice. But, when we dig down into the problems they’re having at work, or elsewhere, a lack of clear, direct, assertive communication is usually at the core.

Let’s think about it. Why is it that we’re all ever so nice? We’re taught to be nice from infancy. But, nice doesn’t get brought breakfast in bed. Nice doesn’t cut dead the jobsworth. Nice knows its place. Nice won’t assert its rights. Nice never challenges bad behaviour.

Needless to say, I’m not nice! That shocks people. But it shouldn’t. I really, really love breakfast in bed!

I read a shocking(!) book recently which reminded me that ‘nice’ isn’t the pinnacle of human development. Why am I especially fired up about this today?


Well, last night I attended a networking meeting where we were all too nice to tell people to keep the noise down shut up. It was a bit of a split personality networking meeting, in that people were offered the opportunity to avail of free beauty and health treatments before and during two talks from two awesome speakers. However, the noise levels from those determined to get a free treatment at the expense of missing the talks and ignoring requests to join the group were disrespectful and irritating for the speakers and infuriating for the listeners .

So, how do we get away from being ‘nice’?

Take and Stick

Being nice will land you in a situation where those who claim to love you will let you get injured or unhealthy before they will step up to the plate and take on their legitimate responsibilities. You need to learn to take and stick to decisions that will nurture you. Others will learn that you need to be nurtured. It is not just as simple as this of course. Get your hands on any Assertiveness book. I thoroughly recommend Boundaries.

Flick Your Own Switch

Being nice will mean that you have no time to yourself. What flicks your switch? Learning? Reading? Tinkering? Shopping? Just hanging out in the back yard? Who gives you time for these things? If those around you don’t, then it’s time to say “No.” to more of those oh-so-reasonable requests than you have been.

Sometimes involving others in your hobbies will help them see how important they are to you. But, never neglect me-time. Walking along the beach is what fills my core back up again.


Being nice means that you always get asked to write that database at work, even though you’re not an IT person (been there, done that). When does it all stop? Perhaps only when you quit, or take stress-leave?! Learn to say “No.” without adding reasons. Yes, of course people will react badly; they’re usually aggressive bullies. However, you will become known as a person who knows their boundaries and won’t be pushed around. You need to ride the storm.

Someone Else’s Bad Reaction is Not Your Problem

Do not take it on your shoulders. Their lack of emotional control, as they react to your assertive communication, betrays a child who’s not yet matured, or a narcissist who can’t handle not being the centre of everyone’s universe. Avoid the sickening guilt sensation that settles somewhere below your rib-cage.

If they have a bad reaction because you refuse a request, this does not mean you should capitulate. It simply means they’re not used to not getting their own way. It’s a good lesson for adults to learn.

If you’re dead keen to learn the techniques, then contact us. We’re running a public Assertiveness workshop at QUB in the new year, however if you’d like to arrange some Assertiveness coaching for yourself, or a workshop for your colleagues or organisation, get in touch.

How to Be Brave: The Return

I’ve had a few positive comments and dozens of views on a blog I wrote in July called How to Be Brave. The gist of it was that it’s possible to overcome the feeling of fear by first of all acting as if you were not afraid. If you can put on a good enough act, then the feelings will fall into place afterwards.

While teaching a course in non-verbal communication recently, a thought struck me. How do you act in a brave or fearless manner? Which specific types of body language can help us out here?


This is the most powerful piece of body language available to us! As that well-known psychologist Greta Garbo said, “Anyone who has a continuous smile on his face conceals a toughness that is almost frightening”. Smiling gives you great power over yourself and others.

Raise your Chin

If you are feeling down, raise your head and hold it in an upright position for a few moments. Notice how your mood will shift almost immediately.

Maintain Eye Contact

When you hold someone’s gaze it means that you are in control, assertive, even challenging. Narrow your eyes to be seen as strong and dominant. Move your gaze smoothly and deliberately. Of all bodily signals, the eyes reveal emotions the most accurately.

Be Still

Small, inconsequential gestures show discomfort, inner turmoil or frustration. Eliminate these micro-gestures by taking action to solve the problems, or learning to be still by shifting your energies to thought. Stillness and quiet signal to others that you are in control, and that it is up to them to make the move.

Stand straight

Posture reflects self-image, confidence, role and emotional state. As Ray Birdwhistell noted, “A person’s posture reflects their past. People who have experienced long-term depression may slouch and drag their bodies around, whereas people who have a positive outlook tend to hold themselves upright.”.

Walk Tall

However you walk, you are being true to your internal rhythms and feelings. By choosing to walk in a certain way you are presenting an image you want other to believe. Quicken your tempo to increase your energy. Or slow it down to show deliberation. Whatever you do, choose it.

Expand Out

Take up space and look as though you are conformable in it. Don’t shrivel up or cringe when others look at you. Hold your arms away from your body and your elbows slightly out from your sides. Plant your feet slightly apart. Be significant!

Pump it Up

The volume that is. If you talk quietly you will ignored, you will sound unsure or others will talk over you. Don’t be afraid to hear yourself speak. I don’t mean that you should scream or resemble a fog-horn. But try raising your voice a little and you will more easily get the attention and time of others.

Try them out. They actually work. I dare you! And, if you need help putting this all in practice, get in touch.

Photo by Nadim Merrikh on Unsplash

Leah Totten Won

I’m no Claude, but here are a few suggestions why I think Leah triumphed over Luisa.

Leah Totton was cast as the quiet, even cold, one during The Apprentice 2013. It’s true that we’re not known for our effective assertiveness skills in NI. But, cold!?

First, let me explain why Leah may have been artlessly pegged as the quiet, cold one.

Allen‘s Granny Used to say That Everybody Has to Be *Something*

In order for the media industry to invent headlines and concoct a story, everyone has to have a character, a physical flaw, a quirk (Alex’s quirky eyebrows, Jordan’s impressive quiff, Tim’s physical energy, Myles notable “abs”).

We don’t know these people, and so we latch on to something obvious about them in order to love, hate and gossip. It’s what makes normal entrepreneurs begin to screech at the screen… “No!”, “Agrgh!” and “Oh, wise the flip up!”. Ok, that’s only at my house…

In Quietness and Confidence Shall be your Strength

This is one of my all-time favourite ancient texts, written by an eighth century BC prophet. In defence of quietness:

  • Quietness does not mean silence. Leah Totten was not silent. She was articulate. And, choosing her words carefully, spoke when necessary, avoiding the temptation to splatter the atmosphere with clich√©s, business speak and wearying truisms.
  • Volume does not invoke wisdom. That much is clear in our workplaces, cafes, homes and neighbourhoods. And, those who used volume on the show to get their point across? Did it work? On the contrary, a loud voice used consistently is boorish, intimidating and stressful. Content often gets sidelined.
  • When a quiet person speaks, people listen. Leah was listened to because she made sense, she consistently referred the team back to the point of the task (usually, selling) at key stages.
  • Lest we forget, introversion is not a disease; it is a tendency or preference.

For Cold, Read Calm

Business shows on the telebox past and present have included candidates who were:

  • Loud and contentless
  • Confident to the point of pantomime
  • Argumentative like it was an Olympic sport

Leah’s peaceful demeanor, physical stillness, immaculate personal presentation contributed to Lord’s Sugar’s confidence in her.

Tranquil, Self-Assured and Stylish

Though apparently maligned on the show due to her medical career (why invite her onto the show??), my guess is that the following skills are crucial in a highly-charged environment of healthcare:

  • Whose office would you rather be in when bad news is delivered? One of tranquility, or one of noise?
  • Physical stillness is one of the assertiveness techniques we teach on seminars. Those who flail around are sometimes taken as nervous, threatening or bonkers (when combined with idiotic language and contentless monologues). Keeping physically calm exudes confidence and self-assuredness. It reassures the listener. (Incidentally, Karren Brady also employs this technique.)
  • Again, in business, we select clothes, style hair and adopt a personal presentation that enhances our message, rather than detracts from it. Have you read the dress what you want to become mantra? This underscored Leah’s determination to win. She already looked like a winner.

In my book (as Nick would enunciate), despite many candidates’ best attempts, it wasn’t bombast or slickness that won the day. It was a clear-thinking communicator, with little business experience, who listened to requirements of the task and interpreted them consistently to achieve excellent results.

A Woman on a Rampage

In the final, she was “a woman on a rampage” (Alex). Hardly quiet or cold!

In true Leah Totten style, and celebrated by those on the introversion spectrum everywhere, after the final she said, “I ‘m not really a big partier.”

Well done Dr Leah. 🙂

Never Mind the Three Rs – What About The Three Cs?

So I ‘m sick to death of hearing about the golden age of learning when pupils were taught the ‘3 R ‘s ‘ of reading, writing and arithmetic even though only one of them starts with ‘r ‘. So much for the golden age.

I ‘ve got a better idea. What about the ‘3 C ‘s ‘ of comprehension, calculation and confidence?

Comprehension is more important than spelling or grammar, because it deals with meaning, with ideas, which should be what language is all about. It ‘s not an end in itself; its purpose is to carry thought from one brain to another. I had a teacher who made us memorise multi-syllablled words when we had no notion of their sense or significance. What a complete and painful waste of time!

Continue reading “Never Mind the Three Rs – What About The Three Cs?”


Since working with Aware Defeat Depression on the Mood Matters programme, I’ve been looking for another opportunity to get involved with a mental health organisation. Recently an opportunity arose for a Sessional Trainer with CAUSE. I’m delighted to announce that I’ll be working with CAUSE on two of their programmes.

Resilience for Carers

This one day course examines our ability to bounce back from setbacks and the impact that resilience and emotional intelligence can have on your role as a carer. Using real life examples, it helps us realise the skills we are currently using and motivates us to build on those to support our caring role.

Carers Course PREP

“The CAUSE Carers course consists of six short lively modular workshops with interactive discussions, guest speakers and information on the fundamentals you need as a carer of someone with a serious mental illness.”

Read more about training for carers at CAUSE.

Resilience Authors

The one of particular interest to me is the Resilience topic, since Sensei already delivers the topic to organisations across Ireland. For me, resilience is best defined using some of the most inspiring thinkers I’ve read:

  • Langer, On Becoming An Artist in which she talks about enjoying the now, without stressing about the outcome
  • Langer, Counterclockwise in which she talks about our society’s distasteful tendency to discard the old and remove all choice from their lives, and shows a better way that alleviates (and sometimes heals) the natural ageing process and fosters happiness at all stages in life
  • Goleman, Emotional Intelligence in which he posits EI as the source of success, contentment and progress in life, relationships, communication and work
  • Seligman, Learned Optimism in which he argues for a conscious route to a more productive, creative life through the discipline of optimistic approach to life

If you’d like to arrange a Resilience workshop for your workplace, contact us.

How to Create Confidence at Work

Confidence is not something that one generally develops overnight. It’s something that’s been formed through years of experiences and interactions, based on who you are, how you feel, how others respond to you, and more.

Many people suffer from confidence issues, especially in environments where they feel they don’t have a great deal of power. One of the prime examples of this is within the modern workplace, where not everyone feels valued and appreciated in such a way that breeds a confident attitude.

Confidence in the Workplace

This is a problem for a lot of people that want to get more out of their work life. The reality is that confidence is a highly valued commodity in the business world. Confident men and women tend to be able to impress their peers in such a way that they’re treated fairly and given every opportunity to succeed, while those that let their anxiety overcome them often find that they’re being overlooked for greater opportunities.

It’s important that you find a way to tap into your inner confidence. Yet often that’s easier said than done. Below are several strategies for becoming a more confident person in your office.

Office Strategies

  • Fake It The mind is an amazing tool, and one of its strangest qualities is its ability to adapt to the way you act. Faking confidence (pretending to be someone that’s confident even when you’re not) actually has the ability to create genuine confidence, because your mind adapts to that confidence level in order to be more comfortable with the way you’re acting.
  • Embarrass Yourself One of the most common anxieties people experience when they’re not feeling confident is the fear of embarrassment. To get over that fear, you need to get used to embarrassment so that it no longer affects you. A strategy would be to go to a nearby town and sing an embarrassing song for karaoke. Eventually, you get used to feeling embarrassed, so it’s not something that you’ll be worried about.
  • Start Strong Everyone has moments where they’re actively trying to be confident. The issue is that many people give themselves a “load time” where they sit and prepare themselves for being confident before they ultimately make the leap. For example, in a morning meeting, the person sits there longer and longer trying to get themselves ready to be confident. Unfortunately, this load time tends to have the opposite effect, causing the anxiety to be worse. When you know you need to be confident, the best thing to do is start strong introduce yourself loudly and openly the moment you walk in and start sharing right away. This will get you into confidence groove that is far more beneficial for improving your overall confidence levels.
  • Relieve Outside Anxiety Anxiety is a cumulative condition, so the more anxiety you experience in any one component of your life, the more anxiety you can expect to experience in another area of your life. It’s not always possible to reduce workplace anxiety, but you can cut down on your life anxiety in general. Focus on ways to become a more relaxed person and get help for your anxiety in your personal life, and your work life is certain to see the benefit.

Confidence is not always something that comes naturally, and there’s no denying that it’s not as easy as saying “speak up more” or “talk to people.” It’s something you have to essentially retrain yourself to do. So consider the above strategies for increasing that confidence, and you’ll often find that over time your overall ability to control your anxiety in your work life will be possible.

[box type=”bio”] This is a Guest Post written by Ryan Rivera. His anxiety at work was troublesome, and affected his career path and prospects. Now he talks about anxiety with others at www.calmclinic.com.[/box]

Assertiveness and Workplace Confidence

We are holding a workshop – Assertiveness and Workplace Confidence – at QUB, Belfast on Wednesday 18-19 February.

The realities of modern work life – flat structures, tough workloads and the need to exert influence across traditional boundaries – ensure that assertiveness skills are not an optional extra. Aggression is unacceptable; passivity is ineffective. In this workshop you will learn an powerful set of techniques and how to use them in specific workplace scenarios, such as when negotiating or influencing. also covered are the relationships between assertiveness and more general work-related issues, like the conflict created when giving criticism and receiving feedback. Continue reading “Assertiveness and Workplace Confidence”