Guide to being assertive
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Guide to being assertive
The ladder model for assertiveness

December 9, 2020

Being assertive doesn’t come easily to some people, and as a result, they can be exploited through their inability to say no.

The other downside of missing the assertiveness gene is that when people don’t say no, but mean no, and act accordingly, the other party is left pondering why. In this case it’s not fair to the other party that you failed to be assertive. So lack of assertiveness has negative consequences on both sides. Lose-lose is a far cry from win-win!

One problem is that people wrongly confuse assertiveness with aggression. In fact if you “Shift F7” on the word assertive, your thesaurus will serve up synonyms such as pushy and aggressive. It will also offer confident and positive. Consider the latter two more appropriate.

Assertiveness is about stating your position without anger or passivity. Delivering your message tinged with anger/aggression is generally unhelpful, a process called “mirroring” will generally ensure you get back some of the same, and in the process rational thinking flies out the window. Delivering your message passively/timidly invites dismissal, the other party feels free to move on without consequence. Assertiveness allows people to have firm, neutral, “fair fight” exchanges with people, particularly when something is in dispute.

Once people understand that assertiveness delivers positive results for both parties, provides clarity, and is not a form of aggression, they feel much more comfortable being assertive. I usually feel an overwhelming sense of confidence when the other party says; “Now John, let me be crystal clear with this, I feel that ….”. Crystal clear … I love it, what more could you want!

In their book “The Relaxation and Stress Reduction Workbook¹”, Martha Davis and Matthew McKay introduce a model of assertiveness that covers the key concepts well. It’s known as the “LADDER” Model which is a simple mnemonic framework that can be used to express thoughts and feelings to others in a more confident and positive way.

theLadderModel

When you’ve put together your LADDER approach, it’s worth rehearsing what you intend to say. Once you develop comfort with this approach, less preparation and thought is required as your new assertive persona is unleashed on the world! Assertiveness is an essential skill to build self-confidence and the trust and respect of others.


¹Davis, Martha. 2001. The Leader's Guide To The Relaxation & Stress Reduction Workbook.

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