Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Changing People's Minds... Despite the Odds

Minority Influence Strategy

Changing People's Minds... Despite the Odds

The majority probably isn't as strong as it seems.

"All in favor of Rick and Alison's solution, raise your hands."

"OK, accepted!"

Of course, Rick and Alison are pleased, but what really gives them satisfaction is that the other six members of the board had initially been opposed to their proposal when they first put it forward. So how did these two people turn the odds in their favor and persuade the others?

What they did was a classic example of "minority influence".

Minority influence happens when a smaller group of people influences a larger group to act or think in a certain way. We often assume that the majority will have more influence than the minority, simply because of the law of numbers (there are more of them!) Yet it's undeniable that minority influence exists, and it can have far-reaching effects.

Minority versus Majority Influence

Majority influence usually relies on compliance, conformity, and agreement. But minority influence involves another phenomenon known as conversion, or change. The difference this makes can be huge.

When people are merely complying, they may go along with a decision without actually believing that it's correct. (Perhaps they don't think it's important, they think it would be politically unwise to disagree, or they're not sure of their facts.)

Conversion, however, happens when people accept and internalize the minority viewpoint, even if they're reluctant to declare this openly. Imagine what this might mean if you want people to really take action on something, rather than just say they agree without feeling strongly about it! You can see why minority influence has a fundamental advantage.

Minority influence can also help people think divergently (become more open-minded and accepting of different ideas), rather than convergently (being more narrow-minded and moving toward one idea). Therefore, areas such as new product development and process innovation may benefit from minority influence.

Minorities Get More Attention

As a minority, you have an initial advantage simply in terms of getting attention. This is because people generally feel more comfortable with a consensus. By having a different point of view, you remove part or all of this comfort, and you attract the spotlight to yourself and your cause. If the alternative that you propose is credible and realistic, people in the majority will try to resolve the uncertainty and discomfort that they feel. They'll look for more information and think about the issue more. As such, their decisions will be better thought through.

Getting attention does not mean that you'll automatically convince other people of your viewpoint. (If you're dealing with people who have a firm "no" position, see our article Opening Closed Minds for ways to win them over.)

Increasing Minority Influence

In general, minority influence will increase according to a number of factors:

  • How many people are in the minority.
  • The consistency of the minority's behavior and messages.
  • Diversity within the minority group.
  • The minority's relationship to the majority.

So if you find yourself in a minority on an important decision, here's what you can do to increase your influence over the majority.

  • Increase the Size of your Minority

    In a way, this is just stating the obvious – the smaller the difference in size between the minority and the majority, the fewer the people the minority will have to win over. But there's another aspect to it too: not surprisingly, we tend to give greater credibility to situations where several people say the same thing. So, whilst a one-person minority might simply be regarded as having a "ridiculous idea", three people proposing the same thing are likely to be taken more seriously. Equally, though, it may not make much of a difference if you have five in your minority rather than three.

    Of course, this doesn't stop a minority of one from changing a majority point of view – if he or she presents a strong enough case! But you'll increase your chances of success if you can identify like-minded individuals in the group and recruit them to your cause.
  • Be Consistent

    Minority influence becomes more effective if individual members of the minority hold a point of view consistently over time, and also if they all hold the same view. You don't necessarily need to keep repeating your viewpoint, though. What really matters in the influencing process is for the majority to perceive that you are confident and consistent in your viewpoint. The agreement among members of the minority shows that the alternative viewpoint is viable. And the staying in agreement over time communicates your commitment to the viability of that position.

    On the other hand, inconsistency or disagreement between minority members weakens their credibility. If this happens, majority members may no longer feel the same "discomfort", or the same motivation to try to think through the minority's alternative viewpoint.

    So, where possible, agree consistent messages with the like-minded individuals, and avoid contradicting them unless you feel you have to.

Don't confuse being consistent and showing commitment with being rigid and repetitive. You need to be flexible – adopting good comments and suggestions where appropriate – and still remain consistent overall.

  • Emphasize Diversity

    A minority group's influence is often reinforced when members come from different backgrounds. For example, when someone from production and someone from finance both have the same minority viewpoint, the impact on a majority audience is usually greater than if both people came from production. So look for allies in different places, and not just amongst your "natural friends".

    It's also good to show that, as a minority, you remain open to different proposals from the majority. "Give and take" like this often leads to a mutually satisfying outcome.
  • Be the "Acceptable Face" of Difference

    Ideally, the minority needs to find the happy balance between offering an alternative point of view that's clearly different from the majority's position, and ensuring a perception that the minority group members are themselves still integrated into the majority group. For example, governments are often more likely swayed by environmental arguments put forward by lobbying from minority "green party" politicians (people like themselves, albeit with different views) than by environmental activists holding a noisy demonstration (people they perceive both as different from themselves andholding different views).

    So if you consider that there's a risk you may be perceived as different from the majority in more ways than just your views on the matter under discussion, look for similarities and find ways to emphasize them.

Specific Approaches

Different strategies are possible for developing minority influence. One of the more conventional strategies is for the minority to first appear to conform to the majority view, win acceptance, and then gradually move towards an alternative point of view. Because the minority would be trusted as "one of us" by the majority, the majority would be more open to the minority's new ideas as they develop.

However, it's not always necessary to "win friends" in order to influence people, although you may need to accept being unpopular if you disagree with a majority head-on. The situation, and your determination, will determine which strategy works best for you.

Another approach is to sacrifice some small points in order to win the one that matters to you most. For example, imagine you're in a meeting to decide whether or not to approve five separate projects. You think that projects one and two are weak, but the fifth one would be an absolute disaster. The other people in the meeting are in favor of approving projects one and two but you decide to keep quiet about your objections to these to "save" your protest for the fifth project.

Here, you're reasoning that if you voiced your objections to projects one and two, you'd risk being marked down by the others as "difficult", and the others would be less interested in your opinions by the time you got to project five.

A Look Behind the Scenes

Remember the points above as we take another look at our earlier example with Rick and Alison.

Both are board members (who are similar to the majority). Their point of view is that the company should appoint a "customer delight" manager at a senior level to get the business back in touch with market needs and wants. The other board members were against this because of cost. Rick works in fast-food logistics, and Alison is from finance (diverse backgrounds). During the discussion, Rick and Alison expressed the same point of view (consistency) while offering different comments on how the customer delight manager could benefit the company (flexibility). They welcomed the suggestion of Tom, another board member, to investigate hiring someone to look after both customer delight and after-sales service (openness). They had already raised the issue at a previous board meeting – and now, at this meeting, they offered the same point of view and added a few more good reasons (commitment).

Rick and Alison set the scene in a way that maximized their minority influence. To present their arguments to the board, they may also have used techniques found in our articles on the Rhetorical Triangle and the power of persuasion.

Key Points

Minority influence happens when a majority is persuaded to accept the beliefs or behavior of a minority. Unlike other forms of influence, the result is often a real shift in opinion, rather than just superficial, or outward, compliance.

Minority influence has the best chance of succeeding if the majority sees the minority as consistent and flexible. It also helps if minority group members have diverse backgrounds and are similar to the majority group that's to be influenced.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Herzberg's Motivators and Hygiene Factors

I think this has strong links to emotional intelligence. The emotionally intelligent leader ensures that the satisfiers are present. The less EI leader works on the dissatisfaction elements, neglecting the satisfiers.

Learn How to Motivate Your Team

Hygiene factors are not the same as motivators!

What do people want from their jobs?

Do they want just a higher salary? Or do they want security, good relationships with co-workers, opportunities for growth and advancement – or something else altogether?

This is an important question, because it's at the root of motivation, the art of engaging with members of your team in such a way that they give their very best performance.

The psychologist Fredrick Herzberg asked the same question in the 1950s and 60s as a means of understanding employee satisfaction. He set out to determine the effect of attitude on motivation, by asking people to describe situations where they felt really good, and really bad, about their jobs. What he found was that people who felt good about their jobs gave very different responses from the people who felt bad.

These results form the basis of Herzberg's Motivation-Hygiene Theory (sometimes known as Herzberg's Two Factor Theory.) Published in his famous article "One More Time: How do You Motivate Employees", the conclusions he drew were extraordinarily influential, and still form the bedrock of good motivational practice nearly half a century later.

Motivation-Hygiene Theory

Herzberg's findings revealed that certain characteristics of a job are consistently related to job satisfaction, while different factors are associated with job dissatisfaction. These are:

Factors for Satisfaction

Factors for Dissatisfaction


Company Policies



The work itself

Relationship with Supervisor and Peers


Work conditions






The conclusion he drew is that job satisfaction and job dissatisfaction are not opposites.

  • The opposite of Satisfaction is No Satisfaction.
  • The opposite of Dissatisfaction is No Dissatisfaction.

Remedying the causes of dissatisfaction will not create satisfaction. Nor will adding the factors of job satisfaction eliminate job dissatisfaction. If you have a hostile work environment, giving someone a promotion will not make him or her satisfied. If you create a healthy work environment but do not provide members of your team with any of the satisfaction factors, the work they're doing will still not be satisfying.

According to Herzberg, the factors leading to job satisfaction are "separate and distinct from those that lead to job dissatisfaction." Therefore, if you set about eliminating dissatisfying job factors you may create peace, but not necessarily enhance performance. This placates your workforce instead of actually motivating them to improve performance.

The characteristics associated with job dissatisfaction are called hygiene factors. When these have been adequately, people will not be dissatisfied nor will they be satisfied. If you want to motivate your team, you then have to focus on satisfaction factors like achievement, recognition, and responsibility.

NOTE: Despite its wide acceptance, Herzberg's theory has its detractors. Some say its methodology does not address the notion that when things are going well people tend to look at the things they enjoy about their job. When things are going badly, however, they tend to blame external factors.

Another common criticism is the fact that the theory assumes a strong correlation between job satisfaction and productivity. Herzberg's methodology did not address this relationship, therefore this assumption needs to be correct for his findings to have practical relevance.

To apply Herzberg's theory, you need to adopt a two stage process to motivate people. Firstly, you need eliminate the dissatisfactions they're experiencing and, secondly, you need to help them find satisfaction.

Step One: Eliminate Job Dissatisfaction

Herzberg called the causes of dissatisfaction "hygiene factors". To get rid of them, you need to:

  • Fix poor and obstructive company policies.
  • Provide effective, supportive and non-intrusive supervision.
  • Create and support a culture of respect and dignity for all team members.
  • Ensure that wages are competitive.
  • Build job status by providing meaningful work for all positions.
  • Provide job security.

All of these actions help you eliminate job dissatisfaction in your organization. And there's no point trying to motivate people until these issues are out of the way!

You can't stop there, though. Remember, just because someone is not dissatisfied, it doesn't mean he or she is satisfied either! Now you have to turn your attention to building job satisfaction.

Step Two: Create Conditions for Job Satisfaction

To create satisfaction, Herzberg says you need to address the motivating factors associated with work. He called this "job enrichment". His premise was that every job should be examined to determine how it could be made better and more satisfying to the person doing the work. Things to consider include:

  • Providing opportunities for achievement.
  • Recognizing workers' contributions.
  • Creating work that is rewarding and that matches the skills and abilities of the worker.
  • Giving as much responsibility to each team member as possible.
  • Providing opportunities to advance in the company through internal promotions.
  • Offering training and development opportunities, so that people can pursue the positions they want within the company.

Tip 1:
Here we're approaching the subject of motivation in a very general way. In reality, you'll need "different strokes for different folks" – in other words, different people will perceive different issues, and will be motivated by different things. Make sure you talk with your people regularly on a one-to-one basis to find out what matters to them.

Tip 2:
Herzberg's theory is largely responsible for the practice of allowing people greater responsibility for planning and controlling their work, as a means of increasing motivation and satisfaction.

Key Points:

The relationship between motivation and job satisfaction is not overly complex. The problem is that many employers look at the hygiene factors as ways to motivate when in fact, beyond the very short term, they do very little to motivate.

Perhaps managers like to use this approach because they think people are more financially motivated than, perhaps, they are, or perhaps it just takes less management effort to raise wages than it does to reevaluate company policy, and redesign jobs for maximum satisfaction.

When you're seeking to motivate people, firstly get rid of the things that are annoying them about the company and the workplace. Make sure they're treated fairly, and with respect.

Once you've done this, look for ways in which you can help people grow within their jobs, give them opportunities for achievement, and praise that achievement wherever you find it.

Apply This to Your Life

If you lead a team, take a little time with each of the members of your team to check that they're happy, that they think they're being fairly and respectfully treated, and that they're not being affected by unnecessary bureaucracy.

You may be horrified by what you find once you start probing (bureaucracy, in particular, has a way of spreading), however you may be able to improve things quickly if you put your mind to it.

Then find out what they want from their jobs, do what you can to give this to them, and help them grow as individuals.

If you do this systematically, you'll be amazed by the impact this has on motivation!

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

What stuff says about us

From a Scientific American article 21/10/09

Ever take the time to really think about the stuff you have? Photos pinned to the bulletin board? Do you carry extra stamps in your purse? Slippers flung to either end of a room, or aligned perfectly—parallel to the bed?

“There are all kinds of things when you begin to look, of the way people leave traces of who they are in their spaces.”

That’s psychologist Sam Gosling from the University of Texas speaking on October 19 at theNational Association of Science Writers annual conference in Austin, Texas. And he thinks a lot about our stuff. Specifically how one might glean ideas about our personality based on just looking at our possessions.

He had his team go into people’s spaces (physical and virtual) and rate their personalities, just by looking at bedrooms, offices, Facebook pages, Web sites, and top-ten music lists.

By personality he means an individual’s scores on the big five personality dimensions: openness to experience (curiosity, creativity); conscientiousness (self discipline, controlling impulses); extraversion (social, outgoing); agreeableness (cooperative, trusting); neuroticism (Woody Allen as apposed to the Dude from The Big Lebowski).

“I thought conscientiousness would be where all the action is. I thought that was really going to show up. People get organized, they get supplies.”

Or we might assume that party photos or music playlists would reveal a person’s level of extraversion.

“However everything, in fact all the other correlations were dwarfed by the accuracy of openness. People were astonishingly good at picking up people’s openness to experiences by going around their spaces.”

Interesting that what people have reveals most about their level of openness.

But what if we wanted to change the way we are and try new habits with our spaces? Well Gosling illustrates one challenge with this, using an example of stamps:

“Who here carries spare stamps in their wallet or their bag? Raise your hand if you do. Ok now raise your hand if you do not carry. Ok, about half and half. What I find interesting about this is not who carries stamps. What is most interesting about this is the reactions of the people with their hands down. Those people who don’t carry stamps are thinking, “What? I’ve never even thought of carrying stamps. Why would I carry spare stamps?”

And all the people who do carry stamps are all thinking, “Well what if you need to mail a letter?”

And so the point of showing you this is that what individuals do seems self-evident and that’s why spaces are pretty hard to fake. It shows you that sometimes you think you’ve got it wrong but actually you haven’t. People are just using a different standard.

You’ve all had that experience where you are going to go into somebody’s place and they say, “Don’t come in it’s a terrible mess.” And you go in, look around, and the vase is not properly centered on the table. And they’re not trying to mess with you, for them it really is a terrible mess. And that’s because they have a different standard.

Even if we wanted to create a false impression, even if I wanted to give the impression of being as meticulous and organized as Cindy I just don’t see the world in a way that would allow me to do that. I wouldn’t see things that she sees.”

Christie Nicholson

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Click here for link to SEAL report

Interesting that we need American review of the (poor) research to cast a shadow on the impact of SEAL.

Worth a read.

Most interesting, for me, is that coaching teachers had a positive, small, impact.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Podcast by phone...

This could be very expensive.

Perhaps this is why I should get into internet telephone calls.

RSS in plain English

Simple explanation.

Just what you need; no more, to get why news readers are so good.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

The little things we say, and do.

"That's good,, it really is".

A student of mine, who is not the most confident of young people, tells me that she has remembered me saying the above to her several years ago. She has held onto this as a positive in her life and it has helped her through some difficult times.

Do we realise the impact we can have as teachers?

I guess I will have said some negative things that will have had a negative impact. Should I feel guilty about those?

Is it possible always to impact positively?

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Tip of the tongue learning

And I thought it was just because I was getting a little older...

ManYana Education advert 1

Educational training and consultancy working alongside as you move towards outstanding

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“Life changing INSET”   


Achieving tomorrow, today 

A quote from a participant on one of our programmes. He later took up a promoted position and cites the work done with ManYana critical to his progress.

Looking for great INSET for your staff?                                Go to our INSET programmes

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ManYana Education works mainly with schools, teachers and senior leaders to help them improve their work.

Peter Blenkinsop recently retired from the headship of a London Comprehensive school that was judged outstanding in its last Ofsted inspection.


Peter has worked for London Challenge as a Consultant Leader supporting established head teachers and has developed his coaching skills so that head teachers and other senior leaders are able to become more effective in their school.

ManYana Education was started to spread these ideas further.

Peter has also worked with schools in London, Bristol and Buckinghamshire delivering programmes to schools, working with head teachers and senior leadership teams and teachers as well as students.

Quality teaching and learning are critical to the success of any 

school. ManYana programmes are designed to recognise this.

Improving the working of teams, including understanding 

emotional Intelligence, will increase the effectiveness of any                     Please read about our other programmes for

organisation and is a significant part of the work of ManYana.                  staff, senior leaders, head teachers and students           

                                                                                                                                in this booklet and on our website: 

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Effective use of data, for progress.

How much data do we need to have available and use to effectively identify progress for our students? Very little, actually. Schools are data rich but, often, information poor, HMI 2007.

ManYana could help you sort out your complex data system, so that teachers have the data they need to teach outstanding lessons 


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CL1 – Consultant Leader. Supporting a senior or middle leader to help them identify improvement and how they can be even more effective.

SC1 – School Review. Observation, lesson visits and interviews with staff, students and other stakeholders will allow us to give you a “real” picture of your organisation.

CR1 – Creative Problem Solving. Using techniques from Edward de Bono, TDA and NCSL staff at all levels can be taught how to creatively solve problems.

ET1 – Effective Teams. Improving team skills by understanding people and how teams work dramatically improves your school.

OT1 – Outstanding lessons. What outstanding teaching looks like and how to achieve outstanding lessons.

SL1 – Coaching Training. Give your senior and middle leaders the skills to improve the performance of others. Their lessons will improve as well.

UD1 – Using Data. Do you want outstanding use of data? How little data do you need?

ML1 – Middle Leader Improvement. Middle leaders have a significant impact on the outcomes from your school. Is it as positive as you need? It could be.

HT1 – Consultant Leader support for the head teacher. Most captains of industry have their own coaches. Someone who can support you to think more clearly and solve problems more effectively.

S2G – Satisfactory to good. We actually call this The Aspiring Teacher Programme and we support through an INSET programme those teachers who are currently satisfactory but want to move to good.

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As a Head Teacher I wanted best value from INSET and costly training.

The providers were usually professional and their material was good. However, they did not deliver material that was completely relevant to our school context.

We knew quite a lot and we believed that training for all staff and students was important. What we got, if we were not very careful, was a presentation that took little, if any, account of our prior experience and knowledge.

One trainer really impressed me. We had engaged him to work for ten days on improving middle managers; developing their ability to create engaging and exciting lessons.

What he did was adapt his material, and particularly his style, to take account of what we already knew and had recently worked on.

How did he do this? Quite simply he asked us about the school.

I have adopted that process. It takes only a little additional time but it can change the effectiveness of the INSET if the presenter is able to say, for example, "I understand you have covered managing behaviour well. What I will do follows on from that work by ...".

Our programmes are excellent and they will be of significant benefit to your staff, whatever stage they are at. We can tailor our work to meet your needs even more precisely.

Peter Blenkinsop

ManYana Ltd

07 515 515 641

01923 460 172

Mixed feelings

Sharon Shoesmith, the ex director of social services at Haringey, claims that she was "done wrong". Ed Balls, she says, made his mind up too quickly, and was too influenced by a newspaper that was baying for her blood.

She also says that Ofsted "doctored" a previously ok report and published a version that said she ran a failing department.

She was in charge when baby Peter was tortured and killed and must take full responsibility for the actions and inactions of her staff.

The police seem to have been able to keep rather pure but what should they have done that might have meant baby Peter did not have to suffer in such a terrible way?

Why do I think that there is truth in ALL of these statements?

Your views?

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Google Docs

I know why lots of folk do not see Google Docs as a real alternative to using WORD, or even Open Office. I have used all of these in my time, and many other document producers.

Why I am I such a fan?

I like so much about Google Docs that this could just turn into a long list. So, here are the most valuable bits for me:

It's free, and I like free.

My files are available wherever I can logon to a computer with internet access. It means I do not have to use pen drives or any other form of portable disc drive. The version I use in Bristol is the same as I use in London.

The changes I make in one place, geographical place, are immediately stored and are now available when I next logon. I get a great idea, make the change in Bristol and when I get to London I do not have to remember to then upload the new version.

Sharing documents. I try not to email documents nowadays. I send a link. "So what?", I can hear you say. I have very good hearing! Well, if I send the link, then make a change to the document when you read the document you always get the latest version. Super, 'cos I do make the occasional spelling and grammar mistakes, typos I call them. 8-)

I can create and use my own templates. Relatively new in Google Docs.

I don't need to use much fancy stuff so Google Docs is fine for me. I bet you don;t really have to use all the functions in WORD! You just like them there, "Just in case you need to use them".

What do I not like?

Lots of things but nothing that stops me using Google Docs.

Do I worry about Google having access, potentially to my stuff. Not really. If I were the Prime Minister then I might. I guess I would be a little more secure if I could password and encrypt documents. But I would probably not do it, just be a feature to use, "In case I needed to".

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Note taking

The Cornell method

This oldie is a highly-regarded, very common system that makes it especially easier to retain information. By reviewing things as you go, you might even get away with less studying.

Divide your page into two columns. The left one (which could also just be the back of the previous page in your notebook) is narrower. You're going to jot larger ideas in this column: the 5-dollar-words and big bullet points. In the right column, you're going to take down as much information as possible. The right column is allowed to be messy, have pictures and tables—it's not necessarily organized. To some students, it's just regular notes. But as you go, record the main corresponding idea in the left column.

Every so often, cover the detailed notes on the right and just examine the main points and new vocab. See how much you can recite and explain in your own words. Then remove your hand and see how you did. Depending on the teacher, you might do this during lulls in the discussion or after class.

Some versions of the Cornell system leave the last few lines on each page for summarizing the whole page. Since what's on a given page doesn't necessarily group together nicely, I don't recommend doing it. But summarizing can help you with wading through piles of pages when studying time comes.

For a more in-depth look at the Cornell method, take a look at our previous guide to taking study-worthy lecture notes.

Monday, 27 July 2009

Friday, 17 July 2009

Need some suggestions, please

I am currently writing a training programme to help move satisfactory teachers to be good teachers. I need a short, preferably three word title for the programme that captures the idea, is inspirational and not negative. Satisfactory to good is ok but dull.

So, exciting ideas welcomed...


Monday, 29 June 2009

Assertiveness - firm and clear, not aggressive


Working WITH people, not against them

Do you consider yourself to be assertive? And what does being assertive mean to you? Does it mean exercising your rights all the time, every time? Or does it mean knowing when to let someone else or some other cause or outcome take precedence over your rights? Is the boss who places a pile of work on an employee's desk the afternoon before that employee goes on vacation, being assertive? Or, is the employee who is about to go on vacation being assertive when she tells the boss that the work will be done upon her return.

It's not always easy to identify truly assertive behavior. This is because there is a fine line between assertiveness and aggression. Some definitions are helpful when trying to separate the two:

Assertiveness is based on balance. It requires being forthright about your wants and needs while still considering the rights, needs, and wants of others. When you are assertive, you ask for what you want but you don't necessarily get it.

Aggressive behavior is based on winning. It requires that you do what is in your own best interest without regard for the rights, needs, feelings or desires of others. When you are aggressive, you take what you want regardless, and you don't usually ask.

So, that boss was being aggressive. Yes, he had work that needed to be done. However, by dumping it on his employee at such an inappropriate time, he showed a total lack of regard for the needs and feeling of his employee.

The employee on the other hand, demonstrated assertive behavior when she informed her boss that the work would be done, but it would be done after she returned from vacation. She asserted her rights while recognizing her boss' need to get the job done.

Assertiveness is not necessarily easy, but it is a skill that can be learned. Developing your assertiveness starts with a good understanding of who you are and a belief in the value you bring. When you have that, you have the basis of self-confidence. Assertiveness helps to build on that self-confidence and provides many other benefits for improving your relationships at work and in other areas of your life as well. In general, assertive people:

  • Get to "win-win" more easily – they see the value in their opponent and in his/her position, and can quickly find common ground.
  • Are better problem solvers – they feel empowered to do whatever it takes to find the best solution.
  • Are less stressed – they know they have personal power and they don't feel threatened or victimized when things don't go as planned or expected.
  • Are doers – they get things done because they know they can.

When you act assertively you act fairly and with empathy. The power you use comes from your self-assurance and not from intimidation or bullying. When you treat others with such fairness and respect, you get that same treatment in return. You are well liked and people see you as a leader and someone they want to work with.

Developing Your Assertiveness

Some people are naturally more assertive than others. If your disposition tends more towards being either passive or aggressive, you need to work on the following skills to develop your assertiveness.

Value yourself and your rights

  • Understand that your rights, thoughts, feelings, needs and desires are just as important as everyone else's.
  • But remember they are not more important than anyone else's, either.
  • Recognise your rights and protect them.
  • Believe you deserve to be treated with respect and dignity at all times.
  • Stop apologizing for everything.

Identify your needs and wants, and ask for them to be satisfied.

  • Don't wait for someone to recognize what you need (you might wait forever!)
  • Understand that to perform to your full potential, your needs must be met.
  • Find ways to get your needs met without sacrificing others' needs in the process.

Acknowledge that people are responsible for their own behavior.

  • Don't make the mistake of accepting responsibility for the how people react to your assertive statements (e.g. anger, resentment). You can only control yourself.
  • As long as you are not violating someone else's needs, then you have the right to say or do what you want.

Express negative thoughts and feelings in a healthy and positive manner.

  • Allow yourself to be angry, but always be respectful.
  • Do say what's on your mind, but do it in a way that protects the other person's feelings.
  • Control your emotions.
  • Stand up for yourself and confront people who challenge you and/or your rights.

Receive criticism and compliments positively

  • Accept compliments graciously.
  • Allow yourself to make mistakes and ask for help.
  • Accept feedback positively – be prepared to say you don't agree but do not get defensive or angry.

Learn to say "No" when you need to. This is the granddaddy of assertiveness!

  • Know your limits and what will cause you to feel taken advantage of.
  • Know that you can't do everything or please everyone and learn to be OK with that.
  • Go with what is right for you.
  • Suggest an alternative for a win-win solution.

Assertive Communication Techniques

There are a variety of ways to communicate assertively. By understanding how to be assertive, you can quickly adapt these techniques to any situation you are facing.

I statements
Use "I want.", "I need." or "I feel." to convey basic assertions.

I feel strongly that we need to bring in a third party to mediate this disagreement.

Empathic Assertion

First, recognize how the other person views the situation:

I understand you are having trouble working with Arlene.

Then, express what you need:

.however, this project needs to be completed by Friday. Let's all sit down and come up with a plan to get it done.

Escalating Assertion

This type of assertiveness is necessary when your first attempts are not successful in getting your needs met.

The technique involves getting more and more firm as time goes on. It may end in you telling the person what you will do next if you do not receive satisfaction. Remember though, regardless of the consequences you give, you may not get what you want in the end.

John, this is the third time this week I've had to speak to you about arriving late. If you are late one more time this month, I will activate the disciplinary process.

Ask For More Time

Sometimes, you just need to put off saying anything. You might be too emotional or you might really not know what you want. Be honest and tell the person you need a few minutes to compose your thoughts.

Dave, your request has caught me off guard. I'll get back to you within the half hour.

Change Your Verbs

  • Use 'won't' instead of can't'
  • Use 'want' instead of 'need'
  • Use 'choose to' instead of 'have to'
  • Use 'could' instead of 'should'.

Broken Record

Prepare ahead of time the message you want to convey: I cannot take on any more projects right now.

During the conversation, keep restating your message using the same language over and over again. Don't relent. Eventually the person is likely to realize that you really mean what you are saying.

I would like you to work on the Clancy project.

I cannot take on any more projects right now.

I'll pay extra for you accommodating me.

I cannot take on any more projects right now.

Seriously, this is really important, my boss insists this gets done.

I cannot take on any more projects right now.

Will you do it as a personal favor?

I'm sorry, I value our past relationship but I simply cannot take on any more projects right now.

Be careful with the broken record technique. If you use it to protect yourself from exploitation, that's good. However if you use it to bully someone into taking action that's against their interests, it's manipulative, dishonest and bad.


This technique involves preparing your responses using a four-pronged approach that describes:

  1. The event: tell the other person exactly how you see the situation or problem.
    Jacob, the production costs this month are 23% higher than average. You didn't give me any indication of this, which meant that I was completely surprised by the news.
  2. Your feelings: describe how you feel about express your emotions clearly.
    This frustrates me and makes me feel like you don't understand or appreciate how important financial controls are in the company.
  3. Your needs: tell the other person what you need so they don't have to guess.
    I need you to be honest with me and let me know when we start going significantly over budget on anything.
  4. The consequences: describe the positive outcome if you needs are fulfilled.
    I'm here to help you and support you in any way I can. If you trust me, then together we can turn this around.

Once you are clear about what you want to say and express, it is much easier to actually do it.

Key Points

Being assertive means knowing where the fine line is between assertion and aggression and balancing on it. It means having a strong sense of yourself and acknowledging that you deserve to get what you want. And it means standing up for yourself even in the most difficult situations.

Assertiveness can be learned and developed, and although it won't happen overnight, by practicing the techniques presented here you will slowly become more confident in expressing your needs and wants. As your assertiveness improves, so will your productivity and efficiency. Start today and begin to see how being assertive allows you to work with people to accomplish tasks, solve problems, and reach solutions.