Be Assertive - A trainer's insight

Be Assertive - A trainer's insight

Posted By admin |13 Dec 2012
Be Assertive - A trainer's insight

JCI Cambridge's January 'Be Assertive' workshop trainer Garin Rouch, explains further about what was covered during the session.

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In the session we looked at what assertiveness is, what stops people from being assertive and a structure for tackling the often difficult task of saying 'no'!

In a nutshell, assertiveness is being able to express your opinions and feelings, but in a way that also respects the rights of others. Assertiveness isn't about being aggressive or always getting your own way. It is about standing up for yourself constructively. It's not about winning, but about being able to walk away feeling that you have successfully and clearly put across what it is you wanted to say.

Asserting yourself means:

  • You can say 'Yes' when you mean 'Yes' and 'No' when you mean 'No'

  • You can communicate to others what you are feeling clearly and calmly

  • You do not let fear of conflict stop you from speaking

  • You feel good about yourself

  • You feel entitled to be who you are and to express what you feel


Being assertive has many benefits; others have more respect for you, you don't allow yourself to be mistreated, you benefit from healthier relationships and you have the confidence to make decisions and have a voice.


So if being assertive is the most effective and positive way to behave and communicate, why do we sometimes find it so difficult and end up behaving in ineffective negative ways?

We are heavily influenced by our flight or fight response, originating in prehistoric times. Thousands of years ago, human's response to dangers such as wild animals or opposing tribes was either to run away or attack the danger.

Today, our society is a lot more complex meaning we can't respond to danger in the same way. For example, if our boss threatens us with the sack we can't respond by jumping over the desk and attacking them with a spear (no matter how tempting it may be!).Alternatively, we can't just run out of the building back to our home!

Our modern non-assertive responses are:

  • Aggressive: Being arrogant, forceful or determined to get your own way.

  • Passive: Deferring your own needs and wishes in favour of others' needs and wants.

  • Passive-aggressive: indirect and manipulative communication and behaviour


In some situations you may feel capable of being assertive. But in other circumstances you may find it difficult to express yourself honestly and clearly. We asked JCI members to self-assess themselves and recognise their levels of assertiveness in 2 different contexts; at work and with friends. A lot of people were surprised with the results and took time to reflect on the reasons why they found it more difficult to be assertive in one area of their life compared to another.

There are a number of reasons why you may find it challenging to be assertive in different situations. These include your beliefs, your upbringing, relationships and levels of confidence. Your ability to assertive will also be influenced by other peoples' behaviour.

For example, with high unemployment and redundancy levels, a feeling of job insecurity means it can be difficult to assert our needs at work. We can find it difficult to say 'no' to a senior person making an unreasonable request even if it forces us into working longer hours or neglecting our own work.

As a final exercise, JCI members were given a structure for saying 'no'. In our experience as consultants to leading organisations, we found employees feel a lot of anxiety about the consequences of saying 'no'. People often don't say anything at all, agree to things they'd rather not or get landed with work that isn't theirs.

So, JCI members made a pledge to each other that they would say 'no' to a particular person or situation before the next session on the 21st February.  So when you go to the next session, make sure you ask JCI members who they said 'no' to and what happened!


This is the third time Outstand has delivered to JCI Cambridge and we always enjoy delivering sessions to JCI because of the lively debate and participation. The range of questions and the personal experiences many of you shared were really insightful and made for an extremely enjoyable evening.


If you would like to learn more about being more assertive in the workplace you can contact us today on 01223 911 811 or email us at


To find out what Stuart Young, one of JCI Cambridge's members thought of Garin's 'Be Assertive' workshop then read his latest blog.