This week I’ve got three top tips for you on how to remain assertive when you’re being challenged by someone, as this is something that I’ve experienced and dealt with myself this week.

I had a very exciting opportunity this week. I got to go on a national radio station on a show hosted by one of my idols. I was super excited and nervous in equal measures. It was time for a taste of my own medicine actually – I had to tell myself what I tell a lot of my clients, that excitement and nerves are exactly the same feeling, the only difference is my thoughts and it’s up to me to decide what I think.

This opportunity was so important to me as it was something that I’d been chasing for quite some time. Being assertive means that you are persistent, you have tenacity and grit so I don’t give up on things easily and I never have done (that’s a bonus tip for you by the way!). In addition, it meant that I had to travel from Manchester to London for a Saturday evening 9pm slot for 8 minutes of on air time. So I hope you can see, that was a lot of time I was giving up, not to mention pretty much my whole weekend, and the travel & hotel cost to do this.

Long story short, the experience wasn’t everything I hoped it would be. In part, I think that is because ‘that’s the way life in media rolls’ and that’s just something I have to suck up and get used to if I want to get the publicity and become well known for what I do. I walked out of the studio and into the evening air of London feeling flat as a pancake, when really I expected to be buzzing! In that moment, I couldn’t quite put my finger on exactly why that was. I knew I was going to need to sleep on it before I could decipher what was going on for me.

My husband asked me how I was feeling and when I told him, he wasn’t actually surprised. He had felt what I felt too, which validated things for me a little. 

In the interview I was obviously talking about assertiveness and why its the 21st century skill that every woman should possess. Alongside the host idol of mine was a co-host that doesn’t usually do the show but I did know who she was, a relatively well known celeb. The show is well known for some debate and voicing of different opinions so I expected to be asked some challenging questions or have my opinion disagreed with – no worries, I’m totally used to that and more than skilled to deal with it. So what’s my problem? Well, for me I sensed that the intent of some of that challenge wasn’t clean. What I mean by that is I questioned the motive of some of these challenges and that there was an under current of a different agenda there. If I were to say I felt like I was Boris Johnson on the Andrew Marr show that might give you a sense of where I was at. And it was specifically that, that left me with the icky vibe and flatness that I walked away with. This was supposed to be a show for women by women, with a feminist spirit of supporting and showcasing what the female world has to offer and I didn’t leave with that spirit.

As you would expect, I did deal with all of those challenges well, because that’s what I’ve worked really hard to be good at and ironically, the whole situation demonstrated my points well. My husband gave me his feedback – I’d been a perfect role model and he was super proud of me (and that I sounded great on the radio as it goes!) Don’t start with the jokes… I know where you’re going with this one… I’ve got the perfect face for radio!)

Anyway, enough about me, my job is to give you some top tips for if you are ever in a situation where you are being challenged and you want to remain assertive. So, here you go:

  1. The temptation when somebody challenges you is to speak, and to speak louder and over the other person to get your voice heard. This is the actual opposite of what you should do. Assertiveness involves two key ingredients – consideration & courage. The consideration always come first because it starts with listening. You ever come across the 7 habits of highly effective people by Stephen Covey? Well, habit 5 is “First seek to understand, then be understood”. It’s not just about biting your tongue and keeping quiet till they’ve finished either. You shouldn’t be preparing your next response. Truly listen and you will learn
  2. Be present – there’s something really special about being in the moment and this world we live in means people are becoming less and less present every day. It’s more than just being there and paying attention. There are some elements to presence that sit below the surface, yet you can sense them when they are there and also when they are not. The 3 I want to highlight to you are your mind – who’s agenda are you on? Heart – do you genuinely care about the other person? And spirit – do you believe that what you are doing is right and has integrity?
  3. The third and final top tip is to calmly and succinctly respond. And I say respond rather than react. It’s the whole stimulus/response thing. When something happens our instinct is to react.  When we react we respond based on mood, feeling and circumstance.Those of us who take the time and effort to develop have the ability to press the pause button in between. Doing that means I can respond instead and in that space I do so based on principles (what’s important about the way I handle this) and desire results (what is the outcome I’m trying to achieve). It’s easy to see which one is the more assertive and gets you what you want.

So, there you have it. My three top tips on how to handle being challenged assertively. If you experience a similar situation then give them a go and I’d love to know how you got on. Equally, if you are struggling to master some of these things then my 2 hour Assertiveness Accelerator session might be just what you need! Contact me to find out more.