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Empower yourself to the top

Ruth Frances, empowerment coach
Expert advice

Empower yourself to the top

Governance | 1 May 2012

Assertiveness is the key to getting more of what you want and less of what you don’t, says empowerment coach Ruth Frances.

Our careers are part of who we are. They can symbolise our ambitions, passions, drive and future plans. But, if we are not being authentic - true to ourselves - and we feel dissatisfied in some way at work, it is not a positive place to be. And if we feel helpless and unsure of how to do something about it, spending so much of our time at work can be demotivating and demoralising. Confidence and assertion are the keys to getting more of what you want and less of what you don't want.

I have witnessed some incredible transformations of women at work, who complained of people around them asking too much, expecting too much, not noticing their dedication, keeping them 'in their place' and not rewarding their efforts. Fundamental changes in these women's experiences began to occur after they began implementing assertive behaviour and practising the conversations they were fearful of having.

How to achieve change

The first thing to do is to identify the areas that you are not happy with. There may be things that you absolutely love about your job and only have one or two issues that you feel need addressing. It is crucial to identify these in order to transform them into areas that you are happy with.

  •     Think about what is not working for you at work.
  •     Who is expecting or asking too much of you?
  •     What is the biggest source of stress you have at work?
  •     What impact are these stresses having on you, any health issues?
  •     Who makes you feel uncomfortable?

This simple exercise will get you to assess where you are right now and from here you can move on to work on eliminating or transforming these issues.

Next, a wonderful way to get the positivity flowing (and this applies to any area of life, not just work), is to appreciate and list the parts of your job that you love and thrive off.

  •     Think about what you are proud of at work.
  •     Who and what makes you feel good in your workplace?
  •     What are you truly grateful for at work?
  •     Who do you have at work who helps and supports you?
  •     What parts of your job are really important to you?

You may find that this list of things that you appreciate is long - or you may struggle to think of any. The more the better though, as this really gives you a lift to see that it's worth sticking around. If you are really finding it hard to think of anything you enjoy or are grateful for at work, it is definitely time to assess whether your amazing talents and wonderful skills would be better suited to another organisation.

Get assertive

Now, to get more of what you want and less of what you don't, we can look at the areas you are not happy with, and get to work. It's time to get assertive. Do you find you change how you behave with certain people at work? We can sometimes worry so much about what people will think of the real us if we don't behave how they want us to. Although it is important to adhere to a high level of professionalism within the company and its mission statement, we must be true to ourselves and not be afraid to speak up about things that concern us. If we can do this in an assertive way, everyone around us benefits and so do we and ultimately so does the business.

Assertive behaviour is honest communication, fairness, confidence and compromise. If our self-esteem is low we can sometimes behave in a way that is passive, aggressive or sarcastic and manipulative. It can just take practice and awareness to start to increase our self-esteem and following these simple principles will really help. Self-esteem builds when we ensure our needs are being met and through respecting others and ourselves, plus we can face challenging situations without getting stressed or behaving in a passive, aggressive or indirectly aggressive way.

Principles of assertion to consider:

  • Honest, open and direct communication. Think about your body language as well as the words you say: shoulders back, eye contact, sincere but warm facial expressions. Also, be prepared to listen to the other person's viewpoint - this is where a compromise may be appropriate.
  • Empathise with how another person is feeling but place no higher importance on their needs than your own.
  • Don't be afraid to say no to something you do not feel happy with. Short, concise explanations are key in these instances, don't over-explain yourself.
  • Do plan ahead and set the scene. Imagine how you want this to go. Visualise the person or people responding to you in the way you wish. If you can do this, you are already putting it out there in your energy field and you will find this really can make a difference to how things go.
  • Be persistent. If you are clear about what you want or how things need to change for you to be happy, and you keep it concise and calm yet you still feel you are not being heard, persist and repeat your point.
  • It is crucial to work towards a win-win situation. This way both parties will feel like they have gained and neither are depleted. It's great if you can have this win-win point clear in your mind before any kind of meeting or conversation commences.

A bit of assertive preparation and assertive behaviour can go a long way to get you more of what you want and less of what you don't. And this applies to all areas of your life, not just at work.

I hope this helps and gives you encouragement to get out there and be the fabulous, empowered, assertive woman that you are!

Ruth Frances is a women’s empowerment coach and trainer

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