In Article 4: Building Self-Esteem of the Developing Assertiveness series, I explored how to build self-esteem and confidence. Although I feel that taking responsibility for self-esteem is essential, there is so much one can do by oneself. In my experience, finding an environment that is safe to explore yourself, goes a long way to help build assertiveness skills.
Step 1: Be An Adult
In 2013 I started my first work outside the family. The first manager I was assigned to did not believe in me and I felt miserable under his guidance. The lowest point came four months after I started. With no sales on record, I had cost the company 3 months pay with no return.
Top management organised a meeting to discuss what was happening. Although they wanted things to change, they treated me like an adult. Although I was 27, I never felt treated like that. Being treated like an adult, helped me become an adult. After all, assertiveness is about acting more like an adult rather than acting childishly or like a parent.
Step 2: Choose Your Environment
After seeing the way they treated me, I committed to changing my attitude towards work. I had a defeatist attitude and it was not helping. I was also assigned to a new manager. The new manager approached me more like a mentor than a boss. Rather than pointing fingers at what I did wrong, he appreciated what I did and told me where I could improve.
It must not have been easy managing me as I was very sensitive to criticism. By valuing what I did right my manager taught me how to value the work I did and myself. I become a totally new person, confident and productive. Till this day it impresses me the impact a manager’s attitude can have on a person. Finding an environment that grows people is essential to developing assertiveness.
Step 3: Be Ok With Mistakes
With every work, mistakes are bound to happen. I was terrified of mistakes and when a client called me to say that he was unhappy with the work I did, I didn’t tell anyone. Before this work, exposing my mistakes meant that I would get in trouble. Eventually, my manager found out about the unhappy client and he called me for a meeting.
In an empathic voice he showed me that as I acted alone, I carried all the burden of the decision. Also by telling him about the problem, I could have found support to find a solution. The meeting helped me to be less afraid of mistakes and free to follow my values. Being free of the fear of mistakes, I could take risks in relationships and at work. This strength allowed me to be naturally assertive, and if I made mistakes I had the courage and skill to adjust.