Nice people are great. They are likable. They are fun to be around (for a while, at least). They make you feel better about yourself.
But being nice alone isn’t enough. Because there is a problem with always being nice…
When you’re just nice, you don’t tell other people the things you need to say to maintain your own integrity and better your relationships.
For example, when someone does something that hurts you, you don’t tell them about it because you want to be nice – because you want them to like you.
When someone’s actions (or lack thereof) begin to negatively impact your team, niceness can keep you from confronting them about what they’re doing, which only extends the problem.
In essence, these actions are guided by their self-interest. By that, I mean that your niceness has more to do with what others think about you – primarily your concern that other people like you – than it has to do with genuine concern, care, and interest in the other person.
However, when you’re genuine and can get passed wanting to be nice, then you dare to say what needs to be said.
You dare to stand up for ourselves when someone hurts you or your team.
You dare to say what needs to be said, not just for yourselves, but because you care about the other person and genuinely want to help them grow beyond whatever limitation or action that holds them back.
And assertiveness is the solution for all that.
Becoming more assertive can give you the tools that you need to say the things you need to say and do the things you need to do so that you can develop stronger and more trusted relationships and build a more effective, high-performing team.
Now a quick word needs to be said on the difference between assertiveness and aggressiveness because I know that this is something many of my clients have asked me when we talk about assertiveness. Aggressive people say whatever they want. They have no concern for the other person or the relationship with them but just want their own way. This is very different from being assertive and important to keep in mind!
So, how do you become more assertive? Here are 4 steps that can really help nice people grow and build the skill of assertiveness.
1. Develop Self-Confidence
One of the limitations that nice people have that prevents them from becoming more assertive has to do with their own self-confidence. Low self-esteem and low self-worth prevent us from being assertive.
We don’t want people not to like us.
So, if you find your self-worth in what other people think about you, you allow them to define our existence.
Take a reality check on your own self-worth and how much you live by the opinions of other people. Once you recognize how this is showing up for you, you can start the work of building up your self-confidence.
When you develop greater confidence in yourself, you can act, say, and do whatever must be done without the fear of what other people might think.
2. Truly Value The Other Person
Another reason why we may not say and do the things we should is that we really don’t care about the other person.
Think about it. If someone you know does something that you know is bad for them, if you really cared about them, you would tell them, or you should tell them.
When you really value someone, you put that person above their short-term perception of you. and you put their best interests and their best future above their short-term feelings or discomfort.
If you don’t really value the other person, you probably won’t say or do what you need to say or do.
3. Have Courage
Courage might be the most significant obstacle to overcome. Most nice people would say that they have self-confidence. Most nice people would say that they do indeed value other people. But they’re scared.
And if we’re honest, tough conversations are scary. Who knows what’s going to happen? Who knows how the other person will respond? Will they still like us? Will our relationship continue?
The uncertainty can lead to fear which prevents you from doing and saying the things you need to do and say.
The only way to overcome fear is with courage.
To speak up when you don’t feel ready or when you feel scared. That’s courage.
Aristotle said that courage is the mother of the virtues. Honesty requires courage. Integrity requires courage. Character requires courage. And in this case, assertiveness requires courage.
4. Communicate Skillfully
One way that can help you to overcome the fear that many times prevents assertiveness is to know how to communicate more skillfully in those situations.
When you speak up to another person about something that bothers you, then follow these principles:
1. Address the behavior rather than the individual. Phrasing your conversation around the specific actions of the other person helps to prevent defensiveness. When you address the impact of a behavior instead of attributing the problem to the person’s character, it can be easier for them to see their part in the situation.
Think of it from another perspective. If people are telling us how bad of a person we are, we can easily get defensive, angry, and resentful. But if someone says that our behavior in a specific instance was inappropriate, that has less of an emotional impact because, after all, we can adjust our behavior. We have a harder time changing who we are as a person.
2. Personalize. Personalizing means framing your communication from your own perspective rather than attributing it to someone else. This means using words from an “I” perspective.
The words we say and how we say them have an emotional impact. Words that come from a “you” perspective (e.g. “you always” or “you never”) are like a big finger pointing right into someone’s face. These phrases immediately raise emotional barriers and create defensiveness in the other person. Once this happens, it’s no longer about the issue; it becomes about protecting the ego.
So instead of saying “you’re not reliable” you say “I feel disrespected when you don’t deliver your reports on time”
In conclusion, we all want to be nice but niceness doesn’t always serve us well, especially in a leadership position. Assertiveness is what will make you way more impactful in your relationships with others.
If you want to learn more about how I help my clients become more assertive at work (and in their personal lives) then click HERE to schedule a call for us to talk about what that could look like and mean for you.