Assertiveness pays at work

  • Photo by Glenn Tucker ¬

    Photo by Glenn Tucker ¬

Assertiveness is fast becoming one the most important methods of communication in this ever-changing and tough economic climate.

That is according to Paul Loftus, industrial/organisational psychologist, who was visiting the Island last week, and runs training seminars on the subject for managers to help them achieve the right end result.

He said that high self-esteem, confidence and managing with authority were key to being assertive, but there is a difference between assertiveness and aggressiveness.

Mr Loftus said the concept first became popular in the 1960s and 1970s with an emphasis on the ‘me’ generation and dealing with selfishness prior to assertiveness establishing itself as a mode of communication.

Pointing out that aggressiveness can be identified as being only in the interests of the individual and is typified by the archetypal schoolground bully who has grown up and is now the workplace bully in a senior management position, he said people who act in a passive manner and accept this kind of treatment can suffer from low self-esteem, loss of confidence, self pity and ultimately depression.

Meanwhile, the aggressor, he said, will never achieve their long-term needs if they continue in that vein. Telltale signs include body and verbal language, he said.

“People have to take possession of their own feelings,” he said. “Being assertive goes back to realising what we refer to as basic human rights.”

Mr Loftus said there were a number of basic human rights relating to assertiveness, including the right to refuse requests without feeling guilty, the right to be independent (in terms of ownership and commitment), the right to what you pay for (through knowing your rights as a consumer) and the right to feel and express different emotions (being aware and able to control them).

In addition, he said there was also the right to be competitive, the right to be angry (in a socially responsible manner and letting the individual concerned know that), the right to be wrong and make mistakes (with responsibility for the error of your ways and a pledge not to make the same one again) and the right to be fed, clothed and educated by your parents or guardians.

“All of these rights come with responsibilities, such as respecting the law and not violating other people’s rights,” he said.

Mr Loftus said being assertive as a manager instils confidence in the team and helps to deal with emotions as they occur and communicate feelings effectively.

Added to this are the ability to walk erectly, the use of a good variety of tone in speech and open hand gestures meaning that they are open to suggestion and want to work together with others.

Mr Loftus said a number of techniques could be employed to be assertive including:

1. Instant replay calm repetition and avoiding loss of temper.

2. Fogging taking manipulative criticism and empathising.

3. Negative assertion accepting your faults without having to apologise.

4. Negative enquiry inviting verbal and non-verbal criticism to find out what someone wants.

But he added that there were certain circumstances when it was not appropriate to use assertive behaviour, such as when dealing with someone under the influence of drugs or alcohol, a violent person or someone with disabilities or limitations, if there was more to lose than gain as a result, or when an individual’s self-esteem was so low that they couldn’t take it.

“Assertiveness is the key,” he said. “I often say to people ‘Think about the time when you went for the job’. You looked your best and that helped give you confidence and to get the job.

“It all helps to convince that person that they are good at what they do.”

For more information contact Paul Loftus on (514) 282-9111, email ploftus[AT] or visit the website at

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