How to Bbecome Assertive?

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Some of us find it difficult to be assertive and we hope you’ve had some opportunity to explore the reasons why you find being assertive an area of development. As discussed in the last blog entry, some reasons why we may not be assertive are because we want don’t want to jeopardize our relationships, our fears and ingrained habits and the frames of reference that we operate from.

While the reasons may be many and varied, what is important is to deal with them and build your muscle in being assertive in your communication.

This time we are going to share some techniques with you that have proven to be very effective with people across the world.

One of those is Fogging. Fogging as a technique, is best used when someone is being more aggressive than you can handle.

In Fogging, you don’t argue back when a person is saying things you don’t entirely agree with. In fogging, you:

  • Calmly give a minimal response
  • Use terms that may placate the aggression, but not give away your own point of view
  • Don’t argue back or be defensive or offensive
  • Offer agreement to some part of the statement which resonates with your point of view

When using the fogging technique, you can-

  1. Agree in part – e.g. “That was an unkind thing to say. You’re a rude person!” “Yes, you’re right, that was unkind. I could have been more mindful.”
  2. Agree on probability of something happening – e.g. “If you don’t send the presentation to the client tonight, he will think we’re tardy and will rescind the contract” “You’re right, there may be a possibility of the client rescinding the contract for many reasons.”
  3. Agree in principle – e.g. “This is not the right tool to use for making these inferences. You may want to use the Helping-Hindering Factors model.” “That’s right, this may not be the right tool. Let me explore what else I can use.”

The objective is to calm the person down and therefore be able to put forth your point more effectively. When you say “Yes,…”, which is contrary to what the other person is expecting, it takes them by surprise, slows them down, and can reduce the tension in a potentially explosive situation. You are not agreeing that you had delayed things needlessly – only that you can see that they think you didn’t deem it necessary to live up to their expectations.

Another powerful technique that you can try is DESO.

DESO can be used for both when you want to make a request of someone or you want to show someone what is possible for you and what is out of bounds for you at the moment. DESO stands for

1. Describe – Describe the situation you are in; why what the other is asking of you is not workable; what it is that you want, etc.

2. Express – How you’re feeling about the situation in the here and now; what have you been feeling if the behavior has been going on for some time; what you can or can’t do; why you can’t support the person

3. Specify/Suggest – what you would like to see happen; who else can be involved; what other recourse does the person have

4. Outcome – what will be the impact of the other person going along with your suggestion

To use this, for example when a colleague is asking you for a report that is critical for her but not as much for you:

D – So I do understand that you need this report for your presentation tomorrow morning,

E – But since I’m already supporting Raj, and have my own presentation to make

S – You can do is reach out to Abhimanyu from your team

O – This will help develop his skills as well as get your work done in time

In your personal life, the DESO technique can be used as in the example below:

D – You’ve been upset for a few days now

E – and it’s making me feel scared and unhappy

S – It will help if you can tell me your reason for being upset

O – that will help me see what I or we together can do differently

Some other statements you can make and questions you can ask to get you started:

  • Would it be possible to / if you/we could…..?
  • When would it be convenient….
  • What solutions can you recommend?
  • How about we look at both the pros and cons of this….
  • How does that sound to you?
  • What I’d like us to….
  • Are there any other ways we can approach a solution on this?
  • Sure! Here’s another option I’m thinking of. Can I go through this with you now please?
  • I think I understand your position on this…may I clarify…?

Along with these techniques, assertiveness also gets bolstered by the skills of listening and questioning. Watch this space for more on those.

There are many ways in which you can practice and build on the ability to be assertive. If you’re interested in knowing and learning more such techniques for yourself and/or your team, please do not hesitate to reach out to us at


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