Jade is an accomplished tri-athlete. She has competed nationally and internationally for many years and understands everything about the sport from training and technique, to nutrition. Her expertise and notoriety has helped her build a successful training business. An ongoing problem for Jade is finding the time to answer questions asked by amateur athletes requesting free advice. She knows that the precious hours she spends providing free advice would be better used assisting her paying clients.

When asked how she justifies taking time from her paying clients to give away her expertise for free she answers, “It would be rude not to answer every question that I receive. I was raised to use good social skills. If only I were impolite, then I could ignore those demanding triathletes and not feel guilty.”

Being impolite is not going to solve Jade’s problem.

Jade doesn’t have a politeness problem; she has an assertiveness problem.

Assertion has nothing to do with being polite or impolite. What Jade is unwilling to do is respectfully assert so that she doesn’t get taken advantage of by people unwilling to purchase her expertise. In addition, Jade is being impolite to her paying clients by not asserting, because she is robbing them of her time.

Assertive: disposed to or characterized by bold or confident statements and behavior

Assertion is polite if you assert politely.

People who are skilled at assertion appropriately communicate their needs to reach their goals. Assertiveness is a refined social skill that demonstrates self-respect, respect for others and integrity. Those who are unable to assert become resentful, stressed, bitter and remorseful. They often feel invisible because they cannot get their needs met.

Being well-socialized and polite does not mean one must be a victim. In Jade’s case, her unwillingness to assert stresses her out, steals her valuable time, causes her to feel resentment and is detrimental to her business.

Simple Technique to Politely and Effectively Assert:

1. Show empathy for the other person:

Make it clear that you are on the same page with the other person.

“I appreciate your dedication to the sport of triathlon and understand your desire to gain as much information about the sport as possible so that you can achieve your goals.”

2. State the Problem:

Use real data to back up your claim.

“You sent me a six-paragraph email containing ten training/technique questions. Answering your email would take me thirty minutes.” Or “You visited me at the Y where I train and interrupted me during my workout to ask questions about the best tires for your bike.”

3. Make a request:

Have a clear goal in mind and do not alter or add to your goal in this conversation.

“I would like to help you with your training/technique questions and I request that you sign up for a weekend seminar.” Or “I can answer your equipment questions, please visit my website where I list my fees for consulting, and purchase one hour of one-on-one consulting.”

4. Maintain control:

In order for Jade to be taken seriously when she asserts she must:

  • Remain calm, respectful, warm and polite
  • Stay on topic and add nothing beyond a well-constructed, rehearsed request
  • Refrain from blaming, judging or accusing
  • Eliminate wishy-washy language like, “Um, I was wondering, if, um you would mind, I hate to bother you, but, could you please, if you have a minute, I’m really sorry, but, gee…ah, forget it…you were talking about your tires?”

Assertion is an empowering and sophisticated social skill. Someone with superior assertion skills can politely and respectfully influence others and achieve their own goals. Assertion, like many other elegant social skills, allows us to interact with others politely and effectively.

Take control over your life and assert. You’ll respect yourself for it and so will everyone else.

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