Tag Archives: how to be assertive in conversation

The Curse of the People Pleaser

The phone rang. It was Jack, “Hey, Peter! Wanna head into town? I’ve got some shopping to do and I don’t feel like driving all the way there on my own. What do you say?” I went along to help out and together we loaded up the car with the supplies he needed.

Another day Jack called around and wanted me to help him with some work he was doing on the roof of his house so I headed over there with him, we sweated in the afternoon sun and got the job done.

A few weeks later Jack was on the phone again. This time he wanted me to look after his dog for the weekend while he headed out of town for two days of partying. When I said “No, I’d prefer not to!” he was shocked and said he was surprised I wouldn’t help him out. After all it was only a small favor as he put it.

After that I rarely heard from Jack. I’d bump into him from time to time and he was always friendly but somehow always in a hurry. It was then that I woke up and I realised what I’d done – I’d fallen into the trap of being a people pleaser yet again. I was always ready to help but otherwise there was no friendship.

This was years ago and because of my history of being too available and helpful whenever someone asked I can now easily spot the same trait in others. Maybe you’ve had times when you slipped from being a good friend to being a people pleaser…

Do you find it hard to say no when people you hardly know ask for your help? Are you always available to to your friends even when you do so at great inconvenience to yourself? Are you the one always running around helping everyone else but rarely the one others are running to help?

If these patterns sound familiar you may be a people pleaser out of habit. Often we do this when we want to be liked and we know that people will like us sooner and more often if we are helpful and agreeable. And there is nothing wrong with that it’s just that unless you are confident and comfortable saying “No!” when you choose not to be the perfect and always available friend then saying “Yes!” doesn’t mean anything and other people know it even if you don’t yet.

If so called friends drop you like a rock if you are not ready to serve them at a moment’s notice then be thankful. You don’t need “friends” like that and when they leave they make room for people who will appreciate you.

A friend of mine who is a classic people pleaser has paid a high price for his always available and nothing is too much friendship policy. Unscrupulous people, more than once, have borrowed large sums of money from him and never paid it back. He just can’t say no to a friend in need even when these people are not real friends. He can’t see the difference because he needs approval so desperately. The last time I spoke to him his business had failed, his money was gone and he was planning to emigrate in search of new opportunities. Meanwhile his “friend” is driving a Jaguar, eating out everyday and partying like he’s won the lottery.

So you can see, this people pleasing fixation can drain you of time you could be spending with true friends, it can cost you a lot of money and it can leave you feeling used and abused. With that in mind, let’s make sure we minimise the damage these people can cause, let’s spot our people pleasing habit early and avoid people who would see our friendliness and generosity as a weakness.

Three Ways to Be a Good Friend and Not a People Pleaser:

1. Sometimes say no to small requests made by close friends and family. Like I mentioned above if you always say yes it becomes taken for granted and your opinion isn’t considered or valued. That’s why it’s good to keep them guessing and to exercise choice, get used to making the decision to help or not and don’t leave it to others to always decide for you. This way you contribute more to those who matter most because now you are truly committed when you say yes.

2. Be decisive and choose what is good for you and not just the other person when you are dealing with an acquaintance. For someone who is not a close friend you don’t have to bend over backwards to always be there for them whenever they need you. That kind of commitment and trust needs to be two way and it can takes years to develop. If your heart says no then trust it’s wisdom and say no.

Any true friend can and will accept that you’re not always available, it won’t hurt the friendship if you say no to a minor request. If it’s a major request then you’ll need to be more flexible and decide based on how willing and supportive your friend has been for you in the past when you’ve had a major issue to deal with. Regardless of the situations that crop up over time a good friendship is about give and take, it’s not about you always giving out of fear that the friendship will fade away otherwise.

3. Sometimes you need to test the state of a friendship especially if it’s after a run of favors performed by you for your friend. You can do this quite easily: ask you friend to help you out with some things and see what the response is. If you consistently find you don’t get the support and help you need then be unavailable the next time he has a minor request. This is a test. If you’re a habitual people pleaser you might need to do this to assess the state of the friendship in an objective way otherwise you’ll never pause to see if your care and attention is reciprocated. You may also need to learn to ask and to receive help from people, don’t blame others if you always turn down kindness with the excuse that you don’t want to bother anyone.

Over time you’ll notice that some of those so called friends drop away because they saw the friendship as a one way street to benefit them. Again, the sooner you spot these people the better so you can spend less time with them and be less available to help them.

To sum up, only when you appreciate your true worth will you stop being a people pleaser, when that happens you’ll naturally gravitate to people who’ll appreciate you for who you are. However in the meantime bear in mind the points above and make conscious decisions about who you spend time with and what you will and will not do to build and maintain a friendship.

Doing so will put you in the driver’s seat, you’ll have more time for the people in your life who love and appreciate you and you’ll willingly and happily help them out because you love them, not to win their approval because you’ll already know deep down that you have their approval and that it’s not dependant on your availability to run errands and do favors for them.

Why to Say No to James Bond

Imagine for a moment, you’re outside your house unloading groceries from your car and heading for the front door when all of a sudden James Bond sprints down the street before stopping in front of your newly washed and waxed car. He shouts over to you, “Excuse me, is it ok if I borrow your car?”

You take one look at the cuts on his face and his ripped navy suit and although you want to disappoint him, you can’t. You reluctantly hand over the car key and cringe as Mr. Bond starts the engine and screeches off down the street. You think about how you’re going to explain this to your partner and you head inside wondering if you’ll ever see your car in one piece again.

Every so often, a friend, a family member or a colleague will ask you for a favour. Maybe it’s a few minutes of your time for advice or your input to solve a problem. But sometimes you are asked to do something you really don’t want to do. Maybe someone wants you to loan them your car or to attend a social function you don’t want to go to or perhaps someone wants you to give up your weekend to help them move house.

Whatever the reason for the request, it can be hard to say no, it can be difficult to assert yourself and, especially if you crave approval from people, it can seem like you have no choice but to say yes. The problem is you’ll quickly become a people pleaser, someone who can’t say no to anyone, someone others take for granted because you are always available.

If this sounds like you at times it might be good to start asserting yourself a little more. If someone is always asking favours of you and you really don’t want to help out, then start saying no at least some of the time. Start with small favours you’d rather not do. Also, start saying no to people who are acquaintances rather than close friends or family. Be available to the most important people in your life but be selective with everyone else and trust your feelings – if your feelings are telling you no, then say no.

What about exceptional circumstances? Let’s say someone says they really, really need your help and no one else is able to help. What do you do then? Bear in mind some people will exaggerate and say whatever will work to get you to say yes even though there is no great emergency. For people like that you need to take what they say with a grain of salt and revert to trusting your gut.

Another way to assert yourself is to say yes to part of the request while saying no to the main request. This is a gentle way to let someone down without being unresponsive to their request for help. e.g. I can’t give up my weekend to help you but I can spend Sunday evening with you.

Getting back to the James Bond scenario, you can now see there are a number of ways to handle the situation. Firstly, you could trust that gut instinct that tells you it’s a bad idea to let such a dare devil drive your car and so you say no because he’s not a close friend or family member you know and trust. The second option would be to say no to the primary request but to offer to drive him. So you see, there are ways of handling situations where you need to be assertive. It just means taking a moment to evaluate the situation instead of just saying yes automatically to every request.

Finally, when it comes to being assertive with close friends and family I find it helps to say yes when you are sincere and to say no when you can’t make it or don’t feel like it. Even then it’s good to be flexible and to see if you can help out in a different way or at another time. That way you don’t neglect the people that mean the most to you and you still attend to your own needs.

By the way, if you do bump into James Bond please ask him if I can borrow his Aston Martin. After all I’ve done for him it’s a small favour to ask!

How To Control Any Conversation – Simple Strategies You Can Use Today

Strategies For Taking Control Of Any Conversation

When it comes to taking control in a conversation there are many effective strategies you can use to gain the upper hand even if in the past you found yourself at the mercy of others in more powerful positions. This post will put you back in control by showing you how to access your own power to communicate with impact while still maintaining rapport.

Control ultimately begins in the mind. How you look at a situation can either empower you or detract from your sense of control over unfolding events. For many people conversations are random events where the other party sets the agenda and directs the flow of conversation. This does not need to be the case.

You can learn how to direct any conversation and how to take charge, stand up for yourself and make your voice heard. This goes far beyond assertiveness. This is about expressing your true personality and taking control when you choose to. And best of all you can do so in a way that makes people responsive to what you are saying.

Info Gathering Principles:

Always look for and align with commonalities

It is very important when talking to someone to listen carefully for clues that reveal what you both have in common. This information is essential for building deeper rapport. Later in the conversation you will use shared opinions and outlooks to bridge to topics or points you want to make.

How do you discover commonality? By listening carefully to what the other person says and even more importantly to how he stresses and emphasises points that matter to him. Look for shifts in voice tone that indicate enthusiasm, heightened interest or concern.

You can then ask questions at these key points to get a deeper understanding of how he feels about that topic, and, why it matters so much. The “why” is very revealing so make sure to explore further to discover key beliefs that dictate his world view.

Engage in active listening

In this the information gathering phase of taking control it is essential that you demonstrate exceptional listening skills. Listen to what is said, how it is said and watch the associated body language.

By being such a good listener you encourage the other person to open up and talk freely – this allows the conversation to flow and ensures open honest communication. If you fail to do this you have little chance of taking control of the conversation later because you will have neglected to identify the specific manner in which the other person likes to communicate. Further, by not getting deep rapport early on it becomes very difficult to achieve it later.

Observe talking style

Now, we turn our attention to how the other person speaks rather than to what he is saying. We need to know if he is a fast, moderate or slow talker. Does he speak up when he wants to emphasize a key point? Does he pause and use silence to build anticipation before making a point? We need to know. Why? Because later on we will speak in his style to “speak his language” to take control. If we do not it is unlikely he will even hear what we have to say let alone respond to it.

Other points to look out for:

– physical movements while talking
– facial expressions when speaking
– breathing rate and variations
– eye movement, intensity and degree of focus

Use of language

Some people like to use complex language to impress others. They will use technical jargon, insider terms and uncommon words to say what could be said with everyday language. When you encounter this pay special attention so you can use some of the same words to match their speaking style.

Make mental notes to use those words that you fully understand and ask for clarification for any words that you do not understand. It is important to match the language usage and sometimes to mismatch it to take back control of the dialogue.

However you need to pay special attention and recall key words and phrases later if you are going to use this tactic. Then, you will have a simple way to get the other person`s attention before taking over the direction of the discussion.

Identify sense of importance

One great pattern to spot is one I call displayed self-importance. When you meet someone for the first time listen and look for evidence of pride or even arrogance. This can come across in a watered down form as a kind of benevolent authoritative all knowingness. This is worth spotting and its even better if you can narrow down the range of knowledge or experience that this pride applies to. Let´s say the guy is proud of his business success, ask what is his most proud of and why. When you know that you have valuable information that you will reflect back later to win his attention and agreement.

On the other hand, there are many people who display humility even to the degree of feeling awkward about their accomplishments. These individuals may be wonderful people, tremendously interesting and very skilled in their profession but you`ll never know it unless you get to know them better.

These are humble people who value results and success but have no need to shout about it. How can you spot these people? They often are very precise when it comes to their area of expertise but quietly confident without saying much about what they have done. They have a quiet solid sense of self-acceptance that makes it fun to talk to them.

How can you identify what he is most proud of? It takes a little more digging around but you can still figure it out. Once you have a good rapport, ask directly what is he most proud of and why. You may get a superficial answer at first so be prepared to ask again, more gently, until he really answers.

We want to know what others are proud of and just as importantly – why. This information gathering will be very helpful later when we want to speak their language and take control!

I hope you will now practice the points we’ve just covered, if you do, you’ll discover how easy it is to create deep rapport with people as well as how to regain control in conversation.

If you enjoyed this post, you can find my more advanced strategies for conversation control along with conversation blueprints in my book How To Control Any Conversation at Amazon.com.