Tuesday, 21 October 2008

An Assertive Muslim Woman…kind of.

A few weeks ago I was sent by my work place to attend an assertiveness workshop. I have been on these before and I am still a wet lettuce most of the time when it comes to putting my foot down or stating what I want. The course presented us with two acronyms that were to be used in the event we needed to assert ourselves:

ACT – For when we need to say NO to something:

A - Acknowledge your request. Say a short statement to let the person know that you heard and are considering what they have said.

C - Clarify your circumstances. Be brief, but give them an insight into what you are doing that will prevent you from honouring their request.

T - Transform your refusal into a positive. Suggest alternatives and give options.

And a DESC Script for when we need to deal with an unpalatable situation:

D - Describe the behaviour that has been observed that has led to this session. Take ownership of the observations and be specific.

E - Express how you felt as a result of your observations and the effects you feel this may have on the team. Again take ownership of your feelings.

S - Specify what it is you want to see change in that person’s behaviour. Find out reasons that may have contributed to the behaviour, ask them how they feel about your requests, and invite them to explore ways in which they can work more coherently.

C - State the positive consequences if the member of staff does work towards achieving what has been agreed in this feedback session and the negative consequences if they do not.

But there was something about this one which was a bit different. The trainer made a very simple statement that stayed with me and is actually helping me to be more assertive. She said that you will find that when you are assertive, that some people will not like you. This made me think and I realised that one of the reasons I struggle to hold my own is that I care too much what people think about me and try too hard to make them like me. I know when I should tell someone off or be strong in telling them when I think they are wrong. Sometimes I take the wimpy option and tell them mostly what they want to hear, but I am realising that that is not being a good friend or relative and it is not good for me. Telling it straight is a trait that initially I used to dislike in some of my sisters because I use to feel as if they are being quite aggressive, more and more it is something I am coming to admire. The difference for me is being tactful when you are putting someone straight – if I were doing something wrong or incorrectly (salah or recitation of Quran for example), I would be happier if a sister told me, but told me discreetly and without making me feel stupid (for example I might begin by saying if I have made the same mistake in the past if that is the case).

Anyway, I suppose the key to being assertive is having respect for yourself and your rights and respecting the rights of others at the same time. I think for women, its often the first [art that we have to work at (you could do as I have and just forgot all of the above and keep beginning by thinking: "I don't mind if you don't like me but this has to be said").


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