To Provide a Good Service, Be Assertive
Being assertive is about finding a healthy and sustainable balance between your needs and those of others. This is something worth aspiring to in itself, since it makes life so much more positive, but even if you’re not yet ready to give your needs equal weight to others’, focus on the fact that you will serve others better by asserting yourself a bit more.
Towards the end of last year, I worked with a group of trainers who told me endless horror stories of arriving at the clients’ premises to discover the equipment they were relying on was nowhere to be found, that there were significantly more (or fewer) trainees than they had anticipated – or even that the trainees were expecting a different course altogether.
These dreadful things kept happening because they perceived themselves as having far lower status than the training co-ordinators they were dealing with and they didn’t want to appear ‘demanding’, preferring to prepare themselves as far as possible for every eventuality and to hope for the best. This is an easy mistake to make but a bit of assertiveness up front saves so much stress later! You can’t afford to make any assumptions or to take anything for granted: clear communication is crucial.
In my student days, I remember speaking from a platform where my microphone was stuck at an awkward angle. I had to bend to be heard, which meant I looked uncomfortable (I was!) and I couldn’t easily look at the audience. This took away all the impact of what I was saying – in fact, most people didn’t listen to me at all because they were so distracted by my unnatural posture. It simply didn’t occur to me that by trying to pretend the problem didn’t exist, rather than insisting it be solved, I was not being ‘easy’ but ruining the experience for the people who had come to hear the debate.
If you’ve been asked to provide a service, it’s your responsibility to ensure you have the necessary information, conditions and equipment to do a good job. Misplaced meekness sets you up for failure. Look at the big picture and find the courage to ask for what you need.