It’s 2.45pm during a busy day, one of your lawyers comes over to say ‘could you just do the amendments on this doc? I need it before the close of play, thanks’ before you say anything they’re gone. You have enough work to take you past 5.30pm, so why didn’t you say something? It’s a common situation which we’ve all experienced in one way or another.
Assertiveness is about the balance between us standing up for ourselves whilst showing that we understand the other person’s perspective. In the scenario the lawyer takes our silence as acceptance and agreement. Sometimes it is easier to see when we haven’t been assertive after the event. We say to ourselves ‘why didn’t I say something just then?’ This is very common and it can happen to the most assertive people.
One way to look at assertive behaviour is to think of it as getting the best solution for the lawyer, ourselves, the client and the firm. In the scenario the pressure of completing extra work may have an impact on our current work in terms of its quality and completing it on time.
When we are busy and then we are ‘interrupted’ by a lawyer, sometimes there isn’t much time to be assertive and the moment is lost. So one tip in becoming more assertive is to engage with the lawyer as they approach our desk so that dialogue has started and we are already talking. We don’t wait for them, we engage them as they approach, with eye contact and with words.
If we are talking there is much more chance of us being assertive. As the lawyer approaches we could say ‘Hi Fiona how can I help you?’ She replies, ‘Could you just do the amendments on this doc? I need it before the close of play, thanks’ we reply, ‘I can, but which of these other pieces of work should we push over to tomorrow or can we get help from one of the other secretaries?’
These words won’t be suitable for every situation in every firm but you get the idea. If we start talking as they approach we have a much higher chance of being assertive. Assertion is important because it can have an impact on our workload, our stress levels, when we leave work, work life balance and work happiness.
More on developing assertiveness in future posts.