“The Art Of No” – Assertiveness Workshop with Gareth Alden

What does the assertiveness mean to you? 

When I came across this term for the first time, I was about 10 years old and I thought – “This is so simple – it’s just about saying ‘No'”. Why even bother to give it a name? As I grew up I realised that we have a lot of barriers stopping us from saying ‘No’ and how important it is to exercise our assertiveness. 

In history, there were a lot of brilliant men and women who stood up and said ‘No’ to inequality, injustice and irresponsible politics – which made our lives today a little bit more bearable. One of the inspiring examples is Audre Lorde, in her own words she was: ‘black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet’. Born in the 30s, you can imagine she didn’t have an easy life… In her speeches, she talked about the impotence of silence and the power of speech – how too often we stay quiet because we fear visibility and vulnerability it brings. This is what she said shortly after being through breast cancer, so it’s a bit more existential: “I was going to die., if not sooner than later, whether or not I had ever spoken myself. My silences had not protected me. Your silence will not protect you.” 

I think it perfectly captures our fear of speaking, and even more – the fear of speaking assertively, but we need to find strength in words. The last week’s session has equipped us with more courage to say ‘No’ more often. 

Gareth has introduced us to the pillars of assertiveness: Ownership, Urgency and Detachment by sharing his inspirational story of finding mental strength in self – development through fitness and exercise.

He made us to think of our true priorities, not the ones imposed by the others, and encouraged to book fixed time blocks in our schedule to ensure we stick to them. Himself, he has time blocks in his work calendar for the gym, meditation and daily close. These techniques have helped him to be highly successful in his career as Global Program Director at GSK.

He clarified that assertiveness is not necessary saying ‘No’ but instead – saying ‘Yes’ on your own terms: “ I would love to, but it would compromise another project”, “Sure, I’m happy to do that but can only deliver next week”, “When do you need it by?”

Dr Jung said: “I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.” – this is what make a difference between reaction and response. A reaction is typically quick, without much thought, tense and aggressive. A response is thought out, calm and non-threatening. Being able to switch into a responsive mindset can help us to better asses the situation and make better decisions. We brainstormed a lot of practical ideas on how to switch between these two mindsets in a situation of urgency:

·        Take a breath

·        Move – go for a walk

·        Make a tea- so British😊

·        Count back from 5 to 1 – has anyone heard of Mel Robbins?

·        Ground yourself and do the body scan

·        Think of the worst thing that can happen to correct your perspective

What is your idea?

Hope it was useful for you, if you wish to explore more on the topic here is the recommended reading: 

·        Essentialism the disciplined-pursuit by Greg Mckeown

·        Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win

We hosted this workshop on 21st January 2020 and will host many more throughout the year. Keep your eyes on our website and Twitter for details.