Self-Attitude and Assertiveness


Self-concept, self-attitude and self-esteem can all impact the way that we send and receive messages. Individuals with low self-esteem and a negative self-image tend to operate in a passive style. Other people might think that they are superior to everyone else, resulting in an aggressive style. This creates all kinds of interesting conversations!

Words to Watch Out For

If you want to be known for clear communication, avoid words like:

  • I’ll try
  • Ought to
  • Should have
  • Must
  • Always
  • Never

If you are tempted to insert these words into your conversations, replace them with clearer terms. Instead of “I’ll try to get back to you later,” say “I’ll call you back by 4:00 today” (and then make sure that you do!).

Your Inner Self Talk

Be aware of the internal messages you give yourself. If you start from a negative self-concept and negative expectations, your external behaviour will likely be non-assertive and you may end up feeling frustrated or angry. The more you replace your self-talk with positive, confident words, the more confident you become. We know that is easily said, and more difficult to realize, but it’s worth the results! This helps you build credibility and trust with the people you speak with, since your words and actions will be congruent.


Expecting the best and knowing when to stop talking are probably two of the most important elements of persuading others. If we can’t convince ourselves of something, it will be very difficult for us to persuade others.

Have you ever known another person who talked so much that other people stopped listening? These individuals overwhelm their listeners with conversation, until the listener becomes confused, bored, or both.

Mark Twain used to tell the following story that bears out that point:

“I was attending a meeting where a missionary had been invited to speak. I was deeply impressed. The preacher’s voice was beautiful. He told us about the sufferings of the natives and he pleaded for help with such moving simplicity that I mentally doubled the 50 cents I was about to put in the plate.

“He described the pitiful misery of these poor people and I raised the amount again. Then as he continued, I felt that all the cash I carried on me would be insufficient, so I decided to write a large check.

“Then he went on. That preacher went on and on about the dreadful state of these poor natives and I abandoned the idea of a check. And still he went on. And I got back to a dollar, and then 50 cents. And still he went on. And when the plate finally came round…I took 10 cents out of it!”

The lesson: balance enthusiasm with control.

Thirty Ways to Persuade

  1. Learn to link and connect with individual clients.
  2. Demonstrate your expertise and knowledge.
  3. Think fair/fair, not win/lose.
  4. Be consistent and predictable.
  5. Make sure integrity is reflected in your standards, values, and behaviour.
  6. Never assume they understand you.
  7. Never assume they believe you.
  8. Know when to be silent.
  9. Tell the truth.
  10. People believe exact numbers.
  11. Show you have nothing to gain.
  12. Flush out problems assertively.
  13. Clients believe written words over verbal words. (Think about how sales pitches over the phone might be more suspicious than ones in person.)
  14. Create an obligation for one or both parties.
  15. Proceed a bit at a time, from inconsequential points into major areas.
  16. Practice diffusion; show that you are out for the same things.
  17. Never corner clients. Leave them a way out.
  18. Give two options that are both acceptable to you, so that you win regardless of the choice. (Old sales trick!)
  19. Play with innocent questions such as, “Why would you want to do that?”
  20. Never accept an invitation to attack, since it creates a trust issue.
  21. Exude charisma and read the auras of individuals.
  22. Everyone is important and unique. Some literature says that you should treat all clients like they were an interesting guest on a TV talk show.
  23. Don’t patronize.
  24. Give sincere compliments.
  25. Smile before you dial (or meeting someone in person).
  26. Be childlike: open and transparent. Expand your centre of interests to include others and explore the talents of others.
  27. Use humour if appropriate.
  28. Remember names.
  29. Remember: difficult people don’t play by the same rules.
  30. Practice strategic apologizing.

(Adapted from the Secrets of Power Persuasion by Roger Dawson)

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Communication Strategies?