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What do you do when being assertive does not come second nature?

What do you do when being assertive does not come second nature?

By nature, I tend to be somewhat introverted. For many years I had no idea there was such a thing as being an introvert or extrovert. For me it was just a laundry list of things I struggled with, I’m not good at being in social situations, I feel awkward introducing myself to people, I tend to avoid putting myself in the spotlight (the list goes on). Like I said being assertive does not come second nature to me, it often feels awkward, pushy or controlling. That’s not to say I allow myself to be a doormat it just means it’s something I know I have to work at. Some people thrive on conflict and drama, as a Connection, my focus tends to be more on resolving conflict rather than creating it. That tendency made the early years of my career very difficult. 

I was struggling to be heard and I found my lack of progress extremely frustrating. One day after a particularly rough week I was feeling very beat up by my experiences so I decided it was time to reach out to an old mentor. I explained my situation and he laid out the scenario for me in very simple terms. Essentially what he told me was nice guys finish last. “Don’t get me wrong,” he explained, “being nice is a good thing, don’t lose that, but you also need to learn to stand up for yourself because right now all you’re doing is taking on the work nobody else wants. When you avoid the spotlight and fly under the radar you will also be overlooked for everything else...no guts no glory. You are avoiding risk and confrontation so you can stay in your comfort zone, and while it feels nice to stay in the comfort zone, there is no growth there. If you want to live in the comfort zone and keep flying under the radar that’s fine but from what I gather you are unhappy there. If you cannot find a way to stand up and assert yourself that’s where you’ll stay, feeding off scraps your entire career.”

I began to protest but he went on. “Your default mode is to try to be liked by everybody, right? Here’s what you need to understand, being nice and being assertive are not diametrically opposed. Being assertive does not mean you have to be mean or aggressive toward others nor doesn’t mean you have to create conflict or start drama, it just means you need to become a better advocate for yourself. This is going to feel uncomfortable and unnatural at first but that’s ok, think of this time as the growing pains. When things start to feel awkward or weird just remind yourself that you are your own best advocate. Because here’s the thing, nobody else is going to do this for you. Nobody is going to come to rescue you from a life of mediocrity if that’s what you’ve chosen for yourself. More importantly, if you can’t convince yourself that your own best interests are worth fighting for how in the world are you going to convince someone else. That is why you are struggling for recognition and that is why you are stuck where you are. Work on that and you will have the answer you’re looking for. Yes, you are an introvert and that will help you understand where your behavior pattern comes from but the truth is most people don’t care if you’re an introvert, extrovert or whatever-vert, they just want to know that you have confidence in what you do and are willing to step up when its time to step up.”

As I’ve matured in my career I’ve realized that sitting back and hoping good things would happen is not a path I wanted to continue along. That meant working on things I felt uncomfortable doing and mastering my natural tendency to want to crawl under a rock and stay out of the spotlight whenever possible. Those feelings don’t go away, we just find better ways to master them when they do show up. When I talk about being an introvert I do it knowing that it has its positives and negatives just like being extroverted, but those are not excuses they are merely personality traits that I am aware of. 

What things do you struggle with? What challenges do you want to overcome to be the person you want to be?

Author's note- earlier in this article I mentioned being a Connection. If you are not familiar with the term or what I'm referring to here’s a link you can use to get a better understanding of what that all means. True Tilt Profile - Here you can take the True Tilt Profile and find out your Tilt pattern, what makes you tick and other insights. Hope you find this useful. If you do decide to dig in let me know what you find. Are you a Connection like me or one of the otherTilt traits in the lineup?