Preparation is the key

The more prepared you are, the more in control you will feel, and the more confident you will be.

Preparation means being aware of the particular situation that needs attention, knowing the person you need to talk to, and having an understanding of the message that you want to communicate.

Writing it down will help ensure you cover every aspect and not miss a thing. Having it on paper in front of you will help keep you focused on the issue and minimize confusion and flustered feelings. It will also help if you will anticipate any responses or objections and plan how to address concerns.

Part of the preparation is your overall projection. As trivial as it may seem at first but you have to plan what you are going to wear. Make sure it is appropriate for the occasion. They say that clothes do not make the person. However, knowing that you are dressed nicely and you look good will give you more confidence.

Keep in mind that you do not need to justify every opinion or statement you make. Never apologize for being yourself. Some people can easily sense if you try to mask the real you. This is a major turn-off for majority of the people.

Okay, so the script is ready and you are dressed to the “nines”. It is now time for a little dress rehearsal. Stand in front of a long mirror so you can see yourself clearly from head to toe.

While in front of the mirror, practice your body language. Stand straight. If this encounter is going to be in an office and you will be seated, pull a chair over to the mirror and practice how to gracefully sit down. Look straight and smile. Practice maintaining eye contact and look alert and interested. Do not frown, for you do not want to appear angry. You want to look determined, not daunting.

Watch your posture and remember to use easy gestures with your hands. Keep your voice intonation even. It is okay to sound determined, just do not overdo it. You should be passionate about the subject, but not emotional.

No matter how passionate you feel about the subject, keep you emotions on check all through out the conversation. Negative emotions, such as anger, will only muddle the message that you are trying to communicate. The other party will end up confused and focused on your anger.

Make sure you have the right timing for setting up a meeting. Everyone should be relaxed and hopefully no one in a bad mood. Now practice what you are going to say in this encounter. Remember to use assertive language -- that is, use clear and powerful words. Assertiveness counselors call them “I” statements. Examples of this type of statements are: I think…I feel…I want…The way I see it…In my opinion…What I need is…

You will discover that individuals generally behave in one of three ways:

1. Non-assertive

A distinct trait of these people is they automatically withdraw from an encounter. They deny their feelings only to wind up allowing others to make decisions for them, then feel guilty or resentful when it happens. They let themselves be trapped into doing things they do not want to do or go where they do not want to go. Later on, they get angry with themselves and the ones who led them to the trap.
They are good at putting themselves down. Even their language is non-assertive:
• It doesn’t matter
• Oh, that’s okay
• I didn’t have a very good plan anyway, I’m sure yours is better.

2. Aggressive

These people have the tendency to over react to just about everything and are highly emotional. They tend to be domineering and controlling. If you will allow them, they would make decisions for you. They get hostile and defensive, making others feel hurt and humiliated. They will even resort to name calling, blaming, insults and sarcasm.
Their language reflects their aggressiveness:
• We’ll do it my way
• I don’t need to hear any more from you
• You don’t even know what you’re talking about!

3.  Assertive

These people are open and direct. They are usually good communicators and negotiators. It is no wonder that compromise comes easily to them. They are able to view both sides of a situation, but they won’t be made into doormats. They know what they want and they are not shy about letting you know. They are all about getting what they need and protecting their rights, but without stomping all over the other person’s feelings and rights.

As you can see, assertive behavior and responses allows you to get your point across the person, get what you need, and negotiate a good deal for yourself. You do not need to suffer through a hurtful relationship, attack someone else’s self-esteem, or make someone defensive in any way. You can even persuade difficult people more easily by remaining calm, laying out your points and reasons, and acknowledging their side as well.

As you stand in front of a mirror, practice what you want to say and anticipate probable responses. Practice will make you feel more comfortable and confident when you approach the person in a real meeting. 

 When you feel you are prepared, walk out of that comfort zone. Be confident in meeting that important person and put everything you have learned. Make sure you look sharp, stand up straight, shake his hand, and smile. Take a deep breath and start making your points.

Speak slowly and clearly. Do not mumble and dash through your prepared script. Your notes are just there to keep you focused and to help you remember important points. Do not just read it; let it be your guide to what you want to say.

Listen and graciously allow the other person to respond now and then. He may want to discuss certain points and negotiate with you about your needs. Hopefully, you will reach an agreement at the end of the meeting. If this is not the case, allow him time to think. He may need to consider all you have said before making a final decision. It is okay to give him time to think. Pushing him to make a snap decision could work against you.

If it goes as well as you had hoped, you will feel a sense of elation and excitement. If you achieved your goal, you should definitely celebrate. You stepped outside your comfort zone and did something you have never done before. Pat yourself on the back for a job well done. Your confidence level just jumped several points and you probably feel like you could take on the world.

When another time comes, allowing you to jump out of the comfort zone and display your newly acquired skills of assertiveness, remember this day and remind yourself, “I did it before and I can do it again.” The first time is always the most difficult and each succeeding time will get easier and easier.