>Assertiveness is not trainable

>Yesterday I was doing some training in Assertiveness. It’s a topic I personally find really hard to connect with and deliver training on. The main reason for this is there is no way of knowing if the training has been effective or not. I have little doubt about the content I am covering, I have done all the expectation gathering at the beginning of the session, I’ve facilitated complete discussions, but I’m always left feeling flat because there’s no way of testing it.

And I don’t like doing role plays. Role plays have their place in training. I will use them when I think there is no other alternative. But you can’t role play being assertive. It just doesn’t work. You can display the behaviours you think you want your delegates to display, and you can get them to mirror you, but it’s just not the same.
With many other behavioural training, you can readily identify how far someone has come on their learning and understanding of the topic. But with assertiveness it’s really hard to tell. Why?
Because each person’s set of values determines when they think they have been ‘violated’, I can’t peer into your soul and identify ‘yes, you should have been assertive in said situation’. I can raise your awareness on the topic. I can help you identify your ‘bill of rights’. I can help you learn techniques about responding to challenging and difficult people. But I can’t know if you’ll do it.
Attending training on the topic will only ever serve as an awareness raiser. You will never know, without certain follow up activities, if the person has taken their learnings and used them effectively. Those certain follow up activities are dedicated and committed follow up training sessions, one to one coaching (either from line manager or from A N Other), reminder messages about the learnings and follow up discussions. That’s a lot of activity which the best willed L&Der in the world will want to do, but in reality won’t.
Also, being assertive is often part of other things a person wants to achieve. They have too high a workload. Unreasonable requests are put on them. They are a go to person for problems. They are seen to be highly effective at what they do. Yes, being assertive in part in these situations will help, but the skills needs to be used in conjunction with other activities – open discussions, time management, presentation skills, facilitation skills, delegation skills. As such, when talking with delegates about why they want to be assertive it’s because of something else they’re trying to achieve. This is just one piece of the puzzle.
I have tried time and again to come up with activities that can truly ‘test’ whether or not someone has learned the requisite skills and can then be assertive. I’ve not found an answer yet, and I’m still on the hunt.
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Sukh Pabial

I'm an occupational psychologist by profession and am passionate about all things learning and development, creating holistic learning solutions and using positive psychology in the workforce.

3 thoughts on “>Assertiveness is not trainable”

  1. >I also loath role plays (and would question their value in most circumstances) but would share two thoughts on this post: 1. Have you thought of using actors instead of role play?2. My view on "assertiveness" training is apart from raising awareness the other thing it serves to do is signal other issues either that the individual needs support with or that the line manager needs feedback onJust my two penneth!

  2. >Hmm, I agree with the sentiment of the post – assertiveness is not easily measured within a training environment, but disagree with the title.Assertiveness can be acquired through training.

  3. >@ Rob Jones – The use of actors is an interesting point and one I've not really considered. Will try to explore this one a bit better.Agree on your second point. There are often other issues which the person hasn't thought about until they get to the training. It's good because it helps to raise awareness of other avenues to be followed. My worry though is that either the trainer doesn't follow it up, or the individual themself doesn't.@Lord Manley – you make a fair point. The title is to prompt a person to visit in all honesty 🙂

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