How assertive are you?

“Too many of us fail to fulfill our needs because we say no rather than yes, yes when we should say no.” – William Glasser

To handle uncomfortable or hostile or difficult moments or situations in your personal or professional life, you should have a strong sense of yourself and should find balance in your passive and aggressive behaviours in order to stand up for yourself. You need to be more assertive in expressing yourself in a positive way in such situations and should be able to communicate your thoughts and feelings firmly and directly in order not to be on the receiving end of meanness or bullying or teasing. Research has shown that those who are victimised by bullies exhibit a certain kind of vulnerability as they lack the ability to stand up for themselves and are unable to assert themselves or defend themselves even when picked on. How well you can handle such situations is often determined by your levels of assertiveness. Some people are naturally assertive, but if you are not one of them, it is an important skill to be practiced and developed.

Assertiveness is a must learned skill when it comes to handling stressful and conflicting situations in our personal and professional relationships and to overcome traits like passivity, sensitivity to criticism, insecurity, anxiety and low self-esteem. Some of us struggle to be assertive in some situations, but can find the right words in other. Some are not assertive for fear of upsetting or displeasing others and of not being liked. Even though you may avoid immediate unpleasantness by not being assertive, in the long run, you end up jeopardising your relationships. And if you are too passive, always putting others’ needs before yours, you give others the license to disregard your wants and needs. Sometimes this leads to saying ‘yes’ to certain things at the expense of your own interests and priorities thereby leading to an internal conflict, stress, resentment, seething anger or feelings of victimisation. And also leading to your needs always ending up on the back burner leaving you perpetually dissatisfied.

So, What is being assertive or self-assertion all about?

Being assertive is standing up for your rights while still respecting others, defending your own boundaries while not crossing other people’s lines, expressing your own opinions, needs, wants and feelings without hurting others, or disagreeing without being disagreeable. It means you are not afraid of speaking your mind. It requires being forthright about your wants and needs, while still considering the rights, needs and wants of others. You thus draw power from this to get your point across firmly, fairly and with empathy.

Being able to stand up for yourself in a way that is both respectful to yourself and others shows that you have boundaries and you are prepared to put your own needs first. When you are effectively assertive, you are neither aggressive nor passive — instead you are honest, direct, and skilled at articulating your views. Assertiveness is being proactive. It’s negating any possibility of the person we communicate with getting mad at us or disliking what we said or did.

Being Assertive over Passive or Aggressive

Assertiveness is often confused with aggression as there is a very fine line between the two. For this reason, it is important to know the difference in both the behaviours. Assertiveness means standing up for yourself in a nonaggressive way and it does not mean dominance over others or controlling. If you are aggressive, and in case you had a difference of opinion with an other person, you may resort to anger, rudeness or name calling. Also you might try to force your point of view, even at the expense of another’s. Whereas assertive behaviour is standing up and expressing yourself by being respectful and without putting down anyone else.

Being aggressive is also disregarding the needs, feelings and opinions of others. Aggressive behaviour damages your personal and professional relationships and undercuts trust and mutual respect. Others may come to resent you, leading them to avoid or oppose you. On the other hand, if you are passive, you become uncomfortable expressing yourself honestly. You feel you don’t have the right to be heard. You back down easily or would go with whatever others decide to avoid conflict. Also if you are passive-aggressive, you may say ‘yes’ when you want to say ‘no’ and you may complain and pass comments behind their backs rather than confronting them directly. You may show anger and feelings through your actions or negative attitude. Overtime passive-aggressive behaviour makes it difficult for you to meet your goals and needs.

Why is it important to be Assertive?

Being assertive is to find the right balance between passive and aggressive. To be assertive is to have a strong sense of yourself, your values and to openly express your opinions, feelings, needs and desires and to act in accordance with your goals and objectives. Knowing and claiming your own rights while at the same time respecting others can help you build better relationships in your professional endeavours. You can get things done by treating people with fairness and respect. It can help you to interact and negotiate so that yours and others’ views are given fair treatment and can find common ground to arrive at the best solution possible.

With increasing competition, being assertive at the workplace becomes really important to openly share your ideas thoughts and opinions at work. Assertiveness helps you exhibit positive and open style of communication that is neither submissive nor aggressive. It also improves confidence and is an indirect and a powerful tool to increase your productivity and efficiency. Being assertive is important to handle different situations like to respond or cope with putdowns, to make requests, or to say ‘no’ effectively, give and receive criticism appropriately, handling and expressing anger, speaking up to a rude person, or to deal with stressful or unpleasant situations in your personal or professional life. It helps you plan and carry through difficult encounters and to manage conflicting situations more effectively.

How to become more Assertive?

Not everything you want will be handed to you. Sometimes, you have to go out and get it. And if you want to succeed in your goals, you will have to be assertive. The right amount of assertiveness can help you get ahead. Assertiveness can be learned and the key is to understand the context and to set realistic goals to make small changes. Here are some strategies to help you become more assertive.

Assess your level of Assertiveness. You can assess your own behaviour or can do so through feedback from others. Check your willingness to express yourself and what you want. Try to assess your interactions as to what is being said and how you feel about it, how do you want to respond to what is being said? Or what do you want from that particular situation. This way, you will be able to decide whether you need to be assertive and most importantly how to be assertive so that there is a positive result. If you find that in your assessment that you are holding back in certain situations where you shouldn’t, write down the reasons as to what you aren’t saying and the reason as to why you aren’t saying. This way, you can make yourself assertive next time you enter a similar situation. Assessment keeps you focused on improving your abilities to be assertive in difficult conversations.

Practice assertive communication techniques. Sometimes it is often quite hard to know how to put your feelings across clearly and confidently to someone. The scripting technique can help in such situations as it allows you to prepare what you want to say in advance. You can tell the other person exactly about the event and how you see the situation or problem. You can describe your feelings about the situation and express your emotions clearly. You can tell exactly what you need from him or her so that he or she doesn’t have to guess. Describing the positive impact that your request will have for him or her if your needs are met.

Using ‘I’ statements lets others know what you are thinking or feeling without being accusatory, like for instance, “I disagree” rather than “you’re wrong”. While requesting , you can say, “I want you to help with this” rather than “ you need to do this”. Keep them simple and specific to get your points across firmly. Try using verbs that are more definite and specific. For instance, use verbs like ‘will’ instead of ‘could’ or ‘should’ or ‘want’ instead of ‘need’ or ‘choose to’ instead of ‘have to’. Keep your communications direct to get your message across by using the assertive communication technique.

Express yourself positively. It is important to express your thoughts and opinions even when dealing with difficult or unpleasant situations. Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself and to confront people who challenge you. If others get angry or resentful towards you, avoid reacting to them. But try to control your emotions and stay calm and respectful at all times. Accept both positive and negative feedback positively and if you don’t agree with criticism that you receive then you should be able to say so without getting angry or defensive. Express negative emotions in a healthy manner. Don’t take out your frustration or aggression on others in order to be assertive. Understand that you cannot be assertive all the time with all people in all situations. The key is to achieve the right balance of when to be assertive and when not to. This will help you to respond and not react to situations.

Practice saying ‘no’. Many confuse saying ‘no’ with negativity. Knowing your own boundaries or limits and how much work you are able to take will help you to manage your tasks effectively. You cannot possibly please everyone. Saying ‘no’ assertively when necessary can save your time and work load. Saying ‘yes’ to a commitment or task you don’t really want to do can get you into a state of stress and negativity. If you have a hard time turning down requests, try saying “No, I can’t do that now.” Don’t hesitate and be direct or brief in your explanation if required. It is important to be consistent in respecting your boundaries and to learn to say ‘no’ clearly and unambiguously.

Resist the temptation to react immediately and in extremes. Difficult conversations often trigger a huge amount of stress which is why you may avoid such interactions in the first place. When pushed to our limits, most of us get either compliant (submissive) or defiant(opposing or resisting). Reacting either way does not help you in being a good team player or to lead effectively. Recognise your style either compliant or defiant and then consciously try to take the middle ground. Ask questions rather than reacting. It gives you specific points to argue rather than just catastrophizing about how others might react if you object. And in contrary, If your views don’t chime with the dominant view point, you need not change yours on important issues according to who you are talking to. Sometimes saying nothing also is one of the most assertive position you can adopt.

To conclude,

Do you voice your opinion or remain silent in important discussions and conversations? Are you able to assert yourself or defend when you get picked on? Do you often say ‘yes’ to additional work even when you have work to do? Is your unassertiveness is because of the fear that the other person will criticise you or put you down? Do you stand your ground or do you feel victimised when it comes to your values or important issues in your personal or professional relationships? Is your communication style aggressive or assertive? Do you often disregard the needs, feelings, and opinions of others or do you respect them? Asking yourself above questions will help you to know where you are particularly sensitive and where you need to be assertive thus you will be better placed to avoid being too passive or aggressive.

If you’ve spent years silencing yourself, becoming more assertive takes time and practice. You don’t need to be assertive in every context of the day or you need not change your authenticity to become assertive. Assess your own degree of assertiveness, understand the context, set realistic goals to make small changes in your behaviour or communication with the help of the above strategies to become more assertive in your work or social or personal relationships. Express yourself openly and authentically without being passive or aggressive.

“Assertiveness is not what you do, it’s who you are!” ― Shakti Gawain

Overcome your overconfidence bias

“There is nothing like success to blind one to the possibility of failure.” – Roger Lowenstein

Every day we hold onto certain kind of expectations about ourselves, others and about our circumstances. These expectations we hold about ourselves directly influence our attitudes, decisions, behaviours, perspectives, as well as interactions with others. To succeed in our goals and to achieve our objectives, we must have a realistic assessment of our expectations. Being confident that your expectations will be met is important in business or work and life in general. But confidence is not about having it all. Instead, it’s about being okay with whatever you have and using it to its best potential. However, If you don’t use it wisely, it turns into overconfidence which then turns against you. It is important not to be overconfident. For instance. being overconfident while making a decision, you may overlook something important or might not look at all because you are confident that you already know what to choose. 

You might be creative, hardworking, ambitious and might think you are much better in what you do. At the same time. you also might allow the confidence you gain from your talents to delude you into believing that you could do everything else to the same level of success in other areas. As a result, you become overconfident in your abilities. Such thinking can make you think that you’re invaluable to your company or in the work you do where in fact almost anyone could do your job. Research shows that we overestimate our precision of information that we have about a situation and thus tend to believe something is much more likely to occur than it really is. Such bias from overconfidence is quite prevalent where most of us believe that our judgments and decisions are better than they really are.

So, what is a overconfidence bias?

Overconfidence bias is in which people demonstrate unwarranted faith in their own intuitive reasoning, judgments or cognitive abilities. It is a tendency to hold a false and misleading assessment of our skills, knowledge, intellect or talent. You might come across such bias in yourself or in people around you in your personal or professional environments. You may see yourself a more capable than your colleagues, more knowledgeable or even ethical and talented.

What causes overconfidence bias?

Emotional and cognitive distortion that creates overconfidence can be a major hindrance to any form of success. Overconfidence bias might occur after recent success or because of a sense of self-importance. Sometimes it may be due to social pressure when the stakes are high as people tend to act on pretended knowledge as a preferred solution. It is also caused by doubt-avoidance, inconsistency-avoidance, incentives, denial and due to believing first and doubting later.

Sometimes, we all become victims of our own delusions of self-confidence where we begin to see ourselves valuable, honest and intelligent. We start viewing our successes as the result of our own efforts attributing it to our natural abilities thereby forgetting the others contributions or timing and other factors. We fail to recognise that skill in one area doesn’t always translate to skills in another. Each success confirms our heightened self-image creating overconfidence bias.

Overconfidence is something that can make us blind to the mistakes in our decisions and thought processes. It further manifests into overestimation where you overestimate your actual abilities, performance, the amount of control you have , or your chance of success. It also can manifest into overplacement where you believe that your position is higher than those of around you. Like for instance, you think you received higher score than your friend and in reality, your friend receives better scores than you do, in this situation, you have overplaced your scores. And it also manifests into overprecision when you are confident that you are correct.

Why overconfidence bias is bad for you?

Overconfidence affects your judgments and decisions in different ways. Here are some ways in which it does.

Over ranking

Overconfidence affects a people’s judgment as it relates their own personal performance as higher than it actually is. Generally, most of us think we are better at something than we really are and we are less likely to admit when we are not as good as we would like to be. This can cause problems as it can make you feel more valuable within a team or group or workplace and may end up taking too many risks. This creates a pattern for failure as your skills do not match up to your beliefs.

Illusion of control

This happens with the idea that if we can quantify something, we can measure it, understand it, and thus manage it.

Believing that you have more control over a situation than you actually do leads to you taking unnecessary risk, or inability to assess the risk involved in the situation. Also, this can lead to wrong decisions and choices in both personal and professional matters. Failure to accurately assess risk leads to failure in managing and accomplishing your goals.

Desirability effect

The desirability effect happens when people overestimate the odds of something happening simply because the outcome of a situation is desirable. This is also a type of overconfidence bias. Many times, this leads to many mistakes and faulty behaviours simply because we believe our desired outcome is more probable just because that’s the outcome we want.

Timing optimism

This occurs when we are too optimistic about how quickly we can perform a task and underestimate how long it takes to get things done. One outcome of over-confidence is missed deadlines and delayed projects on account of the planning fallacy. When is the last time that you finished any task or project early? And this leads to creating unrealistic project plans in hopes that the future will somehow be different than the present.

Overconfidence bias can do a lot of damage to your relationships, career, financial or investing choices, business and your productivity levels. Overconfidence bias leads to many errors in various walks of our daily lives. It becomes a major hindrance when it comes to improving your understanding of a situation.

• You misjudge your value, opinion, beliefs or abilities or you may oversimplify things.

• You may not prepare properly for a situation or may get into a situation that you are not equipped to handle.

• You may procrastinate to failure because of your timing optimism.

• Overestimating your abilities causes missed deadlines, shoddy performance and stress at the cost of your money, time, and your well-being.

• You may take excessive risks and make decisions that are not beneficial to you or your team.

• Being overconfident can affect your work, attitude and behaviour towards others.

• Leads to unreal expectations and makes you more vulnerable to disappointment.

How to avoid overconfidence bias?

Biased way of looking at a situation is considered as the most pervasive and potentially damaging of all the cognitive biases to which most of us fall victim. Almost all of us suffer from some kind of overconfidence bias in various situations. Here are few ways to stay unbiased.

• Past successes inflates our perception of our own abilities. When your self-image becomes tied to your last success, you may tend to overlook your mistakes and become judgmental. Success in past or expertise is no guarantee of future success. Just because you had a string of correct decisions has no bearing on the one you face now. Treat each new decision as if it were your first. Discuss the matter objectively and make a thorough assessment of the risk involved.

• Overconfidence by its very nature, distorts your own image of reality. It is important to recheck your facts about a situation. Disregard your initial judgment about a situation and check the validity of your assumptions. Develop habits and systems that provide feedback to stay connected to reality. Each success brings you closer to overconfidence and complacency. Cultivating a realistic attitude towards your successes and failures prevents you from untoward consequences.

• With overconfidence bias, you tend to ignore criticism and you might get into a false sense of security. Acknowledging your mistakes instead of blaming others helps you clear your heads of any hubris that might cloud your judgment. Reflecting as to what plans worked and what decisions yielded good results and what decisions ended up wrong, you can use your mistakes and failures as learning opportunities. When you get criticised, instead of defending, deal with it constructively to help improve yourself.

• As we accomplish more and more things, it is easy to believe that what we are doing is right. Trying to control every situation or believing that your contribution to a decision is more valuable than it actually is or trying to handle everything yourself or insisting that your way is the only way is a recipe for disaster. Recognising the role that others had in your success will keep you grounded and focusing on your specific role in failures will remind you that you have areas that you can improve.

• Look at multiple perspectives and think through the implication and consequences of a belief or an action. Alternate perspectives push you out of your comfort zone and force you to think critically and you may discover better way of doing things or improve yourself instead of giving into your overconfidence bias. Healthy discussions always give you new perspectives and let’s you see ways of doing things or improving yourself. So when making decision, be humble, seek out new perspectives and be well-informed to take into consideration of all the factors and risks involved.

• During our decision-making process or while making a choice, we first assess the familiarity of the options or opinions and search for facts in order to construct an explanation about why the familiar option is true. An explanation forms in our mind that really seems right and we tend to focus on that first familiar option which may not be right. Instead of option-fixation, make a best possible guess, then assume that guess is inaccurate, and then generate plausible reasons for why the guess was inaccurate. Research shows that overconfidence is reduced after listing the arguments that contradict the reasoning that lead to the guess and often the more estimates that are averaged the better, so long as they are based on different reasoning. This will minimise risk. Keeping your thinking in present instead of outcome lets you focus on what is needed right now and much more realistic and more achievable.

• The inherent state of overconfidence is strong when projecting our beliefs about our future. We tend to overestimate our ability to predict the time frame as we tend to put higher probability on desired events than undesired events. Work is always better done when more time is spent on it. Try to give yourself a bit more time than your first estimate. Double it if you can for completion of your tasks or projects. The more time you give yourself, the less chance you take of missing deadlines.

To conclude,

We all fall victim to moments and sometimes stretches of over-confidence which often end with disappointment or failure. And yet, despite what we think we have learned for next time, we continue to be over-optimistic about our abilities and the state of the future. The same mistakes occur again and again. We often take into account only our planning and generally ignore external factors and tend to indulge in over-assessment of our expectations and capabilities. We rate our competence too high and plunge into overconfidence bias. If over-confidence is not constantly checked, it leads to poor outcomes, failures and disappointments. To overcome this bias, you need to install objectivity into your systems and thinking. Keep yourself responsible and objective and try the above techniques to consciously confront overconfidence bias before it distorts your view of reality.

How to deal with toxic behaviour

In order to be successful in the work you do, you need to dedicate your time, effort and mental strength to what you pursue. But sometimes what makes your work difficult is the toxic behaviour of difficult people around you that fuel negativity, stir up doubt and generally make your work harder. Some people may cause endless interpersonal conflict and tend to make others feel bad about themselves on a regular basis. Toxic people deplete your energy, distract your thoughts and derail your progress and make you question your abilities.

We all encounter such people even in our personal lives or outside of our work places. We may also find traits of toxic behaviour that are undesirable in our coworkers, amongst our friends, or even in our family. Your interactions with such people in your life or workplace can be damaging to your self-image and create anxiety and stress.

When we come across toxic behaviour in our personal lives or in workplaces, it can be quite destabilising and has negative emotional impact with feeling of being deeply discounted or deflated, robs us of our enthusiasm and can lead to confusion or chaos. Your attitude to your own self is important, but it is more so when you have to deal with difficult persons who tend to rub you the wrong way. They usually are mean and grudging about everything and have an aura of unpleasantness about them. Toxic behaviour of such people not only inflicts a personal hurt, but also negatively impacts your success, wellness and productivity.

Toxicity of difficult people

People can be either easy to deal with, or difficult to deal with. Our relations with the former remain pleasant and smooth. We like such people. Relations with the latter are often under strain and friction. We often tend to dislike them as they create unnecessary complexity, strife, stress and toxic environment around them and others. You may experience toxic behaviour from anyone be it a parent or sibling or a friend or a co-worker or a superior in your workplace. One thing is common about such behaviour is that they try to justify their behaviour and they don’t want to take responsibility for their actions.

Toxic behaviour can be of different forms like bullying, humiliating in the presence of others, or intimidation which is not only hurtful in the moment but makes you feel worthless and fearful in the future. Even blaming others, gossiping and rumour mongering are considered as subtle forms of toxic behaviours. Avoidance or ignoring a person in meetings or social events can be also be a toxic way of putting someone down.

Toxic behaviour can be a product of certain kinds of environments and it is important to know how to recognise such behaviour and how to deal with it effectively. Here are some character traits to identify toxic people in your life or at workplace.

Narcissistic: They are all about themselves and view themselves as more desirable and talented than anyone else around. They want to mange through fear and relate to others in a condescending manner and they even take credit for others successes and have a habit of manipulating thereby giving less importance to others or trust or teamwork.

Judgmental: They are highly judgmental and can be quite arrogant and intimidating. They have a habit of criticising making negative conclusions about your choices, or ideas without any reason and never give you a constructive feedback.

Controlling: These people control through manipulation and deceit and they exploit your weaknesses. They tend to inhibit your creativity and ignore your ideas or decisions because of their know-it-all attitude. They think they are never wrong.

Pessimistic: They have a habit of bringing everyone down by going on about downsides about every idea. They might drag you into their negativity, stirring up doubt and disappointment with in you. They tend to play victim card and never own up to their mistakes.

Retrogressive: They are unwilling to go along with others, greedy, clingy, dishonest, angry, insecure, greedy and mostly are non-believers. They often resort to gossip and telling lies that breeds suspicion and will make your environment unproductive.

Non-empathetic: They cut down your plans and ideas in front of others, belittle your actions, and create feelings of low self-esteem. They lack empathy and can resort to harmful ways to bring others down and this also makes them deflect their ability to consider the consequences of their actions.

Complainers: They are fault finding, blaming and often wallow in their problems and fail to focus on solutions. They are certain about what should be done and they never seem able to correct the situation by themselves.

Hostile people: They tend to react violently and can be cynical, argumentative and have trouble being in the wrong. They can be egotistical and are often difficult to deal with. They often engage in toxic behaviour trying to cover up their own insecurity and avoid taking responsibility for a problem and blame others.

Other character traits like aggression, paranoia, or sadism can also be attributed to toxic behaviour. Toxic behaviour is the result of prioritising self-interest above everyone else’s, inability to consider another person’s perspective or emotional state, and not caring enough to acknowledge how their behaviour affects others.

How toxic behaviour affects productivity in workplace

People look for meaningful work and they want to be part of teams that are efficient, engaging and one that contributes to the work place’s purpose and success. Any organisation’s or a workplace’s success is attributed to its culture which becomes its character. In today’s work culture, where people work in teams and project-based models, with daily interactions, there is more probability of facing or come across toxic behaviour of difficult teammates or coworkers. If some toxic behaviours are tolerated for some reason, it not only makes the good talent leave the organisation, but they also fail to attract the right talent.

Certain workplaces might give importance to expertise or other measurable skills thereby undermining the toxic behaviour as they might think losing an expertise can impact their work or business. But if tolerated can have long-term implications by negatively impacting the culture of workplace, their growth, right talent, and productivity. If a workplace is toxic,

• It results in unhealthy and damaging communication patterns like complaining, blaming thereby causing lack of trust. Poor communication, or withholding information, or giving misleading information which makes the place not only dysfunctional but also makes it difficult to follow and implement proper procedures resulting in creating inconsistencies and low productive work.

• It is often difficult for people to work together and accomplish their tasks in toxic environments. People who work in such environments often have emotional issues like depression, anxiety, irritability and a sense of fear or failure.

• Toxic culture might lead to biased behaviour which can lead to poor level of motivation and commitment to work.

• Unhealthy competition can lead to toxic behaviours like lack of cooperation, blame-game, gossiping, or unhealthy work environment.

If you work or live in a toxic environment where toxic behaviour becomes a fixed way of operating, then you become a target of hostility, rudeness, bullying or other forms. As a result, your productivity, morale, and engagement in work decreases.

How to deal with toxic behaviour

Whether in our personal or work lives, we likely have encountered such people with toxic behaviour and some difficult personality traits, while some may have developed the ability to deal with them in a peaceful manner, others seem to struggle in dealing with difficult people. Whether it’s your co-worker, your neighbour, or your friend or your family member, sometimes people can be overwhelmingly difficult. If you have to deal with someone who puts up resistance, things can go quickly out of your control.

To deal with toxic behaviour effectively, you need to hone certain strategies that can enable you to control what you can and eliminate what you cannot. If you can develop the ability to remain calm and manage your emotions when faced with difficult people and deal with them in an appropriate way, you can gain more control of the situation. Handling difficult people may not be easy, but it is important for your well-being. Here are some strategies to deal with toxic behaviour in your personal or work situations.

Set firm boundaries

Toxic person is one who refuses to hear your perspective. Any attempts to explain yourself or being reasonable only frustrates you as they refuse to understand your perspective. Be assertive in saying no to the demands that feel unreasonable without explaining or justifying yourself. Avoid interactions with them that increases their aggressiveness or that encourages intense emotions. If you work on a team with toxic people, set a clear boundary by limiting the time you spend with him or her. Keep your communications short and clear without getting bogged down with too much emotion. You don’t need to convince them as they will not see your point of view. Avoid being defensive and don’t waste time proving that you are right. If you don’t set limits, you are bound to find yourself constantly embroiled in difficult conversations. Minimise your interaction and try to keep things short by excusing yourself from conversation or by bringing a third party into the conversation.

Control your response

We normally respond immediately when we feel challenged wth unreasonable behaviour of people. Difficult people most of the times are irrational and are not creatures of logic. They are full of prejudice and are motivated by arrogance. So, there is no point in responding to them emotionally and get sucked into their negative emotional spiral. Distance yourself from them emotionally and take time before you speak or respond. When you find yourself with a person who is engaged in a toxic behaviour, decide when it is worth your efforts to discuss or when the issue must be addressed. Choose better time to resolve or to communicate. Don’t give them opportunity to manipulate you or twist your words. Do not resort to name-calling or react impulsively, instead the more calmer you remain the more likely it is that the other will reflect on his/ her behaviour.

Communicate with clarity

While communicating with aggressive and intimidating people, the best way to deal is by not engaging in an argument. Being polite and precise in your language can give them less room to engage in their toxic behaviour. Don’t focus on their criticism or inappropriateness, instead focus on your actions and response. You should know you are in the right to deal with arrogant people. Validating and getting to know their perspective can help them turn their behaviour around.

When dealing with chronic complainers, the best way is to allow them to complain unless they also present a solution to the issue. This will reduce their ability to affect you or fellow team members or those around you. Setting time limits and list of things to be accomplished to those who stall or procrastinate or unfocused or disorganised can reduce your stress and frustration. Communicating the consequences of their actions and behaviour can make them change it.

Find your support-system

Sometimes it will be entirely ineffective putting up with such behaviour alone or tackling it by yourself if you have emotionally invested in such behaviour. Tap into your support system to gain a perspective on the person involved and his or her behaviour. Identify people outside your work or team or family and those who root for you and ready to support you and seek their help to deal with such behaviour. Strengthen your ties with your friends and others you trust. This can help balance your perspective and having your point validated can boost your self-esteem. Find activities that keep you away from the toxic people and toxic environment.

Seeking support sometimes can be more helpful as others can be a solution as they are not emotionally invested in the situation.

Know when to move on

Before we seriously think about dealing with difficult people, we must accept a basic principle of living – we can do nothing about the way people are. Sometimes, we cannot deal with the way they are. In such cases, it is better to know when to move on by being practical and realistic. There is no point wasting time dealing with people who make no efforts to acknowledge their behaviour and change it.

If their behaviour persists, it is better to step back and reevaluate the situation. If you develop an ability to look at your part in the situation, you can choose whether you may want to tactfully correct their behaviour or want to pursue a conversation and try to resolve the differences in a calm and rational way. Sometimes if their behaviour is deliberate and habitual, then it is better to avoid any further engagements with such people because their perspective may not change.

Finally,

Focus on solution, and not on problem

When you are in conflict with a toxic person, your unchecked emotions can be damaging. When you fixate too much on the problem, you create a prolonged negative emotions and stress. Fixating on how difficult they are gives them power over you. Instead if you focus on solutions to deal with such behaviour, you can create a sense of personal efficacy that produces positive emotions and reduces stress. Stop thinking about how troubling or difficult the person or his/ her behaviour is and focus on how you are going to handle them.

Your failure to understand a person also results in ‘his’ becoming difficult. For a proper understanding of difficult people, it is important to understand yourself as others see you. Make sure others meet the real you. And you meet the real other person. Sometimes even having high expectations without thinking of others’ rights and limitations, puts too heavy strain on others where they are forced to react unfavourably and they get difficult to deal with. Focusing on solutions makes you more in control in dealing with toxic behaviour.

To Do:

Consider which of the strategies above will be most helpful to deal with difficult people in your life or at your workplace or business. When you find yourself in specific scenario where you find signs of toxic behaviour, consider asking yourself the following questions.

Am I part of the problem or am I trying to cast blame?

What will happen if I just let it be or what will happen if I take control of the situation?

Am I in the right frame of mind to deal appropriately with the person or situation?

What can I do to prevent such toxic behaviour happening in future?

Take some time to think before you act or respond if you are angry. Go to the person and deal with it and if you think you cannot deal with the difficult person all by yourself, seek support from a friend, or closed one or a coworker if it is in a workplace to get a read on your feelings.

Implementing healthy strategies while dealing with difficult people will prepare you to better handle stress and hbetter equipped to deal with any difficult person.

Embrace “productive discomfort”

“You never change your life until you step out of your comfort zone; change begins at the end of your comfort zone.”

-Roy T. Bennett

We are always drawn to easier way of doing things. Many of us feel safe in our comfort zones. Convenience and comfort has become our default choice and many times it becomes a driver of our decisions. But the problem with convenience is that it makes us intolerant of things that are not within our comfort zone. It is very hard for us to do things that could be good for us like leaving a bad habit or learning a new skill. We fail to do so and tend to avoid taking action as it might involve a certain level of discomfort and unfamiliarity. We constantly try to avoid facing such situations that cause us discomfort which otherwise could fulfil some of our personal and professional endeavours. Most of the times, we relinquish many of our cherished goals because they fall outside of our comfort zone.

We make new goals, new dreams and develop new passions from time to time. We make new resolutions to change ourselves in order to meet those desired goals. But this desire to change also makes us reluctant to leave things that are familiar. For most of us, leaving our comfort zone is difficult because of the fear of the unknown which coaxes us right back into the known and old familiar ways. We might feel frustrated and annoyed about the fact that we have to leave our comfort zone. We often feel stuck to adapt ourselves to unfamiliarity and avoid anything that is not comfortable. To overcome this pattern of avoidance, it is important to learn to step outside our comfort zones and get accustomed to discomfort.

What is comfort zone?

The comfort zone is a behavioural space where your activities and behaviours fit a routine and a pattern that involves less risk and stress. It provides familiarity, security and to some extent some level of certainty. Within our comfort zone, we become comfortable with what is familiar and get used to a steady level of performance. This soon makes us complacent as we easily fall into comfortable habits and begin to avoid those which are not.

We avoid changing most of our habits and behaviours by rationalising our thinking and saying ‘this is not the right time.’ or ‘It’s not important for me to do it.’ We tend to structure our lives to avoid moments and tasks that cause us discomfort. But those are the things that are probably important for our personal and professional growth and to maximise our potential. We hold ourselves back by thinking it is better to stay the way we are in order to avoid the discomfort, stress and anxiety.

Why is it important to come out of your comfort zone?

We are comfortable in engaging ourselves in a familiar pattern, but sometimes they may not be serving your current goals. They may prevent you from making necessary changes and hold you back from reaching your full potential. You may not be open to new challenges, to learn, grow and try new things. You begin to underestimate your ability to make any kind of change by judging yourself and end up convincing yourself that you will never be able to make necessary changes. Such thoughts can influence your actions and keep you from doing things that you might otherwise would like to pursue and can cost you your own success.

But with little awareness, understanding and by making few adjustments, you can break away from your routine and can push yourself to make those necessary changes in order to pursue your goals and aspirations. By learning to stretch yourself beyond your comfort zone, you can open a lot of new possibilities and discover things about yourself that you could not have otherwise discovered. You might learn things that you are capable of and could achieve things that you could not have anticipated. You cannot be successful in achieving your dreams if you only stick to a comfortable habit pattern and routine. Sometimes you need to take risk of attempting something which is outside of your comfort zone as well.

Outside of your comfort zone

“ Life always begins with one step outside of your comfort zone.” – Shannon L. Alder.

Within our comfort zone, there is little stress and anxiety. We can anticipate things to certain extent and know what’s coming next and can plan accordingly. Whereas outside of your comfort zone, you are open to risks, challenges, and open yourself up to the possibility of more stress and anxiety. But sometimes, a little bit of healthy stress and discomfort is not all that bad and is required to provide motivation for us to achieve desired goals.

“Being slightly uncomfortable, whether or not by choice, can push yourself to achieve goals you never thought you could.”

But it is important to not to push yourself too far and enter the zone of bad stress. This if happens can interfere with your ability to work well, to learn and to plan effectively. Here are some benefits of getting accustomed to “productive discomfort.”

• It improves your performance by opening up to challenges and taking risks.

• Makes you more creative by trying new things.

• Lowers your fear of failure and creates openness to new experiences.

• Improves your curiosity, imagination, and drive to explore.

• You can deal with new and unexpected changes easily.

• Improves your productivity and you will be willing to push your boundaries by adjusting to what was difficult.

We know what we need to do to improve our lives. We say we want to change for the better. But we often are held back by our belief that sameness equals safety and change equals discomfort. The key is to be aware of whether your comfort zones are preventing you from creating change and to be willing to leave what is familiar to make the change you desire. Here are some ways to get accustomed to ‘Productive discomfort’.

Try new things

We have a tendency to only seek out information we already agree with and avoid doing new things. Seeking new experiences, learning new skills and opening yourself to new ideas inspire you to challenge your confirmation bias. You can see old problems in new light and take risks. By challenging yourself to things you normally wouldn’t do, you can experience some of the uncertainty and get used to tackle changes easily. Try changing your daily work routine or try some new activities and be open to new experience.

Decide to take the leap

One of the important factor to break out of your comfort zone is to find your source of conviction about why a task is important to you or why making that change is essential. When you face situations that are not in your comfort zone, even if you feel the discomfort, believe in your convictions. This way, you can fight through the discomfort to take that leap towards the desired change. You may come to realise that what you feared most is not all that true and in a way, slight discomfort becomes normal to you.

Take risks

Every time you open yourself to challenges and risks, regardless of their outcome, they provide you with learning experience and provide you an opportunity to utilise your store of untapped knowledge and capabilities. Even if you make mistakes and don’t get it right, there are always these experiences you have to tap into in future. Taking risks is important for your personal growth. challenges and risks expand the size of your comfort zone and you can cultivate openness to experience.

Do things differently

To stretch beyond your comfort zone, you need to make changes either large or small in the way you do things on a daily basis. For instance, sometimes slowing down is all it takes to make you uncomfortable especially if you are used to speed or quick thinking. If you are one of that conflict avoidant, you must embrace conflict. If you are an introvert, you have to do things which you have been avoiding like meeting new people or having different conversation. By doing things differently, you can expand your comfort zone and open yourself up to new possibilities.

Finally, Start with making small changes.

It is always overwhelming to step into discomfort and into the unknown. But instead of thinking of big picture, it will be easier to break down what you want to accomplish by making small changes. Getting used to ‘productive discomfort’ is to embrace new experience and to reach the state of optimal anxiety in a manageable way.

In conclusion,

Comfort zones exist in every area in our lives. To practice ‘productive discomfort’, be aware of which comfort zone may not be serving your current purpose or which comfort zones are preventing you from making the desired change in your habits or behaviour. If you feel that you are stuck in your routine, challenge your underlying belief and make small changes to your routine to slowly move out of your comfort zone.

Compete with yourself

“A creative man is motivated by the desire to achieve, not by the desire to beat others” – Ayn Rand

Competition has always been taught to us from very young age in order to become something, to achieve and to survive. We are taught the virtue of competition in every aspect of life in order to succeed and to win. When competing against another, we tend to draw on to our untapped reserves and this brings the best in us because of the inherent instinct to better the other. This very basic nature of competitiveness has always been an integral part of us from the early centuries as we had to compete for resources like food and shelter. Those who are able to compete and strongest would win the best. Competition is inevitable and being competitive is important when it comes to academics, sports and work. Those who make an effort and draw on their own strengths and possibilities turn out as winners. There are benefits to having a competitive nature like you learn the importance of setting goals, following rules, to cope with stress, to take risks,and to be committed. But is it that only competing against other can bring the best in you? Or can you do better even by yourself? Or Is it always important to define yourself in terms of being better than others?

True competition is about competing with and not against

Competition brings out both the best and the worst in us. And though it is a natural instinct, nurturing it is equally responsible. There is always a danger of ignoring moral values in favour of winning or succeeding. While competing, we learn the virtue of selfishness, being all-out egotistical, and demonstrate superiority on others. We tend to believe that true competition is about breaking others and we constantly compare ourselves to others which leads to insecurities and fears. This further leads to unfair practices like where the aim no longer remains to better yourself or to succeed, but to pull down or belittle another.

But true competitive spirit is about growing, bettering and prospering together while competing with, rather than against another. If you learn to work along with, you will be able to build better strengths and qualities to succeed. Focusing on working together to solve problems, and helping each other to get the job done can result in mutually beneficial outcomes rather than focusing on a short-term, one-sided win.

Compare to your former self and not to others

When you are competing with others, the achievements made by others makes us crave the same achievement when we believe it’s within our reach. There will be always people who are better than you. Accept and use them as inspiration for pursuing your own instead of comparing yourself to others. In other words, comparing yourself with someone else is an inaccurate way of measuring your success. How well you do depends on improved version of yourself. If you question the logic of your comparisons, most of them rather turn out to be irrelevant in their reasoning.

Instead of comparing yourself externally, redirect your comparison within. Question yourself as to how you can continue to become a new and improved version of yourself. It does not matter how you perform relative to your opponents, so long as you perform better than your former self.

Know that your only competition is you

Our natural instinct is to compete with others and not to compete with ourselves. However, if we choose to, we can also compete with ourselves which leads to our self growth. We get so caught up in the competition with others professionally and personally that it is easy to forget that to improve ourselves and reaching our potential is more important than competing against others. It is important to remember that your competitor is not other—your competitor is yourself.

why you should compete with yourself

Always running after the competition will make you less enthusiastic. When you compete with yourself, whether it’s in your learning or work, you can focus on the process of getting better each time. This small shift in your perspective allows you to progress faster and to focus on process.

True competition is not always about beating or outdoing others, but about growing and improving. You should condition to compete constructively by measuring your success not against others but against yourself.

Here are some benefits in competing with yourself than against others.

Can measure your success

If you take a look around, you come across people who made some amazing achievements in their life. Someone is always going to be better than you at something. When you learn to be competitive with yourself, you can have a better measure of your success rather than stressing out on someone else’s. You know success will come to you at the right time when you put in the right effort.

Can improve your capability

Knowing your strengths and weaknesses gives you an opportunity to assess whether or not your goals are right for you. Once you know the things you are not so good at, you can decide upon improving your weak areas in order to achieve your goals. Looking into your own shortcomings rather than outwardly at other people paves a way to improve your capabilities.

Can increase possibilities

When you are competing with others, you are only competing in arenas that others have set up for you. But if you continue to do so, you will end up limiting your possibilities. Only when you use yourself as a true measure of your success do you open yourself up to the infinite things and possibilities. These things might ultimately lead ṭo your passion and happiness.

Can be free of people’s judgment

When you compete with yourself, you are letting go of people’s measure of success. and defining your own measure of success. You are free of what they think of you and their expectations. You chose to follow whatever it is that makes you happy. This makes you answerable to yourself in doing everything you could possibly do to achieve your goals and not because of other people’s judgment.

Can intrinsically motivate yourself

While competing against others, you feel that you achieved something only because it gives you a sense of being better than what everyone else is doing. But that is not the true measure of your success and that feeling is fleeting. But when you compete with yourself, you will be intrinsically motivated to accomplish things that are true to your abilities. You can strive to improve yourself and to challenge yourself in new ways.

To conclude, although competitiveness is innate, do not hold yourself to the standards of other people, wishing you could be better than them. May be this is motivating you, but an even greater skill is to be better than yourself. How about pushing yourself to do better each day. Goal setting is a great way to compete against yourself. You select the end result that you want and that you choose. Then, it is up to you, to work to achieve those goals. Thus, you can push yourself towards your goals, rather than creating unnecessary competition against others. Develop a desire to achieve and always strive to push yourself to become better.

“The principle is competing against yourself. It’s about self-improvement, about being better than you were the day before.” – Steve Young