How to be assertive and likeable at the same time

‘A NO uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a YES merely uttered to please, or worse, to avoid trouble’

Mohandas Gandhi

Being able to be assertive and yet still be likeable is perhaps the greatest challenge that we face in the modern workplace. If we are not able to be assertive, then we lack the ability to create firm boundaries, and we absolutely have to be able to create firm boundaries in order to succeed in the workplace. However being assertive does not have to be at the expense of being likeable; it is possible to be both.


Referring again to “How to Win Friends and Influence People”, Dale Carnegie offers the following six principles:  as they work through the points

Become genuinely interested in other people

“People are not interested in you. They are not interested in me. They are interested in themselves – morning, noon and after dinner.”

And, to prove his point Carnegie asks:

“When you see a group photograph that you are in, whose picture do you look at first?”

Carnegie suggests that you can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get people interested in you

How can you express more interest in your colleagues?


Smiley Faces

“Actions speak louder than words, and a smile says ‘I like you. You make me happy. I am glad to see you.’”

You may think this is obvious. But is it? Have you noticed how many people hardly ever smile? Have you become so serious that you have forgotten how to have fun? If so, lighten up and if you don’t feel like smiling then fake it. Start with a fake smile and eventually it will turn into a real one. In NLP we refer to this as acting ‘As If’.

Try it now. Just turn up the corners of your mouth….that’s right…… and smile, now.

And, when you return to your workplace, if you see one of your colleagues without a smile, remember to give them one of yours!

Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language

“We should be aware of the magic contained in a name and realize that this single item is wholly and completely owned by the person with whom we are dealing…and nobody else. The name sets the individual apart; it makes him or her unique amongst all others.”

Carnegie points out that one of the simplest, most obvious, and most important ways of gaining good will is by remembering names and making people feel important. However, even when we do remember a person’s name we often forget to address them by it.

Make a point of using your colleagues’ names when you get back to your workplace. Pay attention and notice the impact that this has on your communication.

 Be a good listener. Encourage other people to talk about themselves.

“If you want to know how to make people shun you and laugh at you behind their back and even despise you, here is the recipe: Never listen to anyone for long. Talk incessantly about yourself. If you have an idea while the other person is talking, don’t wait for him or her to finish: bust right in and interrupt in the middle of a sentence.”

The above statement would be almost laughable if it weren’t for the fact that we all know people who conduct themselves in this way. Furthermore, how many of us, hand on heart, can honestly say that we haven’t been guilt of this type of behavior at one time or another.

People like people who are interested in them. So quit trying to impress your colleagues and be impressed by them. If you want to be a good conversationalist, be an attentive listener. Ask questions that your colleagues will enjoy answering; the best questions are those that will lead them to remember a positive experience.

 Talk in terms of the other person’s interests

Talking in terms of the other person’s interests pays off for both parties.”

Be interesting by being interested. Make the effort to find out what your colleagues are working on and take an interest. This is the best way to gain other’s interest in you and your work.

Make the other person feel important and do it sincerely

Carnegie advocates that the best way to make people like you instantly is always make the other person feel important.

William James said

“The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.”

How can you make your colleagues feel important? By building Rapport with them, by stepping into their model of the world, by being respectful of that model of the world, by seeing things from their point of view and then by applying all of the above principles.

How to create and maintain a good impression with colleagues and management


We have looked at, and discussed how to build Rapport, and how to literally step into a colleague’s model of the world, in order to be able to fully appreciate their point of view. These skills will help you create a good impression with both colleagues and management, and used regularly will help you maintain that good impression. It’s worth saying again

Rapport is not something you do and then move on – it is a constant

What else can you do, and not do, to maintain and build successful relationships?

Dale Carnegie’s pioneering book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People”, first published in 1936 has a place in publishing history as one of the all-time international best sellers. Each generation has discovered it anew and the book continues to sell in the twenty first century.

The principles which the book offers are as relevant today as they were revolutionary seventy five years ago. Indeed, much of what is written today about workplace relationships has its origins in Dale Carnegie’s work. For the purposes of this discussion we have returned to the source.

Fundamental Principles in Handling People (from Dale Carnegie)

Don’t criticize, condemn or complain

“Criticism is futile because it puts a person on the defensive and usually makes him strive to justify himself. Criticism is dangerous because it wound’s a person’s precious pride, hurts his sense of importance, and arouses resentment.”

Carnegie advises that instead of criticizing we should try to understand others:

“Let’s try to figure out why they do what they do. That’s a lot more profitable and intriguing than criticism; and it breeds sympathy, tolerance and kindness.”

The skills you have learned in this workshop, building Rapport, and the skill of stepping into 2nd Position will enable you to gain a better understanding of your colleagues.

Give honest and sincere appreciation

“There is only one way under heaven to get anybody to do anything. Did you ever stop to think of that? Yes, just one way. And that is by making the other person want to do it.”

Carnegie advocates that being appreciative is the best way to influence others; to get them to want to do something. He refers to Charles Schwab, one of the first people in American business to be paid a salary over one million dollars, who said

“I consider my ability to arouse enthusiasm among my people the greatest asset I possess, and the way to develop the best that is in a person is by appreciation and encouragement. I have yet to find the person, however great or exalted his station, who did not do better work and put forth greater effort under a spirit of approval than he would ever do under a spirit of criticism.”

It makes sense then to be aware; watch your colleagues, and listen to them so that you notice what Carnegie calls their ‘good points’ and then acknowledge them.

Arouse in the other person an eager want

“If out of reading this book you get just one thing – an increased tendency to think always in terms of other people’s point of view, and see things from their perspective – if you get this one thing out of this book – and we can add here from this Workshop – it may easily prove to be one of the building blocks of your career.”

When we remember to always think in terms of our colleagues point of view we will be able to figure out what they want and when we can do this, when we can talk to our colleagues about what they want and show them how to get it, we will be able to influence them.

Carnegie explains:

“Of course you are interested in what you want. You are eternally interested in it. But no one else is. The rest of us are just like you; we are interested in what we want.”

And so when you want one of your colleagues to do something ask yourself: “How can I make this person want to do it?”

NLP Perceptual Positions

Do not judge your neighbour until you have walked a mile in his moccasins”


Turtles All The Way Down, page 200.

We have referred to Rapport as meeting somebody in their model of the world and we have looked at / discussed how you can achieve this through Matching and Mirroring – as you Match and Mirror a colleague, and Pace them, you are in stepping into their shoes, and once there, in their world, you will be able to see things from their perspective or from their point of view.

To assist us further in this quest, of stepping into our colleagues shoes and being able to truly see things from their point of view NLP describes three positions, often referred to as Perceptual Positions.


1st Position: Looking at the world from your own point of view, through your own eyes. You are totally associated and not taking account of anyone else’s point of view.

Ask the question:
How does this affect me?
2nd Position: Considering how things would look, sound, and feel for example for a colleague. Looking through your colleague’s eyes; appreciating the other point of view.

Ask the question (s):
How would this appear to them?
How would it sound to them?
How would they feel?

The stronger rapport you have with another person, the easier it will be for you to appreciate their reality and achieve second position.

3rd Position: This is a neutral position from which you can observe the interaction between 1st and 2nd positions. From 3rd Position you see the world from an outside point of view, as an independent observer, as someone who has no personal involvement in the situation.

How would this look to someone who is not involved?

This creates an objective viewpoint from which you can generate and evaluate some useful choices in a difficult situation.

All three positions are equally important; ideally we move between them freely, taking the information gained from each. This allows us to have a multiple perspective in a situation so that we can be even more flexible and have greater influence.

Finally, a different point of view:

‘Before you criticize someone you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way, when you criticize them, you’re a mile away and you have their shoes!’


Seeing things from your colleagues’ point of view, being on the same wave length and stepping into their shoes

“If there is any one secret of success it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from that person’s angle as well as from your own.”

Henry Ford

In 2005 HSBC embraced this principle when they launched their highly acclaimed ‘Points of View’ marketing campaign.

HSBC Theme Park Commercial


hsbc 1

hsbc 2

hsbc 3

hsbc 4

hsbc 5


Additional Phrases:

  • Who knows what you’ll see when you look from someone else’s point of view.
  • Everyone looks at the world from a different point of view.
  • Different points of view make the world go round.
  • Isn’t it better to be open to other people’s points of view?
  • We see no problem with different points of view. Only potential.

The following video  HSBC Live Theatre marked the climax of the HSBC Campaign.


Meeting your Colleagues in their model of the world

a) Relevant NLP Presuppositions

NLP offers a number of key presuppositions – guiding principles – relevant to Rapport Building and communication.

Respect for the other person’s model of the world.  In order to influence your colleagues, you do not have to believe what they believe. It is not your responsibility to change their model of the world through an attempt to convince them of yours. When you respect a colleague, and build Rapport with them, they will like you because you remind them of themselves, and then you will be able to influence them.

The meaning and outcome of communication is in the response you get.  We are taught that by clearly communicating our thoughts and feelings through words, that another person should understand our meaning. Whereas in fact a colleague will respond to what they think you said.  You can determine how effectively you are communicating by the response you get from the colleague you are commu­nicating with. When you accept this presupposition you are able to take 100% responsibility for all of your communication.

There are no resistant people, only inflexible communicators. When you encounter resistance – perhaps one of your colleagues does not support one of your ideas – their resistance is a sign that you are not in Rapport with them. This is an indication that you need to be even more flexible in your communication in order to build rapport with this particular colleague.

The person with the most flexibility will have the most influence of the system. This is the Law of Requisite Variety.  This broadly translates as – the person in a workplace setting who has the ability to build Rapport with the most people, their colleagues, will have the most influence in that workplace. This person will not necessarily be in a managerial position.


Using NLP and Coaching to Build Successful Relationships at Work (5)

Are you Visual, Auditory, Kinesthetic or a Thinker?


For each of the following statements, please place a number next to every phrase. Use the following system to indicate your preferences:

4 = Closest to describing you                 

3 = Next best description

2 = Next best              

1 = Least descriptive

1. I make important decisions based on:

___ gut level feelings.

___ which way sounds the best.

___ what looks best to me.

___ precise review and study of the issues.

2. During an argument, I am most likely to be influenced by:

___ the other person’s tone of voice.

___ whether or not I can see the other person’s argument.

___ the logic of the other person’s argument.

___ whether or not I feel I am in touch with other person’s true feelings.

3. I most easily communicate what is going on with me by:

___ the way I dress and look.

___ the feelings I share.

___ the words I choose.

___ the tone of my voice.

4. It is easiest for me to:

___ find the ideal volume and tuning on a stereo system

___ select the most intellectually relevant point concerning an interesting subject

___ select the most comfortable furniture

___ select rich, attractive colour combinations


___ I am very attuned to the sounds of my surroundings.

___ I am very adept at making sense of new facts and data.

___ I am very sensitive to the way articles of clothing feel on my body.

___ I have a strong response to colours and to the way a room looks.

How to work out your score:

Step One: Copy your answers from the test to the lines below.

1 2 3 4 5










Step Two:  Add the numbers associated with each letter. There will be five entries for each letter.

V A Ad K

Step Three: The comparison of the totalled scores gives the relative preference for each of the four major representational systems.