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

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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.


The Swiss Cheese Method.

swiss cheese






It’s fifteen minutes to your lunch break – far too short a time to do that overwhelming task which you routinely pick up every morning and then put down again.

But wait!

You could do something to get that task started…

What about making a list of all the relevent sub-tasks that will result in the finished product?

Yes! You decide to try that approach and ten minutes later off you go to lunch feeling better about the task and yourself.

Why? Because you have accomplished something, you have made the list of sub-tasks and are no longer fearful of the main task.

This is called the Swiss Cheese method because by using small amounts of time you are making holes in the larger task. It is a commonly used time management technique

How to respond to Overwhelm

One of the keys to managing yourself effectively in relation to time is being sufficiently self-aware to resourcefully address overwhelm as it arises.

An effective tool for managing overwhelm involves changing how one looks at its trigger. In his ground breaking book, Awaken the Giant Within, Anthony Robbins proposes that the best way to deal with overwhelm, is to firstly acknowledge it, and secondly, see it as a “call to action”. In other words, see overwhelm as having a message for you. Generally speaking you are likely to feel overwhelmed when you are over loaded; that is when you have too much to do / are ‘time pressured’.

You may be feeling that you have too much on your plate. Another feeling is that you have lost control over a situation. The message is that you have not prioritised things in your life.

People who have learned to read overwhelm as a messages, are able to manage themselves effectively in that they are able to able to take action

  • Decide on which crucial tasks require completion (as above).
  • The simple of act of listing means you start to have more control over your load.
  • Write down in order of priority what is most important to accomplish (as above).
  • Chunk tasks down.
  • Remember the orange segments! Break tasks down into small steps.


  • Act on your priorities.


“You don’t have to get it right, you just have to get it going”

Tracy Repchuk


  • This can be done in one of three ways, using ‘3D’ – DO IT NOW DIARISE / DECIDE WHEN TO DO IT, or DELEGATE!
  • Use Small Periods Of Time To Get Started
  • There are many tasks which because of their complexity and wealth of detail, are difficult to start. There are always other (and sometimes less important) tasks which give instant satisfaction.
  • Take consistent action

“Ordinary steps taken consistently produce extra-ordinary results”

Alex Mandossian

  • Be prepared to re-prioritise as necessary.
  • Re-evaluate continually. Asking yourself questions such as:

Why am I doing this? 

What happens if I chose not to do it?

The “we’ve always done it that way..” story

Apparently this is based on a true incident.

A quality management consultant was visiting a small and somewhat antiquated English manufacturing company, to advise on improving general operating efficiency. The advisor was reviewing a particular daily report which dealt with aspects of productivity, absentee rates, machine failure, down-time, etc. The report was completed manually onto a photocopied proforma that was several generations away from the original master-copy, so its headings and descriptions were quite difficult to understand. The photocopied forms were particularly fuzzy at the top-right corner, where a small box had a heading that was not clear at all. The advisor was interested to note that the figure ‘0’ had been written in every daily report for the past year. On questioning the members of staff who completed the report, they told him that they always put a zero in that box, and when he asked them why they looked at each other blankly. “Hmmm.., I’m not sure about that,” they each said, “I guess we’ve just always done it that way.”

Intrigued, the consultant visited the archives to see if he could find a clearer form, to discover what was originally being reported and whether it actually held any significance. When he found the old reports, he saw that the zero return had continued uninterrupted for as far back as the records extended – at least the past thirty years – but none of the forms was any clearer than those presently in use. A little frustrated, he packed away the old papers and turned to leave the room, but something caught his eye. In another box he noticed a folder, promisingly titled ‘master forms’. Sure enough inside it he found the original daily report proforma master-copy, in pristine condition. In the top right corner was the mysterious box, with the heading clearly shown……Number of Air Raids Today



How to implement the 80/20 Rule

Ask yourself,

“Which 20 percent of my work should I be focusing on?”

  • Remember your ethics and values. Let them guide your decision making, and you’re bound to end up focusing on your 20 percent.
  • Keep current. Make yourself aware of new technological innovations. However, a word of caution, Randy Pausch reminds us to only use technology that does actually save time

Bad Day at the Office

  • Challenge established routines that could be shifting your focus away from your 20 percent.


The 80/20 Rule of Time Management: The Pareto Principle


“Doing the right things is more important than doing things right”

Randy Pausch, Time Management Lecture


Vilfredo Pareto(1848-1923) was an Italian economist who in 1906, observed that 20% of the people in Italy owned 80% of the country’s wealth.

Over a period of time this observation became known as the Pareto Principle. Pareto’s theory of predictable imbalance has since been applied to almost every aspect of modern life including ‘time management’. Given a chance, it can make a difference in yours.


Recognizing your 20 percent

Simply put, the 80/20 rule states that the relationship between input and output is rarely, if ever, balanced. When applied to work, it means that approximately 20 percent of your efforts produce 80 percent of the results. Learning to recognize and then focus on that 20 percent is the key to making the most effective use of your time.

80 percent or 20 percent?

Gain more control over your time and your work by taking one small step right now. Simply begin to look for the signs that will tell you whether you’re in your 20 percent or your 80 percent. This increased awareness of what’s vital may be all you really need to start using your time more effectively.

Here are some signs that will help you to recognize whether you’re spending your time as you should:

You’re in your 80 percent if the following statements ring true:

  • You’re working on tasks other people want you to, but you have no investment in them.
  • You’re frequently working on tasks labeled “urgent.”
  • You’re spending time on tasks you are not usually good at doing.
  • Activities are taking a lot longer than you expected.
  • You find yourself complaining all the time.

You’re in your 20 percent if:

  • You’re engaged in activities that advance your overall purpose in life (assuming you know what that is —and you should!).
  • You’re doing things you have always wanted to do or that make you feel good about yourself.
  • You’re working on tasks you don’t like, but you’re doing them knowing they relate to the bigger picture.
  • You’re hiring people to do the tasks you are not good at or don’t like doing.
  • You’re smiling.