All entries for Friday 03 August 2012
August 03, 2012
Follow-up to Follow–Up 3: What next after Making the Choice to learn? from Melvin's blog
So “becoming more assertive” was and still one of the most challenging aspects of my new life, I know it is a continuous effort, and this is reflective piece is about what I learnt so far.
A recap of my action points is as follows:
Ensuring maintenance of an assertive posture, whilst also exuding vitality in introducing/networking with others, as well as voice my opinions freely.
Understanding that the maintenance of my self-esteem is a personal endeavour and it not dependent on other, thus grab every opportunity to take initiative and build confidence
Improve on verbal communication via use of the tools stated .
- Make the steps of an assertive behaviour a habit:
i) State the problem ii) Explain how it affects you iii) Listen to the other person’s point of view and respect it iv) Be prepared to negotiate v) Leave old grievances out of the conservation
Over the months I have stated and implemented a number of action points that has thoroughly developed me and given me insight into being assertive. Assertiveness as a behavioural type which entwines non-verbal communication (body language), (intonation) as well as verbal communication. It is the mastery of these aspect s that define you as assertive. Such as with intonation, that is neutral and soothing with a dip at the end, reminiscing the ubiquitous "mind the gap" we hear on public transport. Adding to this a key revelation was that self-esteem and confidence are not mutually exclusive. One can radiate confidence and have very little self-esteem, but having high self-esteem gives you a state of contempt. In succession, my experience also helped me realise that aggressiveness, passiveness and assertiveness are not on a spectrum but separate characteristics. Assertiveness borrows the characteristics that the other two lack.
My practice frame
I think we have chances to practice being assertiveness all the time, my experiences to develop this skill included implementing it with friends, family as well as during academia; projects , group works(THIS WAS THE MAIN AREA FOR IMPLEMENTATION).As group leader in one project was a key place to being an ASSERTIVE LEADER, bringing together authority and assertiveness, an area with the risk to appear “AGGRESSIVE”. Another occasion presented me with a group with extremely strong personalities where getting heard and expressing my ideas/feelings was very tough. Additionally the third occasion brings together a group of a mix of people with ones who want me to be a leader and others who what to control the group. Here I experienced both the occasion where I seemed to be “PASSIVE” being over spoken by some members and another where whilst trying to be assertive the person just was not ready to listen, making me realise I was slowly starting to be “AGGRESSIVE”. So through the months I have tuned myself into being assertive most of the time, however it is still a challenge as these behavioural traits are very circumstantial.
Overall all the practice I had implementing the different techniques allowed me to see all the aspects of the techniques, when they are good when they are bad etc. A lot of the occasions I have been quite effective as I have stated in previous posts, with respect to conflict resolution etc.
What worked and what didn’t
As with every development process, I tried out most of the techniques taught. A lot of them really helped me develop this state of mind, keeping emotion away and becoming assertive. Posture being a cruicial factor is something I have always started to implement, something like a second nature. Ensuring that my posture, stance etc is neutral and doesn't suggest submissiveness or arrogance is key to emanating confidence. It is the initial aspect of yourself that determines your image even before you have spoken to someone. This is something that I have found very easy to implement especially thanks to presentations, projecting a professional image of oneself. Another aspect is voice intonation, that was easy to implement when I was not emotional. It was this aspect that kept making me stray from Assertiveness.
During group work session, especially whilst being the group leader I wrestled with getting my emotions involved. Mainly due to the fact that being the leader, I tried to exude some authority emphasising the need for everyone’s opinions, principally in a group consisting of very strong personalities . I finally found the main reason why I was getting so worked up; predominantly because having worked for longer than others, when other members decided that rather than them writing up the report, I do (as I’d be more aesthetically pleasing), and me being myself was finidng it hard to “SAY NO”.
Nevertheless, with a lot of effort I finally was able to ‘SAY NO’, something I always had a problem to do. Previously being a YES person to everyone, thus not looking out for myself, this was a big change. It felt very different, as if I was in control and thus building my confidence. Understanding the aspect of assertiveness I measured my saying NO was not rude but diplomatic by persuading everyone to input their bits into a document, whilst I take a well deserved break, after which I will compile it. Explaining to them what I can do for them and cannot do right now, as well as emphasising that we discussed who will take responsibility on each task. If they have problems we discuss and solve the issues as a group rather than me being the only problem solver.
One key area I’ve thoroughly improved which was hard once again was, ‘Leaving previous grievances out of the conversation’. This has improved my psychological mindset in being more emotionally stable and thus being focussed in generating an Assertive and critical argument or on the other hand having a thoroughly stimulating conversation with someone and generating the correct impression. The benefits of something I have seen during my interactions with people and with the increased interactions people have had with me compared to before I protruded an ASSERTIVE NATURE. I must say this “I have not completely mastered but am continually improving on it”. Being something I did a lot of previously, it is hard to get rid of completely. However, assessing my conversation( WHAT I AM GOING TO SAY) has really helped me stop myself, or in the case I have slipped up before it gets worse get back to the assertive nature and provide a non-emotional outlook. I have come to look back and see how vulnerable and miserable person this would have made to look like, whilst also removing a part of my credibility in formulation of a sound argument. It is definitely not what I want myself to be seen as, and am consistently trying to change the person I am, by streamlining my behavioural aspects.
The best aspect was that I am able to consistently use the steps in making behaviour more assertive. Using the the stated procedure has really helped especially in tackling really intense situations, where I have tried to handle group members with really strong or hostilitic personalities.
Where Am I now
So the main question of “What is next? Where do I go from here?.
Following my journey on this path of assertiveness, I genuinely believe that I have changed considerably, I actually feel that I’m not always standing in my own way. Rather I have become the person pushing myself into the future without staying in the past. I have improved my self confidence considerable and is something I always hold on to dearly, being so proud J. I think being assertive and having a good self-esteem is all about how we feel about ourselves. I have also realised the importance of self assessment at every situation, as what each person has to implement is a balance. Depending on what sort of person you are initially the extent of implementation varies, as for a passive person they will have to be more outwardly active (extroversive behaviour) to get them initially out of the strong passive mindset. As will a naturally strong personality, aggressive person, they will have to push them to the extent of forcing them to listen (which would be hard). With each person to reach assertiveness and becoming more assertiveness the balance lies at different positions. I found that out with myself during my voyage on “Becoming more assertive”. I also learnt the centre for the balance keeps changing based on experiences, because if by trying to be more extroversive you could have over shot the mid-point and currently are dangerously near becoming aggressive in your quest of being less passive. Thus it is thoroughly important in self assessment, one which I will be forever implementing.
This journey on self assessment, reflection and development has done just that, making me more assertive and boosting my self-esteem. Most important of all I don’t think this journey is over here, as the world out there is a place full of surprises. Life with throws ups and downs constantly at you and forgetting about what I have learnt here would mean going back to that ME that I so dislike. I absolutely love the person I have become and aim to constantly practise the art of assertiveness, especially not forgetting NON-Verbal communication as well as verbal communication aspect. The one FUNDAMENTAL thing these sessions of personal development have taught me is,
“Always remember self-confidence is not something that once lost is gone forever, But it is something that when rebuilt will be stronger than ever!!”
“WHAT BREAKS US ONCE, HELPS US TO BE STRONGER THAN EVER BEFORE!” – Me
“Presentations done! Whats to come?”
“Everyone here has the sense that right now is one of those moments when we are influencing the future” - Steve Jobs
Now that all the academic presentations are done, it is the perfect time to reflect on and assess the steps I took, hurdles faced and most of all the results I achieved. It would pave the way for me to develop the optimal strategy for the surprises the future might harbour.
So first things first, my action points formulated subsequent to the workshop are as follows:
- Tackling initial nervousness with concentrated and calm breathing
- Ensuring a thorough filter of all the research available to ensure a flowing story with correct and only enough information to match the time available.(MUST, COULD & SHOULD know technique).
- Obtain correct preparation: with a systematic personalised but flowing structure alongside other tools.
- Practise is also another point ( few sessions with loud presentations in front of the mirror or other people, as similar conditions as possible to the real thing)
Nerves are my biggest downfall. Correction they were my biggest downfall, however with different techniques I have found my own way to handle it. Definitely breathing has always helped, but ensuring all of the action points are handled built the overall picture which helped handle the nerves, and in one way helping me use the nervousness to my advantage.
Refraining from being too conscious of my speaking has really helped. Rather than worrying about how I will speak, keeping focus on the information and knowledge as well as my image, hand gestures all helped in being less self conscious. Additionally, it was then I would give little focus to how I am speaking with respect to changes in tone, intonation etc. As I am generally a good speaker with respect to clarity, power and emphasizing ( tone), however it is when I get nervous that all of this goes down the drain. Probably resultant of a bad experience I once had, where I was so nervous that I felt my knees wobbling and in turn being conscious the visous cycle of self-conscious negative feedback started.
I must say at the start of the year, I was trying to make my own methodology to tackle presentations. It did help me progress a little but I still had issues. This was reflected in the marks that I got as initially at the start of the year I obtained a mark in the late 50s, which was poor considering the amount of work I had put in.
Following the workshops I was able to develop significantly to the point now looking back I myself can’t believe the person I have become. The workshop on “Assertiveness” did significantly support my development with presentations .
Following the procedure of assessing the content “MUST, COULD & SHOULD” has helped me in regulating the amount of information I put into the presentation, thus helping me get a thorough understanding of the topic and not being overwhelmed with the information. To add to this was the highly important issue of script. At the start of the year when I did not modulate the amount of information properly I always had 3-4 pages full of text ( what I was going to speak during my presentations). I had never realised having a script really did add to issue of nervousness, as I was always worried “ DID I SAY EVERYTHING?”. This always mean I looked at the script, lost my flow, poor eye contact and pitch, all leading to increased nervousness. I soon started to use small flash cards, particularly ever since a particular presentation I had.
There was a specific occasion whilst in a group when we tried to come up with the slides. However, due to language barriers and other issues a number of members didn’t contribute enough hence I had to stay up the whole night without any sleep. THe next morning the 2nd presenter had intense stage fright and wouldn’t go on for the “BUSINESS PLAN” presentation asking me to play the role of the second presenter. On the spot last minute without any preparation I went on with my colleague. Luckily as I had made the presentation I had a thorough understanding of the topic. At first I was nervous but because I was sleep deprived and annoyed at the other person for pulling out at the last minute, I somehow did not come across nervous at all. This was the first time I actually implemented the 5 Ps of presentation without realising. It was only after the PPT, that I realised I spoke well covered all aspect and spoke only what was needed, without the need of a script.
Ever since I was exuberant at the prospect of presentations, thanks to that one success. Using these action points and the techniques taught, especially the two finger rule, I have ever since only improved on my presentational styles. Most of all, it has changed me into a presenter that can talk without a script with confidence. One significant feat was the presentation I gave in the workshop as it was then I was taking my baby steps into becoming a good presenter. Using the nervousness energy/power to do anything, rather than for worry has helped me with confidence and my ability.
The basics of getting ready for a presentation are etched into me, as I want to excel and obtain something once I was so worried was my biggest weakness. These techniques and steps are becoming a habit in preparing for a ppt. Specifically ensuring the structure is interesting and logical for not only myself but others helped me in getting my points across well. Always making sure the structure is different and creative has helped me see presentations as a performance, my unique performance. I have always seen if I am not happy and santisfied with the structure it affect how I actually relate it to the audience, as a doubt in my mind creates a doubt in my tone and speaking while relating it the audience. Thus always during preparation the “STRUCTURE” comes first, and only when I am happy with that will I go forwards. Kind of to the point, I am slightly fussy about it. However you have to fussy about something that will affect your delivery. As previously mentioned “FILTERING OF THE INFORMATION” is another key aspect, as you can always overload the information. Especially being a masters student, a critical approach is looked for by others. It is also key for me to keep a track of time. On the occasions , where I used long scripts I always had issues with time or whilst trying to keep in time I would be speaking at the speed of a train. All of these have affected my prior presentations negatively. However throwing the script aside and keeping only key words as reminders has helped significantly. Particularly being a part of group presentations where I opted to take the second half of the presentation and finish it, meant I had to be critical with the information I provide. Having done this a number of time, especially the first time I tried it by keep a eye on a friends IPAD, I have the learnt the art of assessing the amount of time left, amount of information left to talk about and thus formulate best means of keeping on track with time whilst exuding the optimal amount of data. The first time I tried this I came down to the last few seconds where I gave my final concluding remark and finishing statement.
Practice is another key feature for delivering effective presentations, however the technicality of how you practise comes down to each person. As I mentioned in my previous post (follow up 4) practice in front of a mirror does not work for me, but is after getting into the right mid-set for the presentation, going through the whole presentation whilst doing other things really takes the daunting factor away whilst also being a practise session. Personally, I would practise anywhere except in front of people and/or mirrors J. Common places for me would be in the shower, whilst working out or even whilst listening to music.
On the whole these aspect of presentations are key into effective delivery, it is always breaking the ice and tackling the first ppt with focus and direction that helps you develop and pave the path for success in all others. Other important areas I had not mentioned are confidence, Props and the SLIDEs.
A key feature of all successful presentations are confidence. I have come to learn that the single most important criteria for delivering effective presentations- can be faked! Because it’s all about the body language; stand straight, shoulders up, own your grounds by positioning your legs parallel and a bit away from each other, and speak in a strong tone. However, I also have seen the effect of true confidence, which you can obtain if you see a presentation as a performance, where you are educating someone on a particular topic. Confidence can also be true if you are truly proud of your slide design or content use etc. Points which you know will set you apart from others. Also if you truly see the topic from a “Curiosity and interest” point of view, your enthusiasm and confidence can be passed to the audience. This is what sets you apart as an interactive and confident speaker. This was something I realised during the business plan presentation (mentioned earlier) where I was asked to present at the last minute (10minutes before the seminars started). After giving the PPT, the professor did mention my enthusiasm and trust in the product I pitched was a singular factor that changed their minds on whether to invest in this product or not, it showed my confidence in myself and my product.
Moreover, using props are a good way of interacting with the audience, making your ppt stand out and memorable. This woks like magic. I remember myself implementing this into the paper plane I made for the ppt during the workshop, as well as using the highlighter as a flower to say 5 traits like the 5 petals of a flower make Coventry truly the place to be J.
I know for a fact presentations are not only formal for academia, but is an aspect of yourself everything you do, conversation or meeting someone for the first time and most important of all at interviews. The techniques I have learnt will play a key role in the areas stated above. Not always feasible, as you won’t implement all at all times, but with practice this is becoming a part of me, my personality, a habit.
Delivering effective presentations are not only useful for presentations you give but helps you to be the free and confident public speaker you always dreamt of being.
A very big thank you to Bev for this immensely insightful, helpful and personal character developing workshops. It has played a very very big role for the change I wanted, from the person I was to who I am now.