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How to Be Assertive Without Alienating Your Relationships

Asking for what you want—and setting boundaries around what you don’t want—is a key life skill.  However, sometimes in our enthusiasm to practice this skill, we over-do our own assertiveness and end up with someone (partner, friend, peer, customer, client, etc.) who shuts down, gets angry or feels resentful.  Here are four tips for developing your assertiveness in a way that will actually strengthen, deepen and enrich your relationships—thus avoiding the “alienation trap”:

1.     Get Clear.

Being assertive starts with knowing what you are—and aren’t—willing to be, do, or have.  For many of us, coming to this knowledge is a real task unto itself.  Here, it may be useful to ask: “In an ideal world, what would I like to happen?”  Focusing on an ideal, reasonable and realistic outcome opens our minds, prevents us from falling into passivity or “victim-thinking,” and helps us get really clear on what we want and don’t want.

2.     Set Boundaries.

Once you know what outcome you desire, share it with that person in your life.  Pay attention to the way stating your boundary feels in your body.  With practice, you can actually sense when you’re hitting the “sweet spot.”  It can feel really pleasant, even exhilarating, to express your needs or desires out loud.  Phrases like “such and such doesn’t work for me” are simple ways of being assertive while maintaining connection with the other person.

3.     Make a Regular Habit of Stating Your Needs and Desires.

You can build your assertiveness the same way you build any muscle: exercise.  Practice speaking up about your needs, big or small, on a daily basis.  When you speak up about things that are less controversial—such as where to go to dinner, requesting help with a task or what TV program to watch—both you and the other person get used to your assertiveness.  It becomes easier for you to practice and for another to hear.  Also, when bigger issues come along, you will have a healthy process in place for dealing with differences in needs, and you’ll have greater confidence in the resilience of your relationship.

4.     Give as Much as You Get.

Assertiveness is a two-way street.  If you want your boundaries to be respected, you must return the courtesy to others in your life.  If your partner doesn’t want you to interrupt her while she’s talking on the phone (unless it’s an emergency), don’t.  If your co-worker asks you to give him fifteen minutes before an unscheduled meeting before you talk and connect, respect that.  When it comes to following through on another’s reasonable request, actions really do speak louder than words.

If someone in your life isn’t respecting your boundaries even though you’ve set them clearly, it may be time for professional help for you and/or your relationship.

Until next time…

P.S. — Want to learn to be more assertive in you job, business or in general?  Schedule your complimentary coaching session or send an e-mail to to learn how.  Invest 30 minutes today to change your life forever.

Continuing our celebration of International Coaching Week, here are some thoughts and reflections.

It’s a bit of a snowy Wednesday here and I find myself thinking about some CHOICES that I’ll make a bit later today.  Like most of you, I’m going to do things based on what I feel is best in the moment I’m making those choices.  And if I’m not careful, I may even get “hung up” deciding what to do because certain thoughts might be flying in my brain space that would make it difficult to stay focused on what’s important.  Or, I may be supported by certain thoughts.  Rather than ramble on, here’s something that will help.

I’m reminded of an often told story, the Cherokee “Legend of Two Wolves”

One evening an old Cherokee looked into his grandson’s eyes and asked,  “My son, I see fear in your eyes what is troubling you.”

The boy responded, “Often I feel as if two wolves are living inside me, one is good and does no harm. He lives in harmony with all around him and does not take offense when no offense was intended. He will only fight when it is right to do so, and in the right way. But…the other wolf… ah! The littlest thing will send him into a fit of temper. He fights everyone, all of the time, for no reason. He cannot think because his pain and fear are so great.

“Sometimes it is hard to live with these two wolves inside me, for both of them try to dominate my spirit and are always struggling against each other.”

With tears streaming down his face the boy looked intently into his Grandfather’s eyes and asked, “Which one will win Grandfather?”

Grandfather smiled and quietly said, “The one you choose to feed.”

When life’s daily occurrences and events disrupt your schedule or get you out of balance, which wolf will you feed?

When there is conflict during your meeting and everyone is out of agreement, which wolf will you feed?

The next time someone interrupts you, which wolf will show up?

What will you reaction be when a customer is unhappy about a product or service you or your company provides?

When presented with a challenge, how will you respond?

Is your wolf one of exhaustion overwhelm, or chaos?  Perhaps your wolf is self-doubt, disbelief, and negativity?

Or, is the wolf of happiness, balance, order and structure showing up?  Is it the wolf of optimism, confidence, generosity and enthusiasm?

Which wolf will you feed today?

It’s a choice…YOUR choice.

Until next time…

P.S. — Want to find some great-tasting wolf feed?  Schedule your private, confidential complimentary discovery session or send an e-mail to to learn how.  Invest 30 minutes today to change your life forever.

As we celebrate International Coaching Week, it’s a great opportunity to re-acquaint with our foundation…our strengths…our VALUES.  Some might relate to this in terms of characteristics or attributes.  Whatever you call your “internal drivers”, today’s a great day to identify the basis for living your life.  And remember, your “life” encompasses all components and roles, such as your job, career, business, and areas of your personal life (not an all-inclusive listing), and the values you use in each and how you incorporate your values into all areas of your life.

Perhaps you’ve never taken a moment or five to actually go through a values-identifying exercise.  Now’s a great time to do just that.

Haven’t dusted off your list in a long time?  Today is a great day to do that.

Want to work on strengthening some of those values to become a better you?  There’s no better moment than right now!

Here’s something to get you started;  to help you re-evaluate; to give you some ideas about what you believe are your VALUES.  Click on this link, JTSample Values List, for your complimentary download and discover what matters to you.

Until next time…

P.S. — Want some assistance identifying and strengthening your values?  Schedule your private, confidential complimentary discovery session or send an e-mail to to learn how.  Invest 30 minutes today to change your life forever.

The first full week in February is designated as International Coaching Week (ICW) and it’s a week-long global celebration designed for coaches and clients to educate others about the value of working with a professional coach (business, career, life, personal, development…and the list goes on) and to acknowledge the progress and results achieved through the coaching process.

I will be commemorating the event by participating in some pro bono activities throughout the week, of which you are the beneficiary!

Check back with the Roots of Thought blog often over the course of the week to take advantage of the great opportunities that will be presented.

To kick off the week, here are a few often asked questions about coaching:

  • What are the benefits of coaching?

Individuals who engage in a coaching partnership can expect to experience fresh perspectives on personal challenges and opportunities, enhanced thinking and decision making skills, enhanced interpersonal effectiveness, and increased confidence in carrying out their chosen work and life roles.

Consistent with a commitment to enhancing their personal effectiveness, they can also expect to see appreciable results in the areas of productivity, personal satisfaction with life and work, and the achievement of personally relevant goals.

  • What is the a coach’s responsibility in the coach-client relationship?

A coach should:

  • Discover, clarify, and align with what the client wants to achieve;
  • Encourage client self-discovery;
  • Elicit client-generated solutions and strategies; and
  • Hold the client responsible and accountable.

Professional coaches provide an ongoing partnership designed to help clients produce fulfilling results in their personal and professional lives.  Ultimately, coaches help people improve their performances and enhance the quality of their lives.

Coaches are trained to listen, to observe and to customize their approach to individual client needs.  They seek to solicit solutions and strategies from the client; believing the client is naturally creative and resourceful.  The coach’s job is to provide support to enhance the skills, resources, and creativity that the client already has.

Coaching honors the client as the expert in his/her life and work and believes that every client is creative, resourceful, and whole.

Until next time…

P.S. — Want some assistance going from reflection to resolution?  Schedule your private, confidential complimentary discovery session or send an e-mail to to learn how.  Invest 30 minutes today to change your life forever.

As the year speeds to its end, we begin to mentally prepare for next year.  But don’t forget to take time to assess your personal and professional challenges and accomplishments THIS year.

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  1. What have I accomplished this year?  Be specific. Write it all down. Schedule some time to celebrate this!
  2. What have I learned this year?  What skills did you pick up? What emotional lessons?
  3. What got in my way?  This is where your work will be next year.  Be honest if it was your own self that got in the way.
  4. What are my immediate next steps to achieve these goals?
  5. What did I learn from those things that didn’t go as I expected this year?  When you take the time to absorb the lessons that the events in our lives come to teach us, you will not repeat the same mistakes repeatedly.
  6. What am I grateful for this year?  Make a list of at least 100 things that you are grateful for and watch more good things start coming into your life.
  7. On a scale of 1-10, how satisfied am I with how I spent the year?  Why?
  8. What do I want to accomplish next year, such that it’s my best year ever?
  9. What does it take to make me feel a 10/10 satisfaction level at the end of next year?
  10. What new habits do I want to cultivate that will help me achieve my goals in 2012?

When you take the time to answer these questions thoughtfully, you are taking the time to invest in yourself and your success.  Remember that ‘why’ that motivates you and use it to push you beyond the obstacles that will always pop up in your path.  True success is found only when you are willing to keep getting up after every setback.

“Year’s end is neither an end nor a beginning, but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us.” ~ Hal Borland

Until next time…

P.S. — Want some assistance going from reflection to resolution?  Schedule your private, confidential complimentary discovery session or send an e-mail to to learn how.  Invest 30 minutes today to change your life forever.

As part of our week-long celebration of International Coaching Week, we’ll be sharing some information throughout the week about the coaching profession.  Each day, the information will be a little different with the idea that coaching, whether it’s life coaching, development coaching, achievement coaching, career coaching, etc., is available to everyone and there’s a type and style of coaching just for you…and your company.

business people

Today we’ll take a look at how coaching impacts leadership development and their organizations.  Did you know anyone can be a leader?  Even you?

Click here to read the white paper “Coaching and Philanthropy”.

“Through coaching … I have a sense of owning this job and a sense of competence and assuredness about doing the job that I think would have otherwise taken years and years (and lots of heartache and not great learning experiences) to gain.”

Until next time…

P.S. — Want a better understanding of how a coach can help you acquire better leadership skills or improve leadership within your organization?  Schedule your private, confidential complimentary coaching session or send an e-mail to to learn how.  Invest 30 minutes today to change your life forever.

Every once in a while, I’m drawn to pick up a book that wasn’t on my “book list” – particularly when I’ve got a shelf (OK, who am I kidding here – it’s a bookcase) of to-be-reads waiting patiently for me.  You know, the books that you just gotta have or you’ll go…but I digress…

Back on focus…

I’m talking about Mitch Albom’s book “have a little faith”.  To this day, I can’t put my finger on what steered me toward the book…was it the title or the word “faith”?…the fact that it was a true story?…was it that the economy was in the tank?…not sure that any of it really matters.

I bought the book.

Mr. Albom was asked to deliver the eulogy for his old hometown’s rabbi.  It was a an eight-year journey.  During that same he becomes involved with a Detroit pastor who is a reformed drug dealer and convict.  As Mr. Albom moves back and forth between the two worlds, he starts to see similarities and unity in these worlds.

Throughout the book, Mr. Albom infuses past sermons given by the Rabbi into the story.  One of those sermons struck a chord..actually stopped me in my thoughts, so to speak.

Spoiler alert…if you plan on reading the book proceed at your own risk.

It was a sermon given by the Rabbi in 1975 about a man seeking employment on a farm.  The letter of recommendation given by the previous employer to the fellow’s new employer read simply, “He sleeps in a storm.”

Talk about putting things in perspective, eh?  When we choose to be right with the people that we love…when we choose to behave in a manner that’s in agreement / aligned with our faith…when we do the things that are truly important in our life, we’ll never be stressed / anxious / cursed / worried about unfinished or unfulfilled business.  We won’t be living in perpetual states of I could have, I should have, I wish I would have, or if only.

We will be sincere in our words, we’ll tell those that we love “I love you” at every opportunity, we’ll embrace a little longer and a little tighter, we’ll laugh a little louder and more often…

We, too, will be able to sleep in a storm.

I’m going to be working on sleeping in a storm.  What about you?

Until next time…

It’s Tuesday evening and I came back into the office to catch up on some boring, mundane and very necessary and fulfilling work that is often involved in business. Just before sitting down at the computer, I decided to glance through this month’s issue (September 2009) of Success Magazine. Imagine my surprise when on the front cover I discovered Og Mandino was one of the featured articles!

I quickly turned to page 66 of the issue to read all about Og (like I was reading the words for the very first time). I was greeted with “I Will Act Now.” in big, bold, orange, and black lettering and I thought, “Is that powerful, or what?!” Coincidence that I was seeing in the boldest print “I Will Act Now” facing the routine stuff I was going to do? No. I firmly believe all things happen for a reason.

Could it get any better than that?

I thought not…

Would you believe it could? On the next page, 67, was Og’s picture with a captioned quote from Scroll IX, “Success will not wait. If I delay, she will become betrothed to another and lost to me forever. This is the time. This is the place. I am the man.” (OK for me it’s I am the woman – you get the point.)

It took me a while to contain my excitement, or should I say reign it in. I was ready to run up and down the street proclaiming how great Og is, when I realized I do just that, very quietly, as part of my everyday life. More than that – I am practicing every day to live the principles that Og wrote, taught, and lived himself.

You see, it’s more than an article and a picture for me. It’s my way of life. Am I there yet? Certainly not. Will I ever get there? I don’t know – I hope to – someday. What I do know is that I’ve got some work to do. I do know by living and breathing the Scrolls, by becoming a product of the process, I improve my life, reach the success that was meant for me and I get to help others do the same – in teaching them, coaching them, guiding them to be the very best they were meant to be.

What I do know, with certainty, is that by acting now, at this moment, I put into motion all the positive action that will “nourish my success”.

To read the article, go to

Would you like to chat about Og? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Until next time…

Back to the office a week now after vacation where we spent an amazing week with family and friends.  We stayed at a beautiful beach home on Atlantic Avenue in Kure Beach, NC located right on the beach!

Incredible sunsets and sunrises, dolphins passing directly in front of us as we swam and played in the ocean, and early morning walks on the beach were the catalysts to some mind-quieting and recognizing the desire to ground myself, once again.

I was surprised to find that I asked myself quite a lot of questions while getting grounded and was so pleased to find a poem that I came across several months ago that really resonated with me after I came home.

Have patience with everything that

remains unsolved in your heart,

Try to love the questions themselves…

At present you need to live the questions.

Perhaps you will gradually, without ever noticing it, find yourself experiencing the answer.”

~ Rainer Maria Rilke

Until next time…

Welcome to Roots of Thought, Joshua Tree Coaching & Consulting, LLC’s new blog, and Thought Buds, a brief inspirational message to keep you going between newsletters and blogs.

Hope you will make this an interactive event. We welcome your comments and thoughts.

Yours in Service,
Catherine McAnally, CSAC, SACA, CHDM
Joshua Tree Coaching & Consulting, LLC

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