Authority, Accessibility, and Assertiveness
Cultivate Them as Your Base of Personal Power
by Dr. Marilyn Manning
Personal power means that you believe in yourself, that you can go after what you want and get it, that you have the right and the ability to reach your goals in your own way.
There are three key skills you can cultivate in order to develop personal power: authority, accessibility, and assertiveness.
Authority comes from inner confidence. It begins with an attitude of “I can do it; I deserve success.” This attitude radiates outwardly as you assert your rights, as you ask for what you need and want, and as you develop a willingness to give to others and yourself.
Most of us tend to discount our successes and when things go wrong, we tend to remember all our previous failures. Counteract this tendency by building an authority structure. Take a piece of paper and list everything you have done that gives you a feeling of pride. Then, make a separate list of all your skills and mark those you perform particularly well. Look at your lists often to build up confidence in your abilities. You can’t pat yourself on the back too often or too enthusiastically.
We communicate our inner authority to others through our image. How well do you communicate your authority? Is your voice firm or whinny? Is your speech littered with slang or vocal hesitations such as “uh” or “um”. Tape record a few conversations to identify speech patterns and tone.
When you meet with people, do you make direct eye contact when you speak or do you look down or glare defiantly? Pay attention to how you act as you speak. Often nonverbal signals say more than words. To make sure your body isn’t saying something different from your mouth, practice these good communication habits until they become second nature:
- Look people in the eye.
- Keep your facial expression consistent with your message.
- Stand erect and move energetically.
- Speak with an even pace and enunciate clearly.
- Use only body movements and gestures necessary to make your point, but no more.
- Practice projecting authority and, if necessary, fake it until you feel it.
You have heard the old adage about being in the right place at the right time. People do business with people they know, and the powerful person is a master networker. You give yourself valuable resources—a circle of people from whom you can seek information and support.
Regardless of your background or lack of role models, you are always part of a team, whether it is a team of co-workers on a project or volunteers raising money for a community youth program. You probably have more contacts than you realize.
See yourself as the hub of a wheel, surrounded by spokes of contacts. List everyone you know and every organization you belong to. Include personal contacts, financial contacts, spiritual contacts, social contacts (people not as close to you as those listed under personal contacts), community contacts (don’t forget the service people you deal with like the dry cleaner, the cobbler, etc.), and career contacts.
Make sure your list takes into account anyone or any organization that can help you reach your goals. Make a point to contact at least one person on your list each day.
Accessibility also means letting the world—your company, church, organization, community—know who you are. Volunteer, write articles, be on powerful committees and network, network, and network.
Assertive people believe in themselves and their opinions. They are honest and direct, refusing to play “blame games” or to hide behind hurt feelings. They make choices based on their own belief systems.
When you are assertive, you stand up for your rights and your beliefs; not at the expense of others, but rather respecting both their beliefs and your rights. By being assertive, you do not seek or need approval to make decisions or to act. Rather, when you have a sense of your own personal power, you say what you want and need but are willing to compromise with other people if it will help you attain your goals.
Here are some guidelines you can follow to increase your self-assertiveness:
- Make time for yourself. Assert your right to take care of your own needs. This helps you develop a healthy self-respect.
- Ask for help when you need it. Become a team player and let others know that you do not work in a vacuum.
- Say “No” without feeling guilty. This is tied to an ability to prioritize and to meet your goals.
- Express your feelings openly. This involves risk taking and demonstrating a high level of integrity.
- Request feedback as a way to grow and learn. This will develop an openness to change.
- Ask for what you need and want. Focus on your goals, developing a sense of purpose and commitment.
Remember, the powerful person empowers others and gives them a safe environment for them to express their opinions. When you are personally powerful, you encourage subordinates to set goals, express themselves openly, and make important contributions.
People will want to work for you, because they feel supported and acknowledged. And as you cultivate personal power, professional and positional power will follow.