Assertiveness is defined as “…the quality of being self-assured and confident without being aggressive.” To achieve all you can in this year and beyond, assertiveness is a skill you and I must learn to ever exhibit. People, circumstances, and the world at large will ever pose questions to you. Challenges will ever come your way. The difference between failure and success may lie in your ability to positively and effectively assert yourself.
A couple of years ago, I needed to travel to Benin City as I had a speaking engagement there. I decided to go by road and went to the motor-park to board one of various private-owned transport fleets that ply the route. Wanting to have as much comfort as possible on the 4-5 hours journey I expected, I sought out an air-conditioned (AC) bus even though for obvious reasons it costed significantly more than those without AC. I repeatedly asked the operators of the bus I chose if the bus was truly air-conditioned, and they repeatedly told me it was. I asked to see the driver of the bus and the person introduced to me as the driver also confirmed to me that it was an AC bus. So, I waited till we had the full complement of passengers and we set out for Benin. To my dismay, 5 minutes into the journey there was no sign of the driver (who was now suddenly someone I hadn’t seen before!) switching on the air conditioner of the bus. I tried repeatedly to ask the driver why this was so (despite all the assurances I was given at the motor-park). He ignored me for as long as he could. When he saw that I wouldn’t keep quiet or let up, he snapped at me and asked if I was the only one in the bus – why was I complaining? As if on cue, the passenger (quite an elderly woman) in front of me, rather rudely asked me to keep quiet. She asked me rather brusquely if I had AC in my house. As far as she was concerned, I should be more concerned about the safety of our trip and forget about any AC.
I must confess, I was really starting to get angry. I couldn’t understand the “attack” from my co-passenger whom I had never seen before that day. I also wondered why every other person in the bus was keeping quiet. We had all paid a premium price to board an AC bus. In fact, many of them were there when I was repeatedly assured that we were all boarding an AC bus. But here they all were, looking at me as an odd ball making a fuss. Rather than continue to react to the co-passenger (and correct her erroneous assumptions), or join issues with the driver, I chose to practice assertiveness. I suddenly realized there were customer service numbers pasted in the bus. I picked up my mobile phone and called the very first number on the list. I politely but firmly told the person on the line what was going on. He apologized and confirmed again to me that I had boarded an AC bus and requested to speak with the driver. To my surprise, the driver blurted out that “…it was a misunderstanding o.” Voila, he immediately put on the AC. Every passenger (apart from the woman who attacked my effrontery to ask about the AC) started to hail me. One even went as far as calling me “the Gani Fawehinmi” of our time. We had a pleasant and safe trip to Benin City.
Stop reacting. Stop complaining. Practice assertiveness.
Wish you a pleasant week ahead.