How to be assertive in a world that relies on 'likes': A short guide for sustainability consultants

How to be assertive in sustainability

In today’s culture we are all more or less dependent on the pleasure caused by the rush of endorphins that we get when our posts on social media accumulate ‘likes’.

Sounds a bit daft when you read it, even childish or superficial, but that’s how human beings’ brains are hard-wired.

We want to be part of a community, we thrive amongst others, and very few hermits really manage to survive without consensus from their fellow humans.

That’s why it is sometimes so difficult to be assertive, and to say things the way we really think they are. We often think that our views can offend someone else, or that people can change their opinion of us if we say how we really feel.

We want to be liked. Even characters that seem to be immune from all of this, like the POTUS, who seems to always say what he thinks, fires back at his critics on social media. I wonder whether he stays up late to see his Tweets accumulate little hearts?

Last week, in our second Green Gorilla Masterclass, a selected group of sustainability consultants discovered that assertiveness is a fine art that can be learnt in a few simple steps.

The first step to becoming assertive is giving yourself the permission to say ‘no’. Saying ‘no’ does not mean you’re being purposely awkward, but instead, it’s about showing respect for yourself. It’s hard, because it goes against our ingrained desire to be liked. Too often, though, we agree to do things we don’t have the capacity to deliver, or we are unable to say things the way they are, because we are worried about offending, angering or disappointing people.

At work, not saying ‘no’ when we need to is a choice with disastrous consequences, because we can often find ourselves stretched too thin and overwhelmed. Furthermore, we struggle to communicate our message clearly and get others on board, so we end up with poor communication and a lack of action within the team.

During the session, led by business psychologist and leadership coach Anthony McGee of ClearView Coaching, we looked at a typical situation in which a sustainability consultant needs to communicate the targets for the project to his project stakeholders, and what needs to be done in order to achieve them. The sustainability consultant knows that the contractor and the designer are not keen on changing the way they have always worked, but he lacks the assertiveness to overcome his fear of others’ negative reactions.

assertiveness dilbert

Perhaps the biggest misconception around assertiveness is that it means being forceful or aggressive. In actual fact, assertive people can communicate their message clearly, in a systematic and factual way, leaving big emotions out (which can only trigger big reactions). They don’t need aggressiveness or supremacy over others to communicate their message. Truly assertive people respect others’ opinions, as well as their own, and are confident in disagreeing with others in a constructive way.

Listening to others is another key element of assertiveness. Understanding other people’s concerns and feedback can only help you to reach your goals quicker, as any issues will be addressed early rather than when it’s too late and impossible to deal with them.

And you never know, people might be willing to change their view, or might even have a positive reaction to your announcement. Listen and speak with an open heart and assume good intent from the other person, because there is freedom on the other side of discomfort.

The Green Gorilla Masterclass Programme is a unique course designed to empower sustainability consultants to become more assertive and to better communicate their sustainability message to their project stakeholders. Being stronger in the boardroom and having the right tools to address clients and design teams more effectively will save time and money spent chasing and convincing them with little return.

Tags: Getting Started

You have no rights to post comments

The Green Gorilla's Posts

  • All
  • Coaching
  • Getting Started
  • Resilience
  • SustainABLE Mastermind
  • Womeninsustainability
  • Your Community
  • I have never considered myself a feminist. Not in the extreme sense of the term anyway. Although I have always advocated for equality of opportunities for everyone, whichever sex they identify with, I never contemplated burning my bra. I even
    Read More
    • Resilience
    • Womeninsustainability
    • Your Community
  • The power of resilience in uncertain times

    The power of resilience in uncertain times

    By Virginia Cinquemani / 2020-08-03 09:55:52
    I will echo many other people saying that we are living unprecedented times. Life as we know it has come to a weird standstill. Bars, restaurants and shops are starting to reopen after the pandemic, schools and offices have moved
    Read More
    • Coaching
    • Resilience
    • SustainABLE Mastermind
  • Is sustainability a luxury?

    Is sustainability a luxury for the wealthier?

    By Virginia Cinquemani / 2019-03-01 09:55:52
    I have been thinking about my personal finances a lot, lately.I dedicated the whole of February to money wisdom. I worked out that I have about 25 years (everything going well) of working life still in front of me, and
    Read More
  • Using science to influence sustainability clients
    If you have children, you might have heard about oxytocin, aka the “happy hormone”, which is released when you bond with your newborn baby, and is even injected into expecting mothers to induce labour. Oxytocin is produced after any emotional
    Read More
  • Using storytelling in technical situations
    A few years ago, in a quest to refurbish a 1960 concrete block on the BRE site in the most innovative and sustainable way possible, I had the good fortune to meet an extraordinary man and architect. He was one
    Read More
  • What is sustainable architecture?

    What does sustainable architecture really mean?

    By Virginia Cinquemani / 2018-11-15 09:55:52
    I was recently invited to deliver a CPD session on Sustainable Design at a small architectural studio. I was told beforehand that the office didn't specifically look at sustainability in their practices, as it was a small practice. In my
    Read More
  • Can circular economy save the planet?

    Can circular economy save the planet?

    By Virginia Cinquemani / 2018-11-15 09:55:52
    This phrase by Walter Stahel, the man who also coined the phrase ‘cradle to cradle’, made me chuckle before I felt the heaviness of its meaning. How often do we actually feel that our single and collective actions have an
    Read More
  • The difficulty of selling sustaiability

    Why aren’t your clients interested in sustainability?

    By Virginia Cinquemani / 2018-11-15 09:55:52
    I’ve been asking myself this question over and over again: why aren’t clients interested in sustainability? A couple of months ago, my eight-year-old daughter told me off because we were still using plastic toothbrushes. I’m a sustainability consultant, and sustainability
    Read More
  • Selling sustainability to your co-workers
    It’s another day in the office. Fights over the stapler, ‘elevenses’ gossip, passive-aggressive comments hissed in between the teeth, boiling in silence because your colleague is on Facebook while you are slaving away, talking to the boss instead of having
    Read More
  • The top five skills of a sustainability consultant

    The top five skills of a sustainability consultant

    By Virginia Cinquemani / 2018-10-28 09:55:52
    It was all over the national news a couple of weeks ago: according to a new assessment from IPCC, limiting global warming to 1.5ºC would require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society. One of the key
    Read More
  • Women and the construction industry

    Why doesn't Wonder Woman wear a hard hat?

    By Virginia Cinquemani / 2018-10-03 09:55:52
    In recent findings summarised in the report Delivering Through Diversity by McKinsey & Co. , it emerges that companies with executive gender diversity perform 21% better than less diverse companies. This means that companies with women in top executive roles, where
    Read More
  • Sustainability performance with LCA
    At a recent networking event, I met a very happy sustainability consultant. Given that my new mission in life is to help sustainability consultants to feel happier in their jobs, mainly by making them more confident and able to ‘sell’
    Read More
    • Getting Started
  • How to be assertive in sustainability
    In today’s culture we are all more or less dependent on the pleasure caused by the rush of endorphins that we get when our posts on social media accumulate ‘likes’. Sounds a bit daft when you read it, even childish
    Read More
    • Getting Started
  • Six Sales Techniques for Sustainability Consultants
    You are at your first meeting with a potential new client, and they are clearly not keen on undertaking a sustainability assessment for their building. They have to do it because it’s a planning condition, but really, they would rather
    Read More
    • Your Community