Lessons in Assertiveness: The Continuing Adventures of Louie

Louie: All grown up now

Louie: All grown up now

It’s absolutely ages since I gave you an update on our dog, Louie (named, of course, after Vitton rather than Walsh).  Unlike Mr Walsh, our Louie  really has the X-Factor and he’s not afraid of Sharon Osborne!  Hey, I just know that you’re bursting to hear all about his latest adventures. Here goes…

Tuesday Training: When Louie was a pup, every Tuesday evening we’d leave the house and drive to ‘dog school’ in the National Exhibition Centre – just past the airport.  My youngest, Nicole and I, had been formally anointed as the ‘dog trainers’ in the family.  The classes kicked off at 7 and ran for an hour.  Not bad for €5.

Puppy Class: Louie stated off in ‘low babies’ (when he was 12 weeks old) and learned tons of stuff.  Sit.  Come. Stay. Down (he’s not too good on that – you can’t keep a good dog down!). Now, as you may well know, the benefit of taking a dog to classes is not actually the training. A lot of owners already know how to work with dogs, from previous experience (you can even get an App for training dogs on your phone).  The real benefit of the classes is that the dog gets to ‘socialize’ with other dogs; it avoids them wanting to fight everything on four legs that moves. So, while the training classes remind the owners what to do, the real benefit is putting manners on the dog.

Positive Training:  Maybe I was tired on Tuesdays or perhaps just generally cranky, but dog-training classes can be hard going. I normally arrived home about 2 minutes before we had to leave again, often skipping dinner. The cavernous space of the National Exhibition centre (freezing cold most of the year), is not particularly inviting. I wanted those classes to be good, to make the trip worthwhile. This is a 2.5 hour round trip– about as long as it takes to get to the Algarve – and it had to pay off.

Changing Instructors: We were working with one particular instructor and both Nicole and I were finding it difficult to follow the class. The main teaching philosophy was sarcasm (“There’s a man teaching his dog how to bite”; “Nothing wrong with that dog, if it had a good owner”). Now, on one level, getting annoyed by this is stupid. There are no big issues involved and it’s hardly life threatening. Why let yourself get wound up over a dog training class? But it was still a bit irritating. When something is bugging,  you have to come up with a ‘fix’.  Right?

New Group: So, very quietly, I told the trainer that we were unhappy with the class and why and we then moved to another training group. I felt better. Nicole felt better. Louie felt better (we can’t 100% vouch for that). Being assertive starts with small things and becomes an assertiveness habit. It’s that sweet spot that lies somewhere between aggressiveness and timidity. And, I’m pretty sure that the dog trainer was happy to see the back of us. When you suit yourself, you suit everyone. And, you get all sorts of opportunities to practice. Here’s two recent examples:

Aer Lingus: A couple of weeks back, I took an Aer Lingus flight and a child was sitting in my designated (4A) window seat. When I politely pointed out that the kid was in my seat, the family asked me to change seats. The alternative was an aisle seat a couple of rows back. I did move (despite the fact that they were cheeky to take up the seat first and ask later). The central point here is that being assertive should not be automatic. You don’t have to ‘take offense’ every time something small happens. The ideal is to be able to turn assertiveness on and off, as you wish.  Evangel reminded us that: “Wisdom is knowing  when to speak your mind and when to mind your speech.” Being assertive is the central suggestion here, but when it suits you rather than on autopilot. That’s not assertiveness; that’s being ‘thin skinned’ (the underpinning psychology if you ‘take offense’  every single time something happens is actually the exact opposite of assertiveness).

Silk Cut Blue: A guy in a local golf club  travels a lot. One of his buddies had a ‘standing order’ for 200 Silk Cut Blue every time he came through the airport.  It had become a routine request, almost a ‘given’. When planning a recent holiday, his mate asked for his usual pack of smokes. These were purchased and handed over with a request for €200. The smoker nearly collapsed at the high price and said: “Where did you go on holidays?” The reply: “Wexford”.  No further requests for Silk Cut Blue has been made since.

In an effort to ‘please everyone’ you can easily end up pleasing no-one. While you don’t need to go around like Genghis Khan – it’s stupid to be a pushover.  The good news about becoming assertive is that you will have tons of opportunity to practice. Now get out there and get going. Because, like the L’Oreal slogan, you’re worth it.


PS: Lighter Note: You know it’s not working whenyou take an assertiveness training course and you’re afraid to tell your partner.

Changing Body Parts: Ever wanted to have slightly longer legs or a narrower waist? Yeh, me too. Here’s the man for the job. Have a look at the attached (thanks to Aidan Cahill for the clip).


Know someone who’d benefit from this blog? Ask them to email paul@tandemconsulting.ie and we’ll add them to the list. Check our website http://www.tandemconsulting.ie or call 087 2439019 for an informal discussion about executive or organization development.



About Tandem Consulting

Paul Mooney holds a Ph.D. and a Post-Graduate Diploma in Industrial Sociology from Trinity College, along with a National Diploma in Industrial Relations (NCI). He has a post-Graduate Diploma and a Masters in Coaching from UCD. Paul, a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, is widely recognised as an expert on organisation and individual change. He began his working life as a butcher in Dublin before moving into production management. He subsequently held a number of human resource positions in Ireland and Asia - with General Electric and Sterling Drug. Between 2007 and 2010, Paul held the position of President, National College of Ireland. Paul is currently Managing Partner of Tandem Consulting, a team of senior OD and change specialists. He has run consulting assignments in 20+ countries and is the author of 12 books. Areas of expertise include: • Organisational Development/Change & conflict resolution • Leadership Development/Executive Coaching • Human Resource Management/employee engagement
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