Being Assertive with people who are always right: a case study


As promised I’m going to share a real example with you this week of a person who had a tendency to take a position and defend it. If you remember from last week my encounter with this gentleman, we’ll call him John, included the statement from him:

“As you know, no body learns anything new after the age of eighteen.”

So first some background. I was conducting staff interviews in order to design a training course on handling difficult people!

The HR manager told me at the last minute that he had included John because he was curious about what would happen! Apparently John had not managed to complete any training course he had attended. He either walked out or got thrown out! How interesting I thought.

I began to get to create a number of hypotheses about John based on the information I was given. It seemed that he was probably internally referenced, held some strong beliefs and was often “parental” in his interactions with others.

When he arrived I decided to use the following approach.

First I built rapport by making a point of thanking him for giving up his time to talk to me. I deliberately showed deference and respect accessing from a transactional analysis model “child” behaviour.

I asked him to tell me a little about himself and was surprised to discover some new information. He was currently working in car parks and had been for about five years. Before that he had worked in an engineering company for many years before retiring from a post as a director. The job he had now was to keep him busy and for “pin” money.

It was a nice reminder not to make assumptions!

I asked him for some of his experiences where he had to deal with difficult people. He told me several stories, some where he had been very skilful and others that were rather scary. He had been sexist in some cases, overbearing in others and clearly rude in yet others. His own perception was that his behaviour was good.

I also asked him about his experience on training courses. This is where he made the statement about learning. He went on to tell me that one trainer had asked him what he was expecting to learn on the training course and he had answered.


Now you have the back ground. What would you do to handle John effectively?

Next week I’ll tell you what I did.



About Melody @ GWizlearning

Melody spent fourteen years gathering experience of the business world working in banking, telecommunications and the public sector before co-founding The GWiz Learning Partnership in 1993. Melody has a Masters Degree in Applied Positive Psychology, a degree in Psychology and a diploma in Psychotherapy. She is an NLP Master Trainer which allows her to run NLP Practitioner, NLP Master Practitioner and NLP Trainer Training courses certified by the Positive School of Intrinsic Neuro-Linguistc Psychology. She is also a qualified Myers Briggs practitioner and EI practitioner and added to all this is five years Transactional Analysis training, meaning she is able to help organisations access the hidden potential in their staff. She is also in demand for her work in transforming average or even troubled teams into high performers. Melody is a visiting lecturer at University of East London, teaching "Wellbeing and Positive Psychology" to undergraduates. Additionally, she is a member of the CIPD and is ILM accredited. Melody's interests are many and varied. She has a keen interest in personal development, canine and wolf psychology, conservation, movies and running. She also enjoys western horse riding, walking the GWiz dogs, nature watching and stage combat (particularly sword fighting).
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2 Responses to Being Assertive with people who are always right: a case study

  1. I would start by getting him to look at why he has that belief and lead on to where that belief has got him.

    Maybe looking at whether that belief has limited his progress in life. Of course that would be longer term.

    On hearing his immediate reaction in the situation that you first described after drawing a deep breath, I might (hopefully) respond with something like ” I wonder why you believe that?” Hopefully even if it gets neither of you anywhere immediately, a follow up sentence of “Maybe you could think about that sometime” may set him thinking.

    Interesting isn’t it?

    Look forward to the next blog.

  2. Melody Cheal says:

    He was an interesting chap more to follow :0)

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