“University is a good time to start planting seeds…Students can practice and adapt to new behaviour.”
 
In an article published by The Guardian, Abby Young-Powell raises the question “Do students need to be more assertive?” Young-Powell elucidates on the question; “you invest a lot of time and money in your university degree, so stand up for yourself and ask for what you need.”
 
Mark Fudge, head of counselling and student wellbeing at Keele University explains “Current students are wise…They don’t want to leave university with just a degree. They want to make the most of the experience, and develop skills that make them attractive to employers.”
 
Young-Powell highlights one aspect that could hinder their success; a lack of assertiveness with tutors and peers.
 
“A lot of 18-23 year-olds struggle to stand up for themselves, because it’s something you learn to do as you interact with the world,” says Fudge.
 
Fudge made it clear that being assertive is not to be confused with being aggressive. “True assertiveness is about being able to communicate,” says Fudge. “It’s about having respect for yourself and for other people.”
 
“It’s not always easy,” says Jonathan Black, who runs assertiveness training for undergraduates at Oxford University. “However, if you do master it, you can get what you want and have a happier life.”
 
The idea that being assertive in all walks of life for the best chance at success is nothing new, however, Fudge explains that it is crucial for students to master this skill at university as there are endless opportunities to put it in practice. Many experts say students will end up with a better degree and a more enjoyable university experience and as a result feel well prepared for the workplace.
 
“University is a good time to start planting seeds,” says Fudge. “Students can practice and adapt to new behaviour.”
 
Having more confidence at university will prevent students from being afraid to ask questions, to ask for more help and also engage well in group tasks. Making use of a personal relationship with tutors will not only build communication skills but can also open up a door for personal advice and great contacts for the future.
 
In a recent blog by Emran Mian, he explains a popular term many businesses discuss when searching for suitable future employees; “work-ready grads.” Mian explores what these businesses mean and a quality of ‘work-ready grads’  was one who “had confidence and the ability to work in a team.” This skill of course does not come on its own thus explains Mark Fudge’s advice to develop these skills at university.
 
The experts sought to answer the question many students will ask when faced with this news. How can students become more assertive?

The Guardian reported:

Listen to yourself:
Think about what you want. “Students should listen to their inner voice,” says Honeywell. “It’s not about being selfish, but about having self-esteem and self-approval. Find a way to convey what you want clearly.””Students should think about times when they haven’t been assertive,” says Fudge. “Are there times when you’ve said no when you meant yes? Set yourself an experiment. Go away and think about the repercussions of that and why you did it. In the future you can try to be more honest.”

Relearn bad habits
People can be socialised into being unassertive, so you may need to relearn past lessons.

“Think about what you’ve learned and what was expected of you,” says Annette Honeywell who runs assertiveness classes at Oxford Brookes University. “For example, if you’re the eldest in a family, you might have had to look after younger siblings and put yourself last. Behaviour that you learned as a child can be unlearned.”

She adds: “Most people want to know how to say no. They feel they can’t say no because people might not like them anymore. They worry that people might think they’re rude, or get upset. You need to challenge that way of thinking and find a way of saying no that’s not aggressive.”

Think about body language:

Use body language to communicate and assert yourself. “Look at body language and the words you use and the way you approach people,” says Honeywell.

“You don’t have to be the most confident person but you do need to give the impression of being confident,” says Mills. “And you can do that by thinking about your body language.”

 
Not everyone is confident, eve in they apear to be
If you are trying to assert yourself with someone who appears to be blessed with unwavering confidence, whether that be a tutor, a classmate or an interviewer, remember that not everyone is as naturally confident as they may appear.
“Sometimes people who aren’t confident have a misconception that everyone around them is,” says Mills. “That’s not true – your manager, tutor or peers might not be, so don’t be intimidated.”
 
Do you think more assertive students will positively impact our institutions? Comment below or tweet us @NCUBtweets.