When I became a working mom of two I discovered the power of assertiveness. Before I began my assertive streak, though, I had to rediscover what I believed in (my values) and what was important to me (my priorities).
Sometimes when you become a Working Mom you struggle with what your priorities are (this was something nobody warned me about). This is usually when mommy guilt bubbles up. You want your family to come first but sometimes this can’t be the case.
As Working Moms, we give service to so many people it’s easy to lose sight of what’s important to us and we lose enthusiasm to ask for what we want.
There may be times when you get stuck when trying to stick up for what you need or want. If this happens I highly recommend trying the A-E-I-O-U model (Wisinski, 1993) toward a request that goes against your values and priorities to get what you want in an assertive way.
Following this model gives you more courage to believe in what you want and but not offend the other person(s) involved. To help me explain the A-E-I-O-U model let’s say that your boss asked you to work late on a proposal the night of your daughter’s talent show.
Here’s what the acronym stands for and how you can handle this scheduling conflict without sounding pushy, in five sentences.
A for Acknowledge their positive intentions
In your first sentence you are going to acknowledge that the other person(s) has positive intentions.
Your boss wants your proposal to be accepted, right? You can show this by setting the tone of your response by respecting his or her request.
“I know the proposal's deadline is in a few days so I understand why you need me to work late."
E for Express how you feel about the request
In your second sentence you will express what you want or how you feel about what you need.
In this case you'd express your thoughts on your top priority, your daughter. Begin the sentences with a phrase like “I think” or “I feel”. This way you are placing ownership on what you need and not on something they are requesting of you.
“If feel that if I work late i will regret missing my daughter’s talent show.”
I for Identify a different plan
Now here's your chance! Identify an alternative plan or a suggestion that you believe would appeal to both you and your manager. Begin this sentence with a phrase such as “I would like to” and keep it short.
“I would like to login from home after the show to continue working on the proposal.".
O for Outline your plan
You're almost done! Next, share the steps you'll follow to help convince your manager that you suggested plan will provide the same results that his or her plan would have. It's should offer a resolution that everyone could agree on.
“I’ll add the notes we talked about, then write more about x, y, and z, then email you the updated proposal so you can review it first thing.”
U for Understanding and open discussion
Last, you get ask for understanding. You bring back in the other person's perspective, show them how your ideas can resolve the same problem and invite them to have a discussion about it.
“Instead of spending the extra time right now I can satisfy my family’s needs first then finish up work afterwards. How does this sound to you?"
If you fear confrontation take comfort in the A-E-I-O-U model. It helps you plan out your bold request ahead of time so you are not stumbling over your words, saying "um.." a thousand times, or giving up on what you really want.
If you want some practice, try it on your kids! Note that this may not work well on toddlers as they prefer short sentences with few words and you may lose them. Here’s an example.
“I know that you are excited about that new movie you want to stay up and watch. i feel that if you stay up past your 8:00 bedtime you won't feel good at school tomorrow. I would love for you to watch it this weekend when it's played again. We’ll watch it together and eat your favorite snack. How does that plan sound to you?”
With the A-E-I-O-U model you can assertively get your point across in five simple sentences. The next time your personal values or priorities come into question you now have the tool to confront the conflict confidently, without being a witch about it.