Do you find it difficult to assert yourself? Two of the world's best psychologists give their life-changing tips

Being able to build relationships with other people is an essential life skill. Not only is it the foundation of successful relationships, it can be critical in most professional contexts.

A repeat is generally understood when two people connect or click. Usually it buzzes in the background and often, without knowing it, we build and maintain relationships with people every day. In this way, we build and maintain relationships – from chatting to weather with strangers to managing complex interactions with the people closest to us.

So can you learn how to build a relationship? Above all, it's about listening to and understanding others, rather than focusing on your own agenda or perspective. For many of us, this can be difficult, especially if we're used to asserting ourselves by being the loudest and most persistent person in the room.

For many of us, this can be difficult, especially if we're used to asserting ourselves by being the loudest and most persistent person in the room

Based on our research as a couple of psychologists, we have decades of experience working with the police on some of the most well-known criminal investigations, such as the London bombings of July 7, 2005 and the murder of Rachel Nickell over Wimbledon Common in 1992 and sexual Child exploitation.

We advise and train the UK police and security agencies, the FBI and the CIA in the United States on how to deal with dangerous suspects when the stakes are high. These experiences have led us to develop a method that allows us to interact effectively with almost everyone. This is not a short-term salon trick. It works because we all have something hard wired to respond to this approach, consciously or unconsciously, and it even works when someone knows that the techniques are applied to it.

Knowing how to build a relationship with someone else will put you in a much better position to have productive conversations that will produce the results you want.


We believe that there are four cornerstones of the report: honesty, empathy, autonomy and reflection (HEAR). These HEAR principles provide a blueprint to improve interaction with others and improve the chances of achieving the desired result.


"Be honest with people" sounds like simple, straightforward advice. However, it can be easy to transcend this honesty and convey a message that is too dull or full of emotions to be received productively by the other person.

The ability is to deliver the right level of honesty with the right sensitivity. It's about avoiding tricks, being clear, objective, direct, and staying calm. There is no place for emotions here. Too often, especially at work, we hide behind emails to avoid conflict when the real problems are easier to solve.

For example, if a colleague is constantly acknowledging your ideas, you may want to confront them but worry about the drama that would cause them. Instead, you simmer quietly and complain to work friends – neither solves the problem. Instead, if you find out what you want to accomplish (an apology and approval that it won't happen again) by facing them, you can practice how to convey your message honestly and without emotion. That said, you can say, "We worked on this strategy together, but you presented it as your idea, and I'm really not happy with it."

Even if their answer is to say that it is not true, or that they have done some of the work, or that it does not matter, you can ignore their defense and denial and respond by saying something like, "Me don't try to take away from your input but i want you to acknowledge my input to the rest of the team.

"It is really important to me."

This way you are more likely to get what you want.


A word that is often used but often misunderstood. True empathy is not about showing compassion or warmth, but about really understanding what a person thinks and feels.

You need to uncover someone else's core beliefs and values ​​so that you can not only imagine how you would feel if you were them, but also think about how their view of the world and their life experiences also affect their reactions a situation. This means that you can see how someone is feeling before explaining your position.

This is an important tactic for giving people direct messages or demands. We often refer to this as the "toddler and t-shirt" approach. Imagine a three-year-old who says, "I want to wear my dinosaur t-shirt in the nursery today, mom." But the dino t-shirt has just been washed and is wet.

If mom just replied, "You can't honey, it's wet," the child probably says, "But I want it."

Mom says, "Well, it's wet, honey. You can't wear a wet T-shirt in the nursery." They say, "But I want it." And so it escalates until the mother and child lie down on the floor and want to cry. But if mom says instead, "I know darling, you love this shirt, it's your favorite. I bet you were looking forward to wearing it and I can see that you are really upset about it. (Big nodding eyes.) But it's wet, honey, so we're going to dry it today and you can wear it tomorrow, I promise. Today you have to choose one of these other 20 dinosaur t-shirts. “And suddenly they could make it to the nursery on time.


This is an incredibly powerful feature of how we interact with others. Whether we feel that someone is trying to control us has a big impact on our behavior. The freedom to choose appeals to an instinctive urge in all of us to control our own destiny.

For example, suppose you are concerned about the amount your mother smokes, but she rejects your attempts to reduce it. The more you mention it, suggest she give up or buy her nicotine chewing gum, the more resistant she is likely to be. Instead, you could listen to all the reasons why she can't quit and answer with something like, "So you say you like to smoke, it relaxes you and you think it will be too difficult to quit now – it's too a long time ago, too many years of habit, ”she will feel understood, listened to and treated with respect, even if you do not agree with her. Maybe she'll tell you she's tried to stop and it never works and you'll think back to her and say, "So you just don't want to fail again?"

This could trigger the answer: "Well, after I had your brother, I quit for over a year. I felt really good; I could walk around with the kids and the extra money was nice too! Ugh, why did I ever start again? “Suddenly our die-hard smoker thinks about changes again, all because you made her feel like she had a choice.


This is repeated partially or in paraphrase what someone has said to you. By using reflection, you are only inviting the other person to expand and add others by "sending" the keywords, feelings, or values ​​that you just heard. Reflection is useful in both long and short interactions to improve communication. It also helps you avoid some common conversation traps.

We also identified five different approaches that can help.


These are summarized by the SONAR mnemonic – simple, on the one hand, no argument, affirmations, refreshment. To get an idea of ​​how these can work, we would like to ask you to consider some typical conversations between teenagers and parents.


Child: I really don't want to go to school today.

Parent: Hard, you go.

Child: You can't make me do it!


Child: I know I should do my homework, I'm so tired all the time!

Parent: Oh please! Wait until you have a real job and then talk to me about fatigue …

Child: Whatever … you don't understand!


Child: You are always above everything in my case!

Parent: Well, if you didn't have to be told everything eight times, I might not be! Cloth ears!

Child: I hate you! (And I feel bad with myself now.)


Child: I like math, but this stuff is impossible – nobody could do it!

Parent: The teacher wouldn't have assigned it if it were impossible – keep trying.

Child: I'm trying! I can not do it!


Child: Cleaning my room is pointless – it just gets messy again.

Parent: So you will only live in the dirt until you die buried under your own dirty laundry ?!

Child: Yes, that's my plan!

Now look at how the SONAR approach could have led to a completely different conversation.


Simple considerations are a direct and often literal repetition of what has just been said.

Child: I really don't want to go to school today.

Parent: You really don't feel like going to school today?

Child: No, there is all this drama going on with the other girls – it clears my head!

Parent: drama?


This involves summarizing two contradicting views, emotions, or evidence of the person. Whatever you place at the end of the sentence, it's probably what you talk about more. So be tactical.

Child: I know I should do my homework, I'm so tired all the time!

Parent: On the one hand you feel tired, on the other hand you know that you should do your homework.

Child: Well, you! This is an important year for me. You use your scores to decide which set you are in.

Parent: And although it is difficult for you, you want to do it well.


Instead of engaging in arguments or rationalizations, examine the statement with reflection and don't argue back. Statements like "So what you tell me is …" or "Can you tell me more about it?" Are helpful and prevent factual arguments.

Child: You are always above everything in my case!

Parent: Tell me why you feel that way. (Be prepared for more personal excavations.)

Child: You never just talk to me – you just come straight to me: do that, do that! It's annoying…

Parent: You feel like I'm only bothering you and we never just talk to each other.


Actively and decisively look for positives to build on as a platform for change and ignore negatives.

Child: I like math, but this stuff is impossible – nobody could do it!

Parent: Tell me what you like about math.

Child: I like how there is a correct answer to every problem, but these are just stupid!

Parent: It usually seems easy for you, but these are difficult.


Reflect on what is said by rewriting, summarizing, or reflecting deeper feelings or values. "Based on what you said, I think … is very important to you." This is often most effective when a key question follows that takes the conversation to the next topic.

Child: Cleaning my room is pointless – it just gets messy again.

Parent: So it just seems to be a never-ending cycle of chaos, and that makes you frustrated and upset, like "Why bother?"

Child: Total. I don't like it messy, but it's always like that! It's so depressing …

Parent: So you'd rather be neat. How can we make it easier?

© Emily Alison and Laurence Alison, 2020

Extracted from rapport by Emily Alison and Laurence Alison, released by Vermilion on Thursday for £ 14.99.

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