Assertiveness Training

Ava Taylor

I sat, looking around her office as I waited. It was similar to other offices in the building, small and modern with colourful, abstract art on the plain white walls. To one side, a window looked out onto the car park where through the blinds I could see the darkening sky, and the top of the red-and-white striped barrier hovering into view as cars headed out onto the main road.

Between me and the window was her desk, on which rested her slim laptop and a couple of framed photos: one of her and a female friend smiling at the camera and wearing skiing gear on top of a snowy hilltop, and another of her holding a small dog. No photos of a husband or boyfriend, I noted.

I felt a little uncomfortable in a shirt and tie; the collar felt tighter than I remembered, and I slipped a finger between it and my neck, trying to loosen it a little. I’d usually wear jeans and a corporate polo shirt to work but the last time I saw her, Fiona had mentioned that looking smart was an easy way of appearing managerial, so I thought I’d make the effort.

I was here because the head of R and D, in his infinite wisdom, had decided to make me head programmer of the small team responsible for maintenance fixes in one of our smaller accountancy software products. It wasn’t something I’d ever really expected or coveted, but when Dave our old manager left for a better paid job in London, I guess they reasoned that I was the next most experienced person in the team. “The next taxi off the rank” was how he put it.

Perhaps not surprisingly, I’d struggled a bit. I was now having to manage the developers that I used to be equals with, used to go out drinking with. Still went out drinking with sometimes. I guess it was difficult for them to suddenly accept me as their manager. Handing out difficult tasks and reviewing their performance just wasn’t something that they or I were that comfortable with. So that’s why I was seeing Fiona once a week. She was in HR and specialised in training people to become managers and be more assertive. She helped to run a program called ‘Step Up’, a mentoring program that I’d been referred to that helped staff make the transition to management.

“Well, now, don’t you look handsome?” she said, flashing me a cheeky grin as she kicked the door closed with one of her black heels and placed two glasses of water on the low glass table that separated our chairs.

Perhaps I should say right now, that I’m not that great at reading people, at decoding the subtle nuances of human behaviour. I find it much easier to communicate with computers where everything is so black and white. So I was never sure whether Fiona was flirting with me or simply being friendly. I’d like to have believed she was flirting because I found her very attractive. She was must have been in her early thirties, a little older than me, with a trim yet shapely figure and gorgeously long legs. I always looked forward to our meetings: she was always very kind and helpful when I struggled with the exercises she assigned me. To be honest I’d spent quite a few nights lying awake, recalling the way her eyes narrowed when she smiled, or that brief glimpse of cleavage when she leaned forward. If I only had a little more courage, I might have asked her out on a date. Somehow though, I could never find the right moment.

“Thanks, yes, well I thought I’d try and make the effort after what you said last time,” I said, taking a moment to look her up and down as she settled into her chair opposite me. Today she was wearing a charcoal grey skirt suit over a pale white and pink candy-striped shirt, somehow looking both sexy and business-like.

“Okay, so hopefully you’ve been practicing some of the techniques we talked about last time. So let’s start with a little experiment. Let’s pretend you’re my manager and you’re going to assign me a task.”

“Like what?”

“Oh, something simple. Let me think… okay, well let’s say you want me to close the blinds,” she said, glancing over her shoulder towards the pane of glass that divided us from the rest of the office.

“Okay, well, um, would you mind closing the blinds please?”

“Well, that’s very polite, but it feels like you’re asking me rather than telling me. Try again with a bit more assertiveness.”

“Close the blinds please Ms Williams.”

“Yes, that’s better, but I still need to hear the authority, I want you to speak as if you expect me to obey you.”

“Close the blinds please Ms Williams,” I repeated, a little more forcefully.

“Okay, better, but we’ve still got some work to do,” Fiona said, and I felt a flush of triumph as she finally got to her feet, rewarding me with another smile as she took a few steps towards the door, where she twiddled the thin plastic rod until the blinds closed, obscuring the office outside. She always arranged these meetings late in the day; the early evening in fact, so the office outside was virtually empty now.

She was wearing black heels today, which emphasised her long slender legs. While her back was turned I took güvenilir bahis the opportunity to run my eyes up over her shapely calves, taking in the lightly tanned smoothness of her legs and noting the way her neatly rounded bottom wiggled enticingly under her fitting charcoal skirt.

“I’m not sure I know what the difference is,” I confessed as I watched her retake her seat, and neatly tug her skirt back over her knees. “I mean, I used the same words.”

“It’s not the words you use; it’s how you say it. Do you have a dog?”

“Um, no.”

“Well, if you did you’d know it’s not about the words, it’s about the tone of voice that you use. You see, it’s not about *what* you say, it’s *how* you say it. You have to be firm and authoritative. You have to be in control. People who ask their dogs to obey them don’t get anywhere. You have to be the pack leader; you have to be telling him what to do. When you tell them to sit you’re telling them, you’re not entering into a negotiation.”

“I see.”

“Don’t worry, listen I can hear the improvement even if you can’t,” she said, smiling encouragingly. “Okay, so let’s try something else. A little exercise. Stand up,”

“Right,” I said, getting to my feet.

“Now take off your tie.”

“My tie?”

“Yes, quickly please.”

“Okay…” I said, wondering where this was going.

Fiona scribbled some notes on her pad, ignoring me as I loosened my tie. It made a slight hissing sound as I pulled it free from the collar of my white shirt.

“Drape it over the back of your chair, please,” she added, looking up as I stood there rather awkwardly, the burgundy tie dangling limply from my fingers.

“So, um, what now?” I said, feeling glad that she’d closed the blinds. It was quite warm in her office, yet it would still look odd to anyone passing.

“Now I have a question for you.”

“Yes?”

“Why are you standing there without a tie?”

“Well, I mean…, um…” I said, trying to formulate some kind of answer and feeling confused. “Because you asked me to?”

“But I don’t have any right to ask you to take off your tie. Do you think it’s appropriate to start undressing in my office?” she asked.

“Well…”

“I mean, do you think I’d start stripping off if you asked me?” she added, with a teasing grin.

“Well, um, no…” I said, trying to concentrate despite a mental image of her standing in front of me and stripping off her clothes at my command.

“So why did you do it? Hmm?” she asked, fixing me with her piercing blue eyes. “It’s not a trick; I want you to think about it.”

“Well, I guess it feels like you’re my doctor. You’re a professional, I trust you. You’ve asked me take my tie off and I assume you have a good reason.”

“Yes, good,” she replied. “You can sit back down, by the way. So in what way am I like your doctor? Why do you assume I have a good reason?”

“Well, you’re quite calm and confident. And the way you asked me made me feel like you expected me to comply, like you ask people to do that all the time,” I said, as I eased myself back into the chair.

“Yes, very good. In short, I exuded authority. You trusted me to make the right call. Good. Now let’s see if you can copy my example. Ask me to stand up and take off my jacket.”

“Okay. Um, can you stand up and take off your jacket please?” I said.

“Are you asking me or telling me?” she challenged.

“Please stand up and take off your jacket.”

“No, I’m fine, it’s a little cool in here actually,” she said, looking up with a neutral expression as she scribbled a note the pad balanced on her knee.

“Please stand up and take off your jacket,” I said, trying not to sound frustrated or angry, trying to copy her authoritative yet calm tone.

“No, I’m good thanks,” she replied, her azure eyes meeting me briefly, flashing me what might have been a challenging look.

“Ms Williams, get to your feet and take that jacket off now,” I repeated, a lot more firmly this time, a hard edge of barely-contained anger in my voice.

“Ooh good! Much better, much more assertive, I really felt the authority that time,” Fiona said as she got to her feet and placed her notepad on her seat before quickly slipping off her jacket and draping it over the back of her chair.

“Good, but be careful not to get angry. If you get angry, you’ve lost the battle. Remember you’re being assertive, not annoyed and you’re certainly not going to raise your voice,” she added as she grabbed her pad and sat back down. I couldn’t help looking down and catching a brief glimpse of creamy thigh as she crossed her legs.

“Right,” I said, trying not to get distracted by her legs and make a mental note of

everything she was saying. “Be assertive but never lose your temper.”

“That’s right, good. Okay, I remember you saying that you were a little worried about maintaining control of your team meeting. How did that go?”

I groaned as I thought back to last Friday, and the meeting that had started so canlı bahis well, but had quickly gone downhill.

“Well, as I kind of expected I had trouble with Jeff.”

“Yes, I remember you telling me about him,” she said, nodding as she leant forward. “So Jeff is a bit of an alpha male, right? Perhaps a little frustrated because he felt he should have been made manager instead of you?”

“Yeah, that’s him, bit of an arse, if you’ll excuse the language. Anyway, we had a guest speaker in to talk about the latest developments in SQL. And he talks for twenty minutes or so, and when he’s done, he gets to his feet and starts asking all these very in-depth questions that nobody else really had that much interest in. And as he’s talking he’s strolling around the room, and asking the others if they understand the implications.”

“Right and you found that annoying…”

“Yes, of course, I mean it was wasting everyone’s time and it was really patronising.”

“And he was undermining you, of course. I mean, if someone was watching through the glass, presumably they would think that Jeff was the manager, right?”

“Yes, exactly! He was marching around the room as if he owned the place, as if he was the CEO! I mean, what a dick!” I said, re-experiencing all the frustration and anger from last week. “Sorry.”

“No, that’s fine, it’s good to express how you really feel about people, I need to know how you really feel,” she said, and then paused, as if expecting me to say something. I wondered whether this could be the moment to ask for a date, but when I hesitated she pressed on:

“And it brings us onto something else we need to work on: body language. There’s some spurious statistic that communication is only seven percent verbal and ninety-three percent non-verbal. The numbers aren’t too important, but the fact is that a big part of appearing assertive is your body language. So that ninety-three percent is made up of tone of voice, which we’ve just talked about, and your body language. You see, Jeff wasn’t made manager but he can still make himself feel important by looking managerial.”

“Right, yes, I mean I didn’t realise body language was that important,” I said, nodding.

“Okay, so let’s try something. Can you get on your knees please?”

“On my knees?” I said. “This isn’t another trick question is it?”

She laughed; a light musical laugh that made my heart leap.

“No, no tricks this time; I just want to demonstrate something.”

“Okay,” I said, sliding off the chair and onto my knees.

“Now then, if I stand over you like this,” she said, getting to her feet and stepping closer, her heels sinking into the lush light-grey carpet just in front of my knees. “There now, just take a moment: how does that feel?”

I took a deep breath to compose myself as a number of thoughts collided in my head and she waited patiently, swaying slightly, her thighs inches from my face. It felt odd, like I was looking up at some female authority figure, a schoolboy to her teacher. Up close, I could feel the warmth of her body, could smell the pleasant, vaguely floral fragrance of her body lotion, could see the slightly rough texture of her skirt and the discrete little zipper at the waist.

“Well…?” she said, tapping her foot on the carpet by my knee.

I fought a sudden urge to slide my hands up over the smooth skin of her shapely legs, to grasp the hem of her skirt, to ease it a little higher, to lean forward and kiss my way up the inside of those vanilla thighs.

“Well, it feels like you’re the one with all the power,” I said, craning my neck backwards, trying to concentrate on her face, rather than her bare knees which were inches from my chin. “Like you’re in control.”

“Yes, exactly,” she said, a little breathlessly. “Like you should do whatever I want, right?”

“Right,” I said, expecting her to step back, but watching her linger there. I held her gaze for a long second trying to determine if she was thinking the same as me, but unable to read her placid, deep blue eyes. Unable to resist any longer, I pretended to lose my balance, reaching out and resting my hand on her thigh, feeling the firm warmth of her body through the thin skirt.

“Oh! Okay, let’s move onto the next part, let’s switch positions,” she said, the spell broken. She hastily stepped back and then knelt down. I pulled myself back to my feet and watched as she carefully arranged her skirt over her knees.

“Now, ” she said, tilting her head back and looking up at me. “Tell me how this feels.”

“Like I’m the boss now,” I said, looking down at her and noting how different she looked at my feet, her hands folded in her lap, as vulnerable and submissive as a schoolgirl.

“Like you’ll do whatever I tell you to.”

“Yes, in this position I’m the one that feels compliant, that feels inclined to do whatever you want me to,” she said, and I thought I could see her cheeks flush a little. The top couple of buttons of her stripy shirt were undone and from this angle, bahis siteleri I could see the swell of her cleavage edged with a hint of her lacy pink bra.

“And I feel like I could make you do whatever I asked,” I said, stepping a little closer, testing the sexual tension between us. Her lips were inches from the loins and I felt my cock stir at the thought of her reaching forwards, her slim fingers tugging at my black leather belt. She looked up at me with those intensely blue eyes for a long second, as if trying to decide what to do next. Again, I hesitated, wondering if she was feeling the same sudden arousal as me.

“Okay, good, it’s hot in here, huh?” she said finally, still looking flushed as she offered her hand. “Well, I think we’re nearly out of time, perhaps we should summarise what we’ve learned.”

I clasped her fingers in mine and helped her to her feet but as she moved to sit back down, I tugged her closer so that we were only a few inches apart. Even in her heels she was a shorter and was forced to look up at me as I spoke.

“So what have we learned, Fiona?” I asked, with a sudden reckless surge of confidence.

“Well, to summarise,” she said, still looking slightly flustered. “We’ve learned that employees like to have a clear reporting line, they want to be clear about who’s in charge. And they want their managers to lead, to be assertive, to be in control.”

“And what about you? Do you want a firm leader, a man who takes control?” I asked, slipping an arm around her waist, feeling her slim body yielding as I pulled her close as if we were about to dance.

“What are you doing?” she said, placing her hands on my chest to maintain a gap between our bodies. “Come on, stop.”

“And you’ve taught me that to get what I want, I need to take control, to use assertive body language, to be clear about what I want,” I said, as my heart thumped against my rib cage, it felt strange to be taking the lead like this, strange but thrilling at the same time.

“Come on, Rob, stop,” she said, struggling a little in my arms.

Up close, I could smell her perfume, and see the light scattering of freckles on her forehead, the tiny diamond stud earrings sparkling beneath the loose waves of her toffee-coloured hair.

“Wait…” she murmured as I leant in slowly, her moist plump lips invitingly half-open as I kissed her, once, twice, three times, tasting the faint strawberry flavour of her lip-gloss. I ran my fingers along the curve of her cheek and cradled the back of her head as I kissed her again, more passionately, pulling her warm body tight against me as I drew one of her plump lips between mine, gently sucking. I heard her moan as I slid my hand up over her thighs, exploring the smoothly firm curves of her bottom, pulling her hips tight, the soft contours of her body moulding around mine.

“Please, we can’t, not here,” she gasped as our lips parted, taking a few steps back until the back of her thighs bumped against her desk.

I followed her, ignoring her pleas, something unfamiliar and primal and instinctive taking over. The adrenaline rushed through my veins as I pressed against her, trapping her against the hard edge of the desk, wanting another taste of her sweet lips. I ran a hand through her tawny hair, sweeping it over her ear, kissing the pale creamy skin as she gasped loudly, her hands pushing half-heartedly at my shoulders.

I kissed her again and again, running my hands over her trim body as she struggled weakly.

“Rob, we mustn’t,” she gasped as I ran them down over her back, over the little curve at the base of her spine, then the roundness of her bottom, squeezing the firm globes of her buttocks, pulling her thighs tight against mine.

“It’s not about what you say, it’s how you say it,” I whispered, making her shiver as I used the tip of my tongue to trace the curve of her ear. “Isn’t that what you told me?”

“No, I mean, yes. Oh Rob, this is so wrong,” she said, gasping as I gently sucked and nibbled her earlobe.

“I’ve wanted to do this for so long,” I whispered as I ran a hand through her hair.

“Rob, please,” she sighed as I eased the collar of her shirt open and kissed the satin skin of her shoulder, my fingers sliding down her waist and tugging at the hem of her skirt.

“You’re so hot,” I murmured, kissing my way along the delicate curve of her chin, then tasting those warm, glossy pink lips once more. I eased the hem of her skirt up a few inches, sliding my hand between her warm thighs as I covered the soft skin of her neck with a series of feather light kisses.

“Oh God, stop please, we can’t be doing this, not here,” she muttered, her hand grasping my wrist and pushing at me weakly but providing little resistance as I slowly slid my hand higher, tracing slow circles on her inner thighs with my fingertips. I felt her resistance begin to melt way as I worked my fingers higher, her legs parting a little. She gasped longingly as my thumb brushed the edge of her panties.

“Oh fuck,” she groaned, shuddering, her grip on my wrist loosening as I explored her there, sliding my fingers between her thighs. I began to massage her mound with the pads of my fingers, finding the thin lace of her panties already damp.

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