Life allows us to practice the art of assertiveness every day. How? By putting pushy salespeople in front of us. Pushy attitude is not to be found frequently in Switzerland since people respect decisions and personal taste quite a lot. Apart from that, salespeople receive a monthly salary, whether they sell or not.
It seems not to be the case in one of Zurich bride fashion shops, where I went on Saturday with two close friends of mine. I am looking for my wedding dress.
You can imagine: I was quite nervous because this is my first time and it will be my first and last wedding :) ehehe!! So, I went there knowing what I wanted but also with an open mind. Meaning, I wanted to allow some dress to surprise me! (this is me. I know what I want, but I allow unexpected things to come in. Whether I receive them or not, it is another story).
The saleswoman was helping me dress and undress, and we were alone in a sort of changing room for almost 2 hours. My friends were waiting just outside the cabin, to evaluate and give advice. The third dress I tried was a surprise. A super pricy one, but also a beautiful model I hadn't even considered. However, since I had fallen in love already with another dress (the first I tried), which was way cheaper, now I was thrown off. This is the usual dilemma that happens to everybody. What does that call for? A good night sleep and some thinking. No rush!
She saw I was entering DILEMMA LAND, and started telling me that if I truly wanted the pricy third dress, maybe she could work out a discount. I shared my feelings with her, saying that the third dress was excellent, but I was still smitten with the first one, thing that required now some thinking.
She ignored my feelings and my statement that the third dress was, even with the discount, way off my budget. And there she went:
" What is the problem? Money? I can still ask for a discount. Tell me exactly how much you want to spend" (Here she is doing two things: 1) She is entering the money area, where people can feel intimated or ashamed of; 2) She wants a fast and specific answer about a wedding dress from a person who is not experienced in wedding dresses prices. Again, URGENCY and DISCOMFORT.
I answered: "There is no problem whatsoever. It is much simpler: I need to think about it, and visualize myself with one dress on my wedding day. And I haven't had the chance yet to to that, because I am trying dresses on."
She, continued, still ignoring my feelings and clearly stated needs: "Yes, but this is an opportunity. This is a unique dress; nobody ever wore it; it is brand new. Don't let it go. Oh my god, that girl over there wants to try it again! Almost gone! What shall I tell her? "
(The situation becomes even worse. Now she is pushing on my human fear of loss and on the WHAT IFs - fear of missing out- On top of that, she is playing with the uniqueness feeling, which every bride, and woman, loves to feel). This assertive game becomes tougher and tougher, and I am already picturing this blog post to share with the rest of the world. I go on and say:
"It is okay if she tries it one. I am not ready to buy it or to propose a price, so I would accept to lose it. " (My friends overheard me, they told me later they were proud...I walk my talk as an assertiveness coach. One of them is a sales guy, and mentioned that probably the saleswoman was indeed on commission and hoped to sell me the highest price dress).
She goes, "Okay, you accept it? Okay." Angry face. Why the anger? (Okay, commission possibly gone). She gets in the cabin and tells me softly,"You have to buy this one. Otherwise, it's gone. There is only one piece."
I said, "I feel I am being pushed, this is becoming uncomfortable for me, Let's move on to try other dresses please" (God bless the German language for being right to the point. With the Italian sentences, we could have gone forever, talking about feelings)
"I'm not pushing you. I don't need to push you. If I wanted to push you, I wouldn't work here (not sure about the meaning of this). I am quite flexible; my other colleagues are even worse.
"Then, I am glad I'm not with your other colleagues. Thank you for your assistance. I would like to try the first dress again now".
Since that moment on, I felt a distance from her, but that did not ruin how I felt, because I was just honest about how I felt, and about the next steps. This experience taught us the following: don't crack under pressure. Connect to what you want, and do not expect people to understand that, but at least to listen. And move on. If we were to summarize the elements of an assertive attitude if confronted with very pushy salespeople, I would go like this:
Know what you want out of the experience: whatever it is, whether a wedding dress or a computer or a massage. If what you wish for is lack of stress, then act like it
Act always as per this need. If you have decided you want a black computer that costs 1000 CHF, but then you see a white one which is more expensive, and you want to think about it, go back to your original need. And then think about what you can compromise on.
If the salesperson repeatedly asks, be honest: you have been thrown off by the new possibility, therefore you need to take your time
Answer kindly but disengage. What does that mean? You don't have to start a fight or drama. The conversation will finish faster if you just thank the person and then disengage. This creates an impenetrable boundaries wall.
Very important: don't feel bad for the salesperson or your money, or for whatever it is they provoke you about. You have the right always to CHOOSE. There is no right or wrong, just personal situations.
Stay assertive: It might not give the feeling of victory, but it provides LONG TERM HAPPINESS.
I guarantee it! #stayassertive