Assertive people are more likely to get constructive outcomes, engage their colleagues, feel more confident and strengthen relationships as a result. Here are 7 tips for becoming more assertive.
There are many forms of communication. Among the most common, particularly in challenging situations are passive behaviour, aggressive behaviour and passive aggressive behaviour. Let’s see how that works. Let’s imagine your colleague just took credit for your idea in a meeting. Afterwards you confront them.
Aggressive response: “That was my idea! Why didn’t you tell them it was my idea?”
Passive response: Silence.
Passive aggressive response: “Just stab me in the back why don’t you?” Laughs and walks off
The alternative is of course assertive behaviour.
“In the meeting it came across that the idea about ‘x’ was your own which we both know it wasn’t. Just wondered why you did that? …. In future I’d like to be acknowledged for my contribution.”
Which response is the most likely to get a positive outcome and preserve the relationship? The assertive one. Assertive behaviour has been proven to:
- Reduce conflict
- Strengthen relationships
- Elevate trust levels
- Increase respect
- Maximise constructive outcomes
Here are 7 tips that you can employ to ensure you are perceived as assertive.
- Make the exchange two-way. Assertive behaviour requires engagement from the other party. In order to get a positive outcome we have to involve them. Assertiveness is not just about you getting your point across, it’s also about understanding the other parties perspective and listening to their views.
- Use ‘I’ or ‘we’ statements. The way we phrase things impacts on the dynamic of a conversation. If we use lots of ‘you’ statements eg.” You make things so difficult”, it will provoke defensiveness or anger whereas if I instead said ‘I think there’s an easier way” or “I think we’re making this harder than it needs to be” the other party is much more likely to cooperate and work with you.
- Be open, honest and direct. Tell people what you’d like to see happen, change, do etc. If you’re vague or just drop hints people may become suspicious, impatient, or frustrated or just completely miss the point. If you make excuses, rather than being honest, you may end up making things more difficult for yourself. Eg. If a salesperson calls and you’re not interested, saying “I don’t have time to talk right now” will only ensure they call back whereas if you’re honest and say “Thank you for your call, it’s not something I’m interested in so please take me off your call list” the problem is solved.
- Be constructive and solution focused. Always focus on the can vs can’t, the solution not the problem, the opportunity not the obstacle. This way you will be more likely to find long term resolutions to issues and build more cooperative, proactive relationships.
- So ‘No’ with confidence You have the right to say no as do others. How you say no can make all the difference. There are 2 helpful strategies you can use.
Say no, followed by an honest explanation eg.”I can’t stay late tonight as I have prior commitments”
Say no followed by an alternative eg. “I can’t stay late tonight but I could come in early if it helps”
- Don’t apologise inappropriately. For instance; ‘I’m very sorry to bother you, I hope you don’t mind…’ or ‘I hope you won’t think I’m a nuisance, but do you think you could possibly……’ Apologies are very strong but only if used appropriately. For example “I’m sorry I let you down by not getting the results to you on time.”
- Use appropriate body language and vocal tone. Assertive communication relies heavily on delivery. If you say the right words eg. “I’m trying to help you…” but use aggressive body language or a frustrated tone of voice, your message will be interpreted by the way it’s delivered and not based on the words you use. Hence it’s important that there is congruence between words, tone and body language.
Using these 7 tips will help you behave in a more assertive way thereby strengthening relationships and gaining more constructive outcomes.