Assertive communication gives us a communication style that combines strength with sensitivity. It enables us to state what we want, need or feel, but never at the expense of the other person. It gives us a method of standing up for our rights whilst acknowledging our responsibilities. It is based on an attitude of mutual respect (for ourselves and the other person) and requires adult behaviour.
The following techniques will help you develop an assertive communication style:
BE DIRECT AND SPECIFIC
- State requests, wants and needs in a clear and direct way, focusing on the point.
- Do not hint at a topic, spell it out – with courtesy – without being aggressive.
TAKE OWNERSHIP/ RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR OWN EMOTIONS, THOUGHTS, BELIEFS AND IDEAS
Use ‘I’ statements to keep your personal power. ‘I will’, ‘I think’, ‘I can’ etc. Avoid ‘you’ statements…..
USE ADULT BEHAVIOUR
- Use a calm, impassive voice to nalyse situations and consider your options.
- Make unemotional decisions and present them in a factual manner.
EXPRESS EMPATHY, ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS OR VALIDATION
This is the ability to state that you can see a situation from the other person’s point of view, without necessarily agreeing with them, before you go on to state your point of view. This is especially useful when dealing with:
- difficult or sensitive situations
WHEN GIVING NEGATIVE FEEDBACK, DISCUSS THE SITUATION, NOT THE PERSON
- Avoid personal critical judgements or evaluations.
- Use factual statements.
SET LIMITS (SAY NO) BY:
- Acknowledging or validating the other person’s position, by stating how a situation affects you.
- Offering alternatives, preferences or rescheduling. Using a ‘can do’ response. Stating positive intent.
USE POSITIVE LANGUAGE
- Especially when saying no or refusing a request.
- State what you can do, not what you can’t do whenever appropriate.
- Useful when you get a nil or negative response.
- Simply repeat your message firmly, over and over again until it gets through.
- Spell out, in indifferent terms, the consequences of any action or lack of action in order to support your assertive position.
- Ensure that you state facts and do not give threats.
Use this technique to disarm an aggressor, or when someone sounds annoyed, irritated, openly critical or sniping. If we agree with their perception of a situation it becomes difficult for them to continue arguing. How can somebody argue with someone who agrees with them? The trick is to follow a 4-step technique:
- Step 1 Start with “Yes, you’re right”
- Step 2 Agree with part of their argument or with their perception
- Step 3 Change the subject
- Step 4 Change their globalisations into facts
When someone is trying to shift the focus of attention from the content of our message to an analysis of the interaction, bring them back to the subject we wish to discuss, i.e. the content.
A simple one-step technique to stop aggressive people in their tracks, to make them think about their comments and to make them accountable for their behaviour. Ask a direct question, although ‘Why’ as a single word can sound aggressive.