White Paper: Enhance Your Effectiveness With Assertive Communication

You get to work at 8 a.m. on a Monday morning and the first thing you see is an e-mail from your Human Resources VP announcing a mandatory meeting for all staff at 9 a.m. You instantly feel negative and imagine
the worst, and based on experience, you couldn’t be more accurate.

As it turns out, you’re informed at themeeting that HR is rolling out a ridiculous new policy whereby employees are not permitted to display pictures of their families on their desks. There is a question and answer period at the end of the meeting. You voice
your dissatisfaction with vehemence. “Are you crazy?” you pronounce. “This means the loss of a natural right!
Morale is low, most staff have not received raises in two years and you’ve just eliminated the bonus plan. This
is turning into a jail, not a place of work! I’ve become a manager of staff complaints more than anything else these days!” Quite embarrassed by this out-of-control reaction, you leave the meeting room at once.
What can you do to avoid similar outbursts in the future? Recognizing the very particular differences between assertive, aggressive, and non-assertive communication is a compelling start.
Aggressive communicators express feelings while completely ignoring the feelings of others. They are often
bullies and they tend to humiliate and alienate others and, ultimately, defeat themselves in the process. These
communicators also usually express negative judgments.
Non-assertive communicators never express their feelings or beliefs. They are inhibited and afraid of disclosing
their needs and ideas. Poor self-worth is common in non-assertive communicators. They avoid unpleasant
situations and rarely get what they want.
Assertive communicators practice the I win-you win philosophy. They stand up for themselves without demoralizing others. They avoid argumentative or maligning behavior. They have positive self-esteem and the chances of generating serious conflict with assertive types are greatly reduced. They believe that both parties
involved matter and that relationships are based on openness and honesty.
The statement used in the opening scenario above is aggressive. Not only were feelings dismissed, but the VP was humiliated and put down. How can we restate the message in an assertive way? Here’s an option, “I’m not happy with the change in policy. I feel that it is not good timing as the company’s financial position lately has caused low morale. I’m speaking on behalf of the company. Could you reconsider instituting this change at a better time for everyone?”
This approach is direct, but not off-putting. The speaker stays in control and states feelings void of heavy
emotion. Even though HR may not heed the request, it is important that the tenor of the statement was not
aggressive. The statement retains the speaker’s credibility and enhances self-worth. When have you spoken with aggression or non-assertion? How will ensure that the next time you have an opportunity to be outspoken that you speak with assertion?

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