There are four behavioral choices we choose from: passive, aggressive, passive aggressive and assertive. Being passive means you give in to what people want, while aggressive is being hostile that you make people give you what you want. Passive-aggressiveness is giving in to what others want yet being angry for doing so.
Assertiveness is a communication tool that allows you to get what you want in a way that is respectful yet professional. Specifically, it is the ability to express positive and negative ideas and feelings in an open, honest and direct way.
With assertive communication training, you can increase your self-esteem, achieve your goals at the same time, and develop mutual respect with others.
- Avoid using inflammatory language. Address the behavior; don’t attack the person. For example, if someone isn’t listening to what you are saying, don’t call them names. Call attention to the conduct and defer personal judgment.
- Use the “I” language to effectively express feeling and opinions without making the listener defensive. An “I” message has three components: a feeling or want; a non-blameful description of the situation, and the effect the situation has on you. This is the format: “I feel ___________ when ___________ because ________. For example, “I feel frustrated when you send your weekly reports late because my work output depends on the timely submission of your reports.” A fourth and useful component is to propose a solution to the situation.
- Be an active listener. Actively listen to fully understand and show empathy. It creates trust and a positive relationship.
- Use appropriate body language. Ensure that your body language will improve the significance of your message. Make eye contact to show interest and sincerity. Match your gestures with the message you are conveying.
- Use a well-modulated voice. A tone that is neither too high-pitched nor low-pitched is more convincing and acceptable. A loud voice intimidates the listener.
- Choose the appropriate timing to be assertive. Use your judgment to maximize receptivity and impact. For example, don’t confront a colleague’s behavior in public. Meet with that colleague in private.
- Assertiveness depends on content and context. How, where and when you choose to comment is probably more important than WHAT you say. It’s not WHAT you say, but HOW you say it.
Assertive communication is a process that requires slowly changing your perception about effective communication. Importantly, it requires a lot of reflection on how you are as a communicator and what you want to change in communication technique in order for you to reach your goal of assertiveness. With assertive communication training, you will learn that you don’t need to compromise your self-respect to succeed in your career.