The Art of Dealing With People: 8 Keys to Assertive communication

Assertive Communication

Assertive communication means expressing yourself concisely and clearly in a direct, honest and spontaneous way. It also means matching your vocabulary to the person receiving the communication. This means avoiding technical words, verbal shorthand, acronyms or jargon which are outside the comprehension of the listener. Consider aspects such as education, status and social standing; use language that the other will understand, not which proves how smart or ‘superior’ you are.

Assertive behavior is a way of life – a complete philosophy which involves the way you think and feel about yourself and others; the image you portray through non-verbal communication and body language; being able to ‘read’ others and respond appropriately at different times, with different people in different situations.

Assertiveness is a learned behavior. Probably, it was not taught to you as you were growing up. Unknowingly, you developed certain behavioral patterns that do not support assertiveness. You fail into a trap where you constantly wonder why your life is not what you wanted. however, If you applied the techniques that I’m about to mention, you will be suprised by the benefits of being assertive.

1. Use Assertive body language (Instead of Passive or Agressive):

Your body language speaks volumes. Up to 93 percent of communication is nonverbal.

Good posture has a huge influence on the impression you make. It’s also the key to your own self-esteem. When you stand up straight, you automatically feel more confident and assertive.

The assertive person has an upright, calm, open posture with hands hanging loosely at the sides or in the lap. There will be  little crossing of arms and legs, unless in an obviously relaxed manner. Your movement would be steady, regulated and relaxed. An assertive person will tend to lean towards the other person, but will keep the head erect in a responsive rather than a threatening way.

2. Use “I” Statements:

one of the keys to getting others to do your bidding is to use more “I’s” when you speak. People who have mastered this technique take 100% responsibility for their own needs. The more specific you are, the better it works. Instead of saying, “You never listen to me,” point out an actual example, such as: “I feel ignored when you won’t look at me when I’m talking.”

Which of the following would you prefer to hear?

  • “You make me so angry…” or “I feel angry when…”
  • “You keep interrupting me…” or “I would love to talk to you but I’m in the middle of something.
    Can we talk later?”

Note: If you start a statement with “you,” the other person will immediately feel defensive. Instead, use the “I think” or “I feel” formula. For example, if your mother-in-law is spoiling your kids, try saying: “When you tell the kids they can do something after I’ve said no, I feel undermined.

3. Look the Other Person in the Eye:

Eye contact (actually belongs to body language) is one of the most important ways to communicate. In order to show that you’re paying attention to the other person, you have to look them in the eye (without staring, of course).

We’ve all had the experience of talking to someone who keeps looking away. Their body language says, “I have other places to be and more interesting people to talk to than you.” On the other hand, when you look someone in the eye, it shows that you respect them.

Your eyes are the windows of your soul. To get someone’s attention, look them in the eye.

4. Active Listening:

How can you show respect for another person if you do not give them your full attention – Attentively listen to them – hearing them out rather than impatiently waiting for your turn to talk. Don’t you expect the same from others – to be listened to and taken seriously?
Active listening can really help you tune into the other person and establish a basis for solid communication.
Listening is not understanding the words of the questions asked, Listening is understanding why the question was asked in the first place.  – Simon Sinek

5. Be direct:

State exactly what you feel or think; don’t rely on your actions to tell the story. We often assume – especially when the interaction is with someone to whom we are close – that they will know instinctively what we want, feel or need. For example, don’t presume because you are slamming around in an obvious ‘mood’ that other people will know why you are put out or angry. They may have some idea, but unless you state clearly ‘I am annoyed because …’ or ‘I feel let down because …’ you can’t be sure that they know why you are annoyed, disappointed or whatever. If they don’t know exactly what the problem is, how can they begin to fix it?

6. Tackle the problem not the person:

There’s a difference between ‘Why can’t you clear up after yourself’ and ‘Please tidy this workbench’. The former implies a character defect; the latter requires a solution to a problem. You can imagine for yourself the impact each statement might have on the recipient.

7. Deal with specifics, not generalisations:

Compare ‘You’re always late’ with ‘Why were you late again this morning?’ It’s unlikely that someone is ‘always’ anything! Be specific about the problem; don’t accuse, state facts.

8. Spontaneity:

Perhaps the most difficult aspect of assertiveness to master is spontaneity because most often our gut reaction is either avoidance and repression, or confrontation and aggression. Many people, unskilled in assertiveness, are accommodating and passive up to a point, and then, when the situation requires more pro-active behaviour, begin to function on a more aggressive level. The assertive option seldom enters the equation. This is because assertiveness isn’t instinctive behavior; it doesn’t come naturally – it’s a skill which has to be learnt, then practised until it becomes as second nature as the other options.

  • Sue Bishop (2013) Develop Your Assertiveness (Creating Success)
  • Elizabeth Janice (2011) Be Assertive: The How-To Guide

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