The over emphasis given to critical thinking and competitive behaviour has bred organizations that overlook social skills essential to promote an atmosphere of confidence and mutual respect amongst employees. One of these critical skills is the competence to act assertively.
Assertiveness is the ability to assert your point of view in a confident manner. It is about self-advocacy done in a positive and proactive manner, while respecting the views and opinions of others. Being assertive is the midway between acting passive or aggressive. Fortunately, assertiveness is a skill that can be learned, it only requires active awareness and practice.
During conflict situations passive and aggressive communication styles and behavoirs emerge. People reacting harshly and without empathy resort to an aggressive behaviour to make their point heard. On the other hand, passive behaviours are evident when people feel that their needs are not considered or recognized. By clearly and openly expressing our needs we approach the situation assertively, leaving an impression of emotional wellbeing.
A passive behaviour enables an aggressive one. That is, when someone decides to be compliant and behaves in a submissive and accommodating manner permits a greedy and dominant person to reinforce their self-centred behaviour. If this is your style, please be aware of your behaviour and try to act confident even if the counterpart attributes the right to be aggressive on hierarchical structures.
The aggressive behaviour is best defined by Dale Carnegie in his book How to Win Friends and Influence People, “If you want to gather honey, don’t kick over the beehive”. Mr. Carnegie describes how the aggressive behaviour is detrimental to the work place environment (but not exclusively). He illustrates how managers who attempt to change the employee’s behaviour with threat and complaint end up achieving only long-term resentment. In situations where managers provide encouragement, employees are more likely to respond by executing their request.
An assertive behaviour is about effectively expressing preferences and feelings while stating “NO” with confidence and without feeling guilty. It means to be resolute while portraying a respectful behaviour towards others.
How to behave assertively in a work related environment?
1. Act confident
a. Express and communicate your feelings accurately
b. Assume confident body language while expressing your opinions
c. Believe you have the right to express yourself
d. Don’t get discouraged when encountered by aggressive personalities
2. Ask for things you want and say “NO” to things you do not want
a. Make your point in a professional and respectful manner
b. Say NO without guilt
c. Support your NO with specific arguments
3. Practice giving assertive responses
a. Embrace the opportunity to have your interests met
b. Try to assert yourself in each specific situation
c. Do not act defensively
4. Act on your convictions
a. Feel respected by others by being true to your principles
When a situation calls to express your preferences remember to advocate for yourself in an assertive manner. After all, this is an emotional intelligent way to be heard while engaging in respectful conversations.
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