Today being Friday, I’d like to share some practical thoughts on assertive communication. This follows on nicely from yesterdays tip on negotiation skills because, successful negotiators always negotiate in an assertive rather than aggressive or non-assertive manner.
The good news is that Assertiveness is not a personality trait, it is a set of learned behaviours that revolve around our ability to state our wants and feelings openly, whilst respecting the wants and feelings of those we are talking to, even if they differ from ours.
Next week I’,m going to give you some practical tips as to how you can behave more assertively however today I don’t want to put the cart before the horse. Before we look at behaviours, we need to address what drives our behaviours, i.e. our thinking.
In order to use assertive behaviours effectively we need to be thinking assertively first – make sense? By thinking I mean the scenarios we are “seeing” in our minds eye, the dialogues and self talk we are “hearing” in our head, and the mental strategies or programmes we are running.
For example, people who are behaving assertively are not seeing themselves being steamrollered by the other person in the conversation. Nor are they telling themselves “I’m not important.” “I don’t have the right to say no.” or “If I ask for what I want they’ll not like me.”
In my experience, assertive people “see themselves as equals who have certain rights and respect that the others they are dealing with have the same rights too.
- The right to say no.
- The right to change their mind.
- The right to make mistakes.
- The right to express their feelings and opinions honestly.
- The right to disagree or put forward an alternative interpretation.
- The right to choose to be assertive.
So here’s a little exercise to help you with this:
- Think about a time in the past where you would like to have acted more assertively than you did.
- Now take a moment to recall what you were thinking just before, and during the exchange.
- As you recall that thinking now, how did those thoughts make you feel?
- Notice how these feelings affected your behaviour and influenced you to use non-assertive language, voice tone and body language.
- Now go back to step two and ask yourself, if I could have re-written my mental script, what could I have thought about myself, the other person or the situation, that would have helped me be more assertive?
- Now imagine the feelings that you would have felt then, now if you had been thinking these new thoughts? What are you feeling? Whereabouts is that feeling in your body? Notice how it is different from the feelings in step 3.
- Finally, If you were feeling these new feelings, how would you behave differently? What sort of language would you use? What would your tone of voice sound like? How would you be holding yourself? How much eye contact would you make if you were feeling these new feelings now?
That’s it, experiment with this and let me know how you get on.