This table below captures the essence and benefits of Assertive Communication as against being Passive or Aggressive. It will help you easily recognise the communication style that creates conflicts or proffers solutions.
|Allowing others to force their opinions on you||Forcing your needs or opinions on others||Expressing your needs and opinions clearly but respectfully|
|Letting others trample on you||Bullying or pushing others around||Treating others with respect|
|Putting your needs last||Taking cognisance of only your needs||Considering the needs of others as well as yours|
|Accepting any position presented to you||Refusing to compromise||Willing to compromise|
|Ignoring relationships||Damaging relationships||Strengthening relationships|
|Withholding your thoughts and opinions||Fuelling verbal or physical abuse||Presenting your point in clear language|
|Overlooking your value and self-respect||Destroying the self-worth of others||Building self-esteem|
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO COMMUNICATE ASSERTIVELY?
Standing up for yourself
When you are assertive, you are able to stand up for yourself, in a polite way. Your dignity is not undermined and you retain your sense of pride. Those who think they can speak to you in a rude or condescending manner, will view you differently and see you as an independent person.
For instance, when a parent accuses you of not paying enough attention to their child, you could say, “I make sure that John’s homework is always checked by my assistant as well as myself,” rather than “You should be going through your son’s homework every day.”
Maintaining Eye Contact
When you are assertive, you maintain eye contact with the person or persons with whom you are conversing. In these climes, eye contact is regarded as being either brazen, rude or disrespectful. However, in a professional or work environment, that line of thinking will have to change. Your eyes are said to mirror your soul and since it is difficult to ‘fake’ sincerity, eye contact is the best way to show that you mean what you say.
When you are assertive, your posture and gestures also help to add emphasis to the message you are portraying. When you look at submissive people, you may observe drooping shoulders, bent heads and clenched fists. These are indications of defeat and frustration but assertive behaviour requires a high head, a straight back and free movement of the arms and hands, as a further means of expression and emphasis. Conversely, you will observe that when people speak with aggression, their bodies are fixed and rigid. There is no visible physical tension when you are being assertive, you are relaxed and in control of your body.
When you are assertive, your voice is calm. You do not shout out of anger, neither do you whisper because you are afraid. You select your words and speak in measured tones, because you are confident about what you are saying. It is not menacing, threatening or intimidating and therefore non-confrontational. Your voice is well modulated and your tone is warm and sincere.
Speaking Confidently Not Arrogantly
When you are assertive, you think about what you will say, how you will say it and where you will express yourself. When people want to intimidate you, they usually don’t mind where they do so. Often they prefer to disgrace you openly. Being assertive means having the conversation on your terms and if possible in your space. Don’t allow parents to demean your authority as a teacher by speaking to you publicly. Ask them into a classroom, away from prying eyes, and then invite them to speak their minds. This gives you time to gain confidence and control of your environment. If you hold a superior position and wish to reprimand your subordinate, remember too that others look up to this member of staff. Berating him or her in public, will not auger well for future interaction between the teacher and his/her colleagues or between the teacher and parents or between the teacher and students. After all, assertive behaviour recognises your rights, as well as the rights of others.
For instance, “I would appreciate it if we could discuss this in the Principal’s office, where nobody will disturb us.”
Speaking at the Right Time
When you are assertive, timing is a very important factor. As much as possible, choose the most appropriate time to express yourself or make your opinion known. There is no point in being so desperate to have your say, that you speak at a time when you will not command full attention or you choose an inappropriate time to make your point. You want to make impact and you want to be well received. This goes for teachers admonishing students; principals admonishing parents and class teachers who may disagree with their class assistants.
Taking responsibility for your statements
When you are assertive, you don’t judge people by starting sentences with ‘you’. This often offends others who see it as an attack and naturally puts them on the defensive. Starting your sentence with ‘I’, enables you to focus more on your feelings and how the conversation affects you. This in turn, helps you to claim ownership of your statements without others thinking that you are blaming them. Being responsible for what you say, moves your conversation towards a positive conclusion.
For instance, instead of saying “You are always late,” you could say “I thought we were to meet at 11.00. am. Look at the time, it’s already noon.”
Being assertive is actually a way to balance communication and communicative responses. It ensures that you neither bully your way and force your opinion on others, nor are you browbeaten into submission. When you are assertive, you have confidence and you are sure of yourself. As a direct communicator, you take responsibility for your opinions and actions, rather than judge or blame others. By so doing, you respect yourself and you recognize other people’s rights.
- Be clear when stating your opinion
- Be brief when making a request
- Be honest about your feelings
- Be willing to listen carefully to what others are saying to you
- Be vocally moderate but firm
- Be sure that your body language and gestures align with your tone
- Beware of words like ‘always’ and ‘never’ when rebuking others
- Be aware of making regular use of ‘I’ messages instead of being accusing
- Be aware that some might mistake assertiveness for aggression
- Be ready to make eye contact