This is part of an extended correspondence course in management. You can dip into it as you go, or you can follow the course, right from the start. If you do that, you may want a course notebook, for the exercises and any notes you want to make.
There is only one thing that you need to know about assertiveness, to fully understand it:
Assertiveness is all about respect
Assertiveness is about the respect you have for the people you deal with and for yourself. Let’s see a summary diagram.
Aggressive behaviour has little respect for the other person and instead, focuses on winning-out over them. It can be controlling – even abusive – and has no place in modern management.
Passive behaviour shows little respect for yourself. It focuses on not getting hurt and so leads people to submit their own legitimate needs and desires to avoid the possibility of confrontation. Often that possibility is more perceived than real. Passivity shows itself in a fear to disagree, guilt at saying no, and a reluctance to offer feedback. It too has no value to you as a manager.
Assertive behaviour is what to aim for. Respect yourself and the other person and focus on over-coming events and getting the best result you can. Do what is right: not what is easy and celebrate success. Be collaborative, offer sincere praise and objective feedback, say what you think and feel, taking responsibility for your emotions and for your decisions. Be confident to ask for help and support when you need it.
Think back to examples you have observed in colleagues of assertive, aggressive and passive behaviours. In your notebook, note down:
- some words you associate with each of these
- voice and speech patterns you associate with each of these
- facial expressions and patterns of eye-contact you associate with each of these
- postures, gestures and body language you associate with each of these
Exercise Part 2: Reflection
Now look over your notes. Which of these seems most like you a lot of the time? Which one do you tend towards during stress?
Assertively making a request
Be direct but courteous. Be specific about what you want and offer details as appropriate. You don’t need to apologise, unless you know you are putting someone out, but do say ‘please’. The best asking words are ‘would you…’ Alternatives can seem weak (could you), doubting my ability (can you) or too direct (will you). Finally, respect my right to say ‘no’. If no is not an option, then be honest, and tell me.
Assertively disagreeing and putting your views
Listen intently. Identify where we agree and disagree and acknowledge both. Use ‘I’ to take responsibility for your point of view and be constructive in building on mine. Offer reasons, facts and supporting evidence.
Assertively giving bad news
Be proactive in addressing the situation. Make good eye contact, and prepare me with: ‘I have some bad news.’ Be brief and to the point, though never abrupt. Be specific about the news, but the more complex and damaging it is, the less information I will be able to take in – at least at first. Answer my questions and allow me to express my emotions. You do not need to be defensive. Be factual and caring and be prepared to help me work through the implications.
Assertively saying ‘no’
Be short, to the point, and respectful. Offer reasons when you can and alternatives where appropriate. Make your ‘no’ into a ‘NO’ – a ‘Noble Objection’. This concept is explained fully in the new (autumn 2012) book, The Yes/No Book.