I’ve recently attended a fantastic two day training on assertive communication and it was just WOW. If there is one skill that you need to learn because it will start to make an immediate difference both in your personal life and in business, it is assertiveness. So I decided to outline here the most important elements of it and give you tips and hints as to how you can reduce stress, boost your confidence, earn others’ respect just by improving the way you communicate with your peers.
While we are striving for achieving our goals and creating our success, it is only natural that conflicts do arise along the way due to the wonderful variety of people’s needs and intentions. So how do I achieve what I want and stand up for my point of view, without hurting others and coming across aggressive?
When you are assertive, you constructively get your point across without forcing it upon anyone. Constructive means that you do listen to other people’s needs, you do take into consideration and respect what they think and need, even if you can’t necessarily agree with them.
You might be challenged and the hurdle might present itself as an aggressive bulldog, but when you know how to be assertive even in those tricky situations, that’s when the force can really be with you and make you feel like a Jedi :)
In fact, that’s exactly how I felt not too long ago, when we were invited to a business meeting. The idea on the table was fantastic, the person behind the idea was most probably an honourable businessman (no bad reputation) but his communication made us feel really uncomfortable. At first. And then, the force awakened!
I remembered that an assertive person communicates his/her feelings with the following formula in tricky conflict situations:
Observation – Feeling – Needs – Request
In this particular instance, I said something along these lines:
- Observation: I would like to bring up an important point that I believe is crucial to discuss before we go into any sort of business with each other. I noticed that you raise your voice and occasionally come across a little aggressive in your communication.
- Feeling: That makes me feel hesitant and uncomfortable around you I have to say.
- Needs: To me, it’s important that we understand and respect each others’ needs and boundaries.
- Request: So I’m asking you to help me understand you and your communication a little better.
The response was astonishing: The person calmly accepted what I said, there was no offence taken at all, the other partners at the table seemed to be relieved too that the issue was raised by someone other than themselves (ha!) and it created a more open and relaxed atmosphere that I started to feel comfortable in.
And the best thing of all: I felt totally contained and honest to both myself and the other party, and that just lifted all the stress away.
No threatening, no criticising and accusing, no labelling or putting someone to shame, and there was also no need to moralise or give advice signalling that ‘I know it better than you.’
Could I have said ‘Go away you bastard who do you think you are?’ I surely could, but did I want to? No. And even better: I honestly didn’t feel that I needed to or even that he was a bastard. It is just a personality trait that probably creates some initial difficulties in life, but that doesn’t mean that he is a bad person or anything.
Fact: We didn’t resonate on the same level. But is that a problem? NO, NOT AT ALL! I still honestly respect this person, it’s just that we were not meant to be business partners as such.
I am so grateful now to have met this person and to have gone through this experience, because it only enforced in me how useful and relieving it is to be assertive.
Assertiveness is such a really complex topic. This was just a little business scenario that perhaps demonstrates how powerful the Observation – Feelings – Needs – Request formula works in conflict situations. I practice it with my other half day by day, and trust me, life is just so much less complicated :)
I’m not pretending to know it all, and I’m far from perfect, plus I have also no intention to come across as an expert, but I hope you find this little experience of mine useful and if so, please share.
In the comments below, tell me how you deal with tricky conflict situations? What’s working for you and what’s not? I’d love to hear from you.