The Power of Assertive Language: How to Mean What You Say & Say What You Mean without Being Mean

Episode #11

Have you ever dropped a hint that someone you worked with just didn’t get?  Soft peddled feedback that wasn’t received?  Or lashed out in frustration because you were just so irritated with someone’s behavior?

Yes, that moment.  The moment when we have something in our mind, something we need or want or expect, but we don’t fully formulate the words to make it happen.  To get understanding. 

Assertiveness is bigger than communication.  It’s about how we feel about our rights.  As a human being, and as an employee.  Or as a leader.  It’s pretty easy to observe someone’s assertiveness through their body language, actions and communication.

This is about mindset and it’s about skill set, to communicate effectively, clearly and respectfully.

  • Passive is a style of avoiding expressing  opinions or feelings, not protecting their rights, and not identifying and meeting needs.
  • Aggressive is a style in which individuals express their feelings and opinions and advocate for their needs in a way that violates the rights of others.
  • Passive aggressive is a style in which individuals appear passive on the surface but are really acting out anger in a subtle, indirect, or behind-the-scenes way.
  • Assertive is a style in which individuals clearly state opinions and feelings, firmly advocate for their rights and needs without violating the rights of others.

Our style might not be universal.  For example, be more passive with those who have more power and authority, we may defer more.  With our peers, we may be passive, or passive aggressive saying things “in jest” or maybe we’ve known someone for a long time and don’t filter our words (aggressive).

All of these options don’t lead to clarity, effective understanding, or trust.  If we think of a line in the sand, they are “below” the line options.  

Why is being assertive so challenging?   Author Richard Banks identified some typical obstacles:

  • We don’t know what we want
  • We're unsure of our emotions
  • We may feel our needs don’t matter
  • We want to be liked at all costs; worried about offending others 
  • We become flustered, not communicating effectively
  • Or have have experienced excessive criticism in the past
  • We're scared of saying the wrong thing
  • We fear retaliation
  • Or are afraid of what people will think

Which of those might be true for you, sometimes?

Some seeds to plant, considerations about strengthening assertiveness:

1.      Think about your rights (see download below).
2.      Assess your level of assertiveness, does it vary depending on the audience and situation?  When and why?  Consider how to apply assertiveness consistently.
3.      Understand your thoughts and feelings.  Figure out what you want and need.
4.      Focus on aligning your body language to your message.
5.      Practice with boundaries, saying no and speaking from an “I” perspective.

The value of assertiveness is tremendous.  By increasing our own confidence and self-resect, we also increase the effectiveness of our communication.  We can assert ourselves without undermining or trampling on others.  This leads us to more respectful relationships.  

These benefits are true for us in our personal and professional relationships.  And as a leader, it is critical to building trusting and long lasting connections with those we aspire to lead.

Assess Your Rights:

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