Nobody likes a fight.
But people who lack assertiveness skills may believe there’s no other way to manage conflict. So they bottle up their feelings. They may feel anger, but they fight themselves to avoid showing it. And the person – the parent or child or partner or colleague or employer or employee – whose behaviour has inspired the anger may have no indication that anything is wrong.
Avoiding open conflict this way is unhealthy for the person who bottles up anger, and it is unhealthy for the relationship. So what’s the answer?
PMC Instructor Sue F. says the answer is clear, honest, assertive communication. Use a concrete recent example of the behavior, describe the impact of the behaviour or situation on you, and don’t be afraid to talk about emotions.
Explain – gently – how the behaviour makes you feel.
Sue says it’s important to speak in the first person by using I-statements, rather than you-statements, and to be aware of your words, tone and body language. Make sure your sentences are well-crafted and logical. Be factual and don’t exaggerate. Try to imagine yourself in the place of the person whose behaviour you’re trying to change, because it won’t help you if that person feels attacked or judged. Focus on the impact of the behaviour on you.
Otherwise, you may get the conflict you’re trying to avoid.
- Use tentative words (such as possibly, maybe and perhaps) only if you need to convey uncertainty.
- Use words that imply obligation (such as must, should, and ought) sparingly.
- Ask for permission only if you need it, and accept blame only if you’re at fault.
- Avoid sarcasm, mockery and accusatory or threatening language.
- Clearly present fact as fact, and opinion as opinion.
- Be respectful.
Once you’ve explained how you feel, ask – assertively – for the change you need.
Be clear. After you’ve explained how a behaviour makes you feel, provide a call to action. Explain calmly, clearly and assertively what you want: do this, stop doing that, do something differently.
Performance Management Consultants offers several courses that can help you develop the communication skills you need to manage conflict:
Let PMC help you manage your conflicts and make your world – at home or at work – healthier, happier and more productive.
How to be more assertive
Insights from biology and psychology explain what it means to be assertive, why it’s helpful, and how we can use assertive communications to be happier at home and more successful at work.
Being assertive: Reduce stress, communicate better
Assertive communication is direct, effective and respectful. It prevents others from walking over you, and it helps keep you from walking over others. This Mayo Clinic article discusses some ways you can communicate more assertively:
• Assess your style.
• Use ‘I’ statements.
• Say no.
• Rehearse what you want to say.
• Use body language.
• Keep your emotions in check.
• Start small.
Developing an assertive communication style – one that is neither passive nor aggressive – will take time. But it will be worth the effort.