Communication Skills: Be More Assertive, Deal With Aggressive Behaviour
In order to get what you want, sometimes you need to be assertive. But there’s a difference between being assertive and being aggressive.
The definitions for these two terms are:
Aggressive: Feelings of anger or antipathy resulting in hostile or violent behaviour; ready to attack or confront.
Assertive: Having or showing a confident and forceful personality.
At some point in your life, you’ll probably find yourself on the receiving end of unprovoked aggression or a negative emotional outburst.
People feel by being aggressive they will get what they want. Others feel by being assertive, they’re being aggressive or too demanding and will create conflict, so they avoid it.
Like the manager who sees one of their employees isn’t performing a task as required and rather than deal with the issue they avoid having a conversation and instead either ‘fix’ the issue themselves or put up with and ignore the error or behaviour.
I’m sure many of you have been in a situation where you want to say something but didn’t want to cause an argument or alternatively, say something in anger, which you later regret.
Aggression usually results from too much negative emotion and is a hostile attack usually against someone else, bullying them into submission. It’s often ineffective and causes conflict and resentment.
Aggression is often experienced when someone feels they should stand up for themselves but don’t and feel taken for granted or put upon. When they do react – it comes out as aggressive, overly defensive or emotional.
Assertion is about being confident in stating your opinion, standing up for yourself and your beliefs while maintaining respect for others. By talking calmly and assertively you’re more likely to get the result you want.
If people are unable to communicate effectively it results in either being too passive or being overly aggressive. You need to be able to say ‘Yes’ when you really mean it and ‘No’ when you mean it.
To be more assertive:
• Be clear about what you want and how you feel. Communicate your needs in a calm, unemotional way.
• Be specific and direct. Focus on the facts relating to the situation and how you feel about it rather than finger-pointing, speculation or exaggeration.
• Be clear with your boundaries. What it is that you want and be clear about what you will and won’t tolerate. State clearly what you need and why.
• Be aware of your body language, tone and the words you use when being assertive. Maintain good eye contact. Avoid confrontational words or tone, even when it’s a tough conversation.
• Be direct, open and honest. Respond in an appropriate way to the situation and respect the person or people involved.
• Consider their frame of reference – it may be different from yours, which affects the message they receive. What are their values, attitudes and experiences?
• Always respect the other person’s opinions, rights and point of view. Allow them to speak and respond.
• Above all keep calm and don’t get emotional if they become aggressive. Stand your ground firmly but politely. Be prepared to walk away. Anger and conflict will achieve nothing.
By being assertive you don’t accept bad or inappropriate behaviour or feel taken advantage of.
Practice behaving more assertively. If you have a difficult situation or conversation coming up – practice with friends, colleagues or your coach.
• Speak up when you have an idea or opinion – you’ll gain confidence.
• Stand up for what you believe – you’ll gain more respect if you’re able to assert your opinions or beliefs without giving in or becoming aggressive.
• Make requests and ask for help – people are often willing to help out when asked but won’t always offer.
• Refuse requests and say ‘no’ more often (without feeling guilty) – especially if you don’t have the time or resources or it’s something you’re uncomfortable with.
• Accept feedback, both positive and constructive – without batting it away from you or brushing it off. Say ‘thank you’. Especially if it’s helpful and you can learn from it.
How can you communicate what you want in a calm, assertive way?
An aggressive person is communicating “I’m OK – you’re not OK.”
An assertive person communicates “I’m OK – you’re OK.”
Improve your communication by listening and observing. When are you and others being assertive? Do some situations, conversations result in more aggressive behaviour or reactions?
Get in touch if you need to talk through your own situation or need to deal with a difficult or challenging conversation.