Assertive Communication

Assertive communication is how we express ourselves to others in a firm yet positive way.  It is different from aggressive communication.  Aggressive communication is often viewed as harmful.  Aggressive communication is sometimes viewed as a way of establishing individual superiority by putting others down. Some characteristics of aggressive communication are sarcasm, harsh tones (regardless of intent and condescending statements directed toward others.  When individuals are feeling stressed nor overwhelmed they tend to communicate in an aggressive manner.  Assertive communication, on the other hand, is a more respectful form of communication that considers our own needs while being respectful of the needs and feelings of others.

What can you do to be more assertive and less aggressive in communicating?

Assertive communication involves the speaker clearly stating their needs in an appropriate and respectful way.  These communicators will use “I” statements as they are taking personal responsibility and ownership for their words.  They also tend to speak in a calm and relaxed way avoiding emotionally charged communication actions. They also maintain good eye contact and positive body language.    Further, communicating assertively also allows others to save face.  They also listen well.  Assertive communication has the added benefit of helping with Employee Engagement.

Listening is a significant part of assertive communication.  Listening is a form of being respectful.  Respect is a cornerstone of assertive communication. Listening is different than hearing.  Listening is an active process and when we listen we:

  • Pay attention to the other person(s)
  • Watch body language, such as gestures, facial expressions, etc.
  • Engage in the conversation and not just pay attention to the sounds of the conversation.

Assertive communication generally involves four steps:

Step 1:  Begin the conversation by acknowledging the other person, use their name, good eye contact and be respectful of things such as personal space.  Sometimes called establishing rapport, this step is designed to relax the parties and start the communication process.  Once this is completed, state the facts as you know them in a non-judgmental and positive way.  Keep your language and questions neutral meaning not accusing or attacking.  Watch the reactions and behavior of the person(s) you are talking with.

Step 2: Explain (describe) how you feel about the issue in clear, accurate and specific words.  This is where “I” statements are important as it is about you and you alone; not how others feel.  Do not be dramatic of passive.  Share your desire for a successful outcome.

Step 3: Help the other party understand why you feel as you do.  Explain this in a respectful but direct way.  Use facts and not generalities or suppositions.  Be mindful of the other person’s perceptions and opinions and control your own emotions. Ensure you keep an open mind.

Step 4: Explain your ideas regarding next steps, successful outcomes, and what those outcomes would look like to you.  If the input or assistance of others is important to a successful outcome identify them and explain why.  Try to find common ground with the other party(ies).  Include their ideas and comments in your recommendations and remember to complement their ideas as appropriate.

Assertive communication is vital to your success and the success of the organization you represent. When you use Assertive Communications, you are seeking a win-win outcome for both parties and also balancing the rights of both parties.  This is the primary reason why it is viewed as the most effective form of communication.