It can be difficult to ensure assertive behaviour in all areas of your life. Barriers to assertiveness can be fear of conflict, upsetting people, or coming across as bossy. It can also be aggressive approaches that are thought to be assertive. I find that many people misunderstand what assertiveness is. It is a critical aspect of leadership to build trust and respect.
Defining Assertive Behaviour
One dictionary definition of assertive is “Having or showing a confident and forceful personality.” Another gives it as “Someone who is assertive states their needs and opinions clearly, so that people take notice”
My understanding of assertive behaviour is when you express yourself clearly and firmly, but not at the expense of others. You are self assured and confident without being arrogant. You see people from an ‘I’m OK, You’re OK’ perspective and communicate ‘adult to adult’. You can acknowledge the needs, rights and values of others while being true to your own. This requires honest, open and direct expression of your point of view or feelings. It is about being decisive and asking firmly and calmly for what you want. It does mean you being willing to compromise if the other person’s needs are different to yours. This needs understanding and respecting the other person’s point of view. You are aiming for a win-win result.
Skills for Assertive Behaviour
Below are some of the skills that assertive people tend to have. You may like to consider which of these you are good at and which you need to improve. You may also know of others that are not listed here.
- Confidence and good self esteem.
- Knowledge of your rights, needs, what is important and outcome wanted.
- Good communicator who can get clear understanding for all parties.
- Active listening.
- Tolerance and empathy.
- Positive outlook.
- Open, honest and genuine.
- True to own values – show integrity.
- Flexible and open minded to other ideas.
- Fair and consistent.
- Good questioning ability.
Problems can arise from not being assertive. These may be upsetting people, not speaking your mind or getting the outcomes you need, feeling guilty about saying no, undermining of your confidence, unsuccessful encounters and poor relationships. You may find yourself repeating the same behaviours. Your thinking can lead you to feel stuck in a certain situation.
Outcomes and Benefits of Being Assertive
If you think back to times when you were assertive, what were the outcomes? How did you feel afterwards? Possibilities are:
Positive outcome – it worked.
In the majority of assertive encounters, there is a successful outcome for both parties. Whilst you may not have achieved exactly what you wanted, there is a win- win situation. Both parties are happy with the result. This tends to be better then a compromise, where both agree to something but neither are entirely happy with it.
Greater clarity and certainty
An assertive conversation tends to lead to greater awareness and understanding of issues. Empathy abounds. Expectations of both parties are clear and there is clarity of what actions need to be taken. In the workplace, this can lead to greater confidence that things will get done when you are not there.
Sense of accomplishment
When you can get a good outcome from a difficult situation, this can be highly satisfying for all parties and lead to greater confidence to deal with future situations when they arise. You can feel happier and good about yourself. There is a sense of relief when a problem is resolved. This leads to less stress.
Meaningful and assertive relationships will help build trust and respect. This in turn can lead to a better atmosphere, stronger relationships and teamwork. It enables you to delegate more. Assertive behaviour helps build currency in your emotional bank account.
Improved productivity and initiative
Motivation and productivity improve where people feel respected, trusted and fairly treated. In the absence of threat, aggression or unfairness, the brain is set free to think more creatively. People show more initiative. When you use questions, so you ask rather than tell, this increases the capacity of people to think for themselves.
Given the benefits , why would you choose not to be assertive?
Determining and Developing Assertive Behaviour
You can assess your capacity to be assertive with the powerful Judgement Index. It enables you to understand where you or your team are strong or need support. This will help with recruiting, managing existing employees; and defining training needs.
Delegates’ feedback from our recent Being Assertive course identified the following results:
- I gave myself permission for the first time in my life to say what I truly felt and this was OK.
- It helped me realise the importance of setting expectations and how many misunderstandings come from unclear expectations.
- It gave me the confidence to give orders, especially to people older than me.
- I realised that how people respond to what I say is their choice.
- I have earned greater respect from my colleagues.
- I now follow through in an assertive way, which ensures things get done.
- Certain long term difficult situations have been dealt with and we have moved on to a better relationship.