Avoiding Conflict with Assertive Communication
Offer direct communication in a considerate manner
Assertive communication should not be confused with an aggressive communication style. In many English-speaking countries, assertiveness has mistakenly come to be recognized as a communication method that can alienate:
‘I’m not sure if I approve of our new line manager; he comes across as very assertive.’
In the example above, the behavior of the new line manager was not to everyone’s taste. Assertive, as used here, is most likely describing someone who likes to make their point or get their way, usually to the detriment of others.
This is not assertive communication – this is aggressive communication.
An aggressive communication style offers high levels of directness in expressing needs, wants, and opinions but does so in a way that gives no thought to other people’s feelings or needs.
By contrast, an assertive communication style also offers high levels of directness, but, crucially, needs, wants, and opinions are expressed in a way that is considerate of others.
Do you prefer to work with people who display an assertive or aggressive communication style?
- Solicit the views of others
- Explain clearly with reasons why they are or are not able to fulfill specific needs
- Use phrases that seek collaboration
- Find areas of agreement while still discussing differences
- Are inclusive
- Constantly look for solutions
In the programs we carry out with management groups across the industry, the phrases below consistently jump out as being used by people recognized as assertive by colleagues. Interestingly, people use words such as ‘respected, warm, motivational, not just a colleague but a friend, good listener, and there for me’ to describe these individuals.
Indeed assertive individuals gain high levels of ‘buy-in’ from those around them.
Try these phrases for yourself next time you are tempted to use anything but an assertive communication style:
Would it be possible to / if you/we could…..?
…and the reason for that is…..
I wondered if we could…
When would it be convenient…
What solutions can you recommend?
Let’s look at both the pros and cons of this…
How does that sound to you?
I’d like us to…
Are there any other ways we can approach a solution to this?
I am not happy with that, and I also have another option. Can I go through this with you now, please?
I think I understand your position on this…can I clarify…?
I didn’t appreciate the working behavior displayed on that occasion, and I think we will feel much better if we learn from that and start afresh.
What do you think?
What others can you think of?