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Assertive Clear Communication

assertive communication

Being assertive means knowing what you want and asking for it in an honest and respectful manner.

Maintaining an honest and respectful manner can be very hard to do when you are being yelled at or maligned for “criticizing” this person for something they did that was perceived to be disrespectful to you. However, if you argue and raise your voice you will lose this “battle” and definitely not get what you want.

Instead, when you decide to confront a person and have a “difficult conversation” with them regarding something they did that you were unhappy about; you must prepare for what that individual may throw back at you so that you can maintain a respectful, calm demeanor and handle this exchange with sensitivity and emotional intelligence.

communicatingUndertaking these sorts of conversations is not easy, and many people simply walk around feeling badly because they have not resolved this sort of problem because they have shied away from confronting the offender. In fairness, if you do not tell the person that they offended you, they may feel that what they did was just fine and so will, of course, continue to act in this way, unless you or whomever else they offend, stands up to them and tells them that this sort of treatment is unacceptable. If no one does, then you will “get the behavior you tolerate”!

When we talked about Accountability, I told you that your first choice is to take an action. When you are dealing with people, the action requires that you initiate a conversation regarding the issue. Yes, this is a hard task to fulfill, however if you do not try to resolve this situation through respectful exploration, you will be the one suffering! Of course it is not easy to do, but truthfully, it is essential if you wish to feel that you have taken back control instead of feeling victimized.

Here is a three part script structure that you can use when you have decided to “bite the bullet” and approach this individual regarding your displeasure.

First, you must honestly, clearly, and simply describe the problem in an objective, non-judgmental manner. Do not bring your emotions into the exchange as that will likely derail it from the beginning. Expect your information NOT to be welcomed.

Secondly, you want to explain what the results of that behavior are, again in a clear, simple, and non-judgmental way. Just stating the facts is the best approach. Expect that they will already begin to deny the behavior and try to say it is your perception, so it is your problem. At this point you can agree that it is your perception, however as you work or socialize with this person, you wanted to try to work this out so that your relationship can remain respectful and comfortable.

Lastly, you want to make a polite, specific request for the result you would like to see in the future. Again they may get upset and nasty with you. Once more, you need to stay calm, respectful, and honest, sticking to the facts and showing understanding as to why they might be upset. However, you will need to remind them nicely that it would be better if everyone felt respected, and this sort of attitude and behavior does not create those sorts of feelings. Be sure to use Active Listening during the exchange so that you can summarize back what they say to you… their denials and excuses… so that you can be sympathetic and show that you understand why they may not enjoy this critical evaluation of their behavior. As long as you stay honest, respectful, and calm, it will get harder for them to continue to be nasty to you who are being so nice.

If they still refuse to accept responsibility for their actions, and continue to be nasty to you, you could suggest that perhaps they might like to consider your request and you could speak about this again tomorrow or the next day. Giving them some time to process your proposition and calm down themselves.

frustratedRemember, you cannot make people change their behavior or do things they do not want to do; you can only try to offer reasonable suggestions. However, you will feel more confident and more accountable for taking back control and voicing your opinion in an assertive manner. You may have to do this more than once, and still may not get what you want. However, they also may not “bother” with you anymore since you seem to be a person who does not like to be treated like a doormat and are able and willing to stand up for yourself. Often these sorts of people have a somewhat bullying nature and if they can get away with mistreating others with no consequences they will continue to do so. When someone stands up to them, they may back down, or at least not treat you in this manner again. In any event, you have nothing to lose by trying to rectify the situation with an honest, respectful conversation.

Remember this will not likely be pleasant, which is why you need to prepare by trying to figure out all the comebacks and excuses they may offer up so that you will be able to counter them in a calm, pleasant, and factual manner. Some people may even feel badly about what they did and apologize to you, or perhaps thank you for pointing out the issue. You will never know what the outcome can be without trying!

One other aspect of the conversation that you must pay attention to is your non-verbal messaging. You need to watch your body language!

What does that mean?

  1. It means that you need to be aware of the look on your face, it should be pleasant, not severe. And, do maintain eye contact.
  2. Your tone of voice should be calm, but firm, not sarcastic or patronizing.
  3. The volume of your voice should be loud enough for the other person to hear you easily, however, not so loud that they think you are shouting, or not so quiet that they cannot easily hear you.
  4. Your stance should be non-threatening, no crossed arms, or finger pointing, look natural and relaxed.
  5. Give the person adequate personal space, do not “get into their face” for it will make them more uncomfortable.
  6. Finally, watch the words you use, try to omit “but” from the exchange, use nonetheless, however, and, so, etc. as “but” negates anything they just said and is a very confrontational word.

Being assertive is not easy… it requires solid preparation in order to deal with the fallout and responses you will encounter, perseverance as you may have to do this more than once, and a good attitude as you may not get what you want. Ultimately, if you are brave enough to have the difficult conversation, you will feel like you took back control of the situation and are no longer being taken advantage of… you will have definitely become accountable through taking an assertive action.

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