Assertion skills
Introduction
Assertion comes from high self-esteem and an acceptance of yourself. Assertive behaviour acknowledges your rights as an individual and the rights of other people.When the occasion demands, an assertive person can disagree, stand up for his/her own rights and present alternative points of view without being intimidated or putting the other person down. In contrast, a person who feels threatened in such situations behaves with aggressive or non-assertive responses rather than with assertive behaviour.

In the workplace, or any personal relations, one who has good interpersonal skills can relate to and work with a wide variety of people, negotiate differences, handle conflicts, make requests effectively and receive information objectively. A person who has effective interpersonal communication skills will be open to the ideas of others and willing to put forward views of his or her own – both essential activities in the process of problem solving.

These verbal and non-verbal behaviours enable you to maintain respect, satisfy your needs, and defend your rights without dominating, manipulating, abusing, or controlling others.

The pattern of behaviour that leads to aggression or non-assertion is based on low self-esteem and feelings of vulnerability. Feelings of vulnerability make you feel threatened. A person who feels threatened has two choices of behaviour in a disagreement: attack and aggression, or fear and non-assertion. An aggressive person may try to win at all costs. This means dominating or humiliating others, even to the point of ignoring a suggestion that provides the best solution simply because it is someone else’s solution. A submissive person, on the other hand, is unable to assert or promote a point of view. When unpleasant situations arise, a submissive person tends to avoid these, leaving someone else with the problem.

Assertiveness is not a strategy for getting your own way. Instead, it recognizes that you are in charge of your own behaviour and that you decide what you will or will not do. Assertiveness is one of the techniques that show expressiveness and openness. It expresses responsibility for your own thoughts and feelings and gives open and honest feedback in the interaction

The “I” message
Many communicators unnecessarily attack the other person when delivering a message.“Your report is too sloppy. You’ll have to retype it.” Statements like these are often called “you” language because they point a verbal finger of accusation at the receiver. Examples of “you” language in this context are: “You’re lazy.” “You’re wrong.” By contrast, descriptive statements are often termed “I” language since they focus on the speaker instead of judging the other person. Notice how each of the evaluative statements above can be rephrased in descriptive “I” language: “I’m worried about the promise you made. I don’t see how we can get the job done by the end of the month.” The 3-part assertion statement

The 3-part assertion statement involves

  • a non-judgmental description of the behaviour to be changed;
  • a disclosure of the asserter’s feelings; and
  • a clarification of the concrete and tangible effect of the other person’s behaviour on the asserter.

    For example: Behaviour :: When you do not let me know you will be late, + Feelings :: I feel annoyed + Effects :: because I am unable to reschedule my timetable.

    To describe behaviour non-judgmentally, it is recommended that one limit oneself to the behaviour description and not draw inferences about the other person’s motives, attitudes, character and so on. In addition, the description should be specific, objective and as brief as possible.

    When it comes to disclosure of feelings, people from some cultures tend to be more comfortable than those from other cultures. Hence, it is not unusual for feelings to be stated less strongly (e.g. "I feel quite upset" instead of "I feel annoyed") or not to be disclosed at all, resulting in a 2-part assertion message.

    For example: Behaviour :: When you do not let me know you will be late,+ Effects :: I am unable to schedule my timetable.

    In our interpersonal communication with others, it is always good to remember that assertiveness in one culture may be viewed as aggressiveness in another culture so try to adapt.

    By concrete and tangible effects we mean those things that unnecessarily cost the asserter money, harm his possessions, consume his time, cause him extra work, endanger his job, and/or interfere with his effectiveness at work. A well-delivered assertion message that cites a concrete and tangible effect usually persuades the other person to change his behaviour to meet the asserter’s needs.

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