“Respect for ourselves guides our morals. Respect for others guides our manners.” – Lawrence Stern
Our reactions to different situations involving social interactions differ from one to another. Some people may feel guilty or regretful after responding to a specific request; others may find it challenging to control their anger and frustration during conversations. These two examples reflect a passive and an aggressive way of communication which can be enhanced through an assertive way of communication.
Let’s first define what being assertive is all about. Assertiveness is your ability to express your thoughts, beliefs, and opinions in an open, non-aggressive way. It has been introduced by Andrew Salter in 1961 and popularized by Joseph Wolpe. Assertiveness itself is a pool of skills like drops of water that we can all develop and master as it is not part of our DNA. Being assertive involves being confident about handling conflict without any feeling of guilt. You can become assertive only if you are confident about yourself.
Assertiveness starts at home with your kids; and in the work place with your teams through a smooth, clear, and direct communication. It is also about an active listening without interruption and without violating the rights of others. It enables you to take responsibility to stand up for your rights and to know when to refrain. You can disagree with someone without putting him or her down. When you are assertive, you know exactly when to say yes and when to refuse a request without feeling guilty. You are able to express your feelings, needs and concerns without being rude and disrespectful. Being assertive can improve our health and decrease our stress; it can also upgrade our self-esteem and rise up our self-confidence
Assertiveness is a great soft skill to embrace as a single act of aggressiveness in the workplace can impact drastically your career and your life. We cannot choose the events, the people, and circumstances, but we can always pick up the right attitude.
“The way we communicate with others and with ourselves ultimately determines the quality of our lives.” – Tony Robbins
It takes really courage to be assertive today and to control our anger from personal and professional perspectives. Assertiveness starts to be a great debate and a real challenge. Is it the outcomes of an environment growing fast and noisy? A shift of culture into more masculinity? Or maybe a simple matter of human immaturity? We have unfortunately more humans than even before but without humanity. Can you express anger and frustration without using abusive language? Are you able to defend yourself without undermining the rights of others? Do you have the capacity to communicate and deal with conflict in a respectful manner? Can you express your opinions and beliefs even if others are not lined up or disagree with you. Are you able to keep calm when feeling nervous and unsecure?
It is not enough to ask yourself these questions as you probably need to move into action. The only way to stimulate change and improvement is to think deeply about the consequences of these acts on your career and health. Preserve your positive energy for something more empowering than reacting aggressively. The muscle of assertiveness is like any other muscle that needs to be developed and strengthened. Otherwise, the effects on health are tremendous as it may lead to anxiety, stress, and even depression. Being assertive makes you feel confident and good about yourself. It improves your communication and your interpersonal relations. Embracing assertiveness makes you reliable and prepares you for leadership challenges.
To develop an assertive communication, handle conflict and confrontational situations, there is a communication script called the DESC model, developed by Sharon and Gordon Bower, and discussed fully in their book, Asserting Yourself.
DESC stands for Describe, Express, Specify, Consequences.
Generally we tend to generalize when expressing our thoughts and opinions. In this figure, you simply need to describe the facts or situations in an objective way without adding personal judgment. It takes courage to describe facts without biases and judgment. It takes courage even more to communicate nowadays as it is the simplest thing we can do but remains a real challenge.
When it comes to expressing your feelings and thoughts about a specific behavior or situation, replace “you” statement by “I.” When you start your communication with You, it often creates conflicts and puts people on the defensive. “I am not ready to argue about this situation” does not have the same impact as “you are making me nervous because of your act.”
Specify your own solutions or the desired outcome. How can you improve the situation? Many people tend to talk about everything at the same time and end up with more confusion as for lack of clarity and precision. Others discuss more problems than solutions. Be specific and move into action.
It is important to specify the consequences of such negative behavior or situation as it helps showcase what will happen if no action is taken place.
Assertive communication is an excellent way to handle your conflicts. Learning to say no is an important component of assertiveness.
“When you say ‘yes’ to others, make sure you aren’t saying ‘no’ to yourself.” – Paulo Coehlo
It is an excellent way to save your time, energy, and save you from toxic people. Embrace assertive communication is it is the key to career success and inner well-being.
“The only healthy communication style is an assertive communication.” – Jim Rohn