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Assertive Communication – (Part 1)

Updated: Mar 13, 2023

My blog last month was called ‘Five Universal Truths.’ If you haven’t had a chance to read it yet, it was about looking for common ground and emphasizing the similarities between us, rather than being distracted by all the ways in which we might be different. Once we understand what EVERYONE needs in their interactions with others, it’s time to focus on how we can effectively meet those expectations: Assertive Communication!

Each of us has a unique way of interacting and sharing information with others and the pattern that you use has a lot to do with how much of your message is accurately interpreted by the receiver. There are three common communication styles: passive, aggressive, and assertive. Although we all adapt our style, depending on the situation, we each have a form that comes most naturally to us. What is yours?

Are you always the first one to speak up, or do you expect someone else will eventually say what you’re thinking? Do you say ‘yes’ to extra work even when your plate is already full, or do you automatically say ‘no’ so you can have a little free time? When mistakes happen, do you more often blame others, or blame yourself? Do people take advantage of your time, or do they seem to dread talking to you?

To ensure your communication is as effective as possible, it is important to impartially assess your typical style. Let’s have a closer look at some of the differences.

Passive Communication:

Passive communicators generally don’t like to ‘rock the boat’ or draw attention to themselves. They are often people pleasers and are comfortable letting others lead and make decisions. People who are more passive tend to lack confidence and often think less of themselves than others. As a result, they are frequently unheard and can easily lose sight of their own ideas and goals.

Passive communicators may think they are great team players, because they don’t challenge those who seem to have a clear understanding of the situation, and don’t “waste” time with discussion when someone else is willing to quickly make decisions for the group. Passive communicators may not realize how important their contributions are!

Aggressive Communication:

Aggressive communicators are the opposite of passive and often ignore others or try to shame them into compliance. They frequently ‘tell’ rather than ‘ask’ and are committed to winning at all costs. People who are more aggressive tend to be unconcerned with being seen as arrogant, pushy, or bullying. They often come across as superior and blame the other individual if that person is offended by their language or intimidated by their behaviour.

Aggressive communicators may think they are great leaders because they speak up when others are indecisive, they prioritize information, make conclusions, and “save” time with their willingness to quickly make decisions for the group. Aggressive communicators may not realize how important it is to actively encourage the contributions of others!

Although there may be situations where one of these styles is appropriate, the quickest and most effective agreement, consensus, or resolution is typically achieved by communicating assertively.

Assertive Communication:

Assertive communication is a direct and diplomatic communication style. You must balance your own feelings and needs with those of the other person, truly seeing each interaction as a partnership and ensuring everyone feels comfortable voicing their perspective. Communicating assertively gives you the best chance of successfully delivering your message and is effective whether you are interacting with an angry customer, a demanding co-worker, or an unreasonable toddler.

Of course, it's not just what you say, but also how you say it that is important, so look for my next blog – Assertive Communication (Part 2) – when we’ll explore three keys to help us build a cycle of cooperation, confidence, and continued success!

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