Assertive Communication At Work
you find it difficult to express what you want and need to the boss?
Are you unable to respond when you think you should? Are you
frustrated by your powerlessness in some day-to-day interactions?
art of confidently and comfortably expressing your wants and needs
without hurting or being hurt is a crucial skill. Few of us learned
the art of assertive communication from our families. As a result,
we are ill-prepared to meet the challenges of the workplace, where
people need to get results through other people. Priorities compete
for attention, and the "squeaky wheel" (often the overly
aggressive person) gets the grease, especially in an ego-driven
most important issues in life are about needing or not needing the
people we work with. It's about confronting, "assuming,"
standing one's ground and, most of all, about courage. It's about
choosing. We have to choose between telling the truth to someone who
needs to hear it, or keeping the truth tucked away and unsaid. We
must choose between being comfortable and safe, or risking
discomfort and even the loss of some of our perceived popularity. We
also choose, every day, between our hot-button response ("You
can take this job and shove it!") or the appropriate response
suited to our long-term purpose.
And Hot Buttons:
is a measurement of patience: how long you can put off immediate
gratification. We all know that you must put off a hot-button
response ("I'm just sure…does it look like I have four
hands?") for a long-term result. Being patient involves
self-confidence. There are three different behaviors to choose from:
Selfish: Since that time long ago when we
whiningly started a sentence with "I want" and our mother
called us "selfish," we have been fighting that label.
We've gotten it confused with "aggressive,"
"pushy"-worse terms when applied to women.
2) Selfless: This is the non-assertive person who
avoids conflict, at all costs. They "wimp out" of calmly
expressing needs and wants. This person is not confident of their
rights as an employee and as a human being. Some of these these
rights are: to be treated with respect; to be listened to and taken
seriously; to have and express feelings and opinions; to ask for
what you want; and to get what you pay for (how many of you have
paid for a bad haircut-and given a tip?). When we act selfless, we
become a natural victim for every aggressor. They ignore our subtle
signals of martyrdom, and attend to their own priorities at our
expense. People who ask, "Got a minute?" end up taking
half and hour because we wimp out of saying no.
3) Self-ful: This is a word I created. It doesn't
mean "full of yourself." It stands for a person confident
enough of their rights to be assertive: to ask for what they need
and want without hurting other people. This takes skill and
practice. It is the art of saying "no" to people and
having them thank you for it. Don't think it's possible? Assertive,
"self-ful" people use a three-step action method. Here's
knocks on top of your cubicle partition, leans in, and asks,
"Got a minute?" Instead of glancing at your watch and
saying, "Okay" with a martyred sigh, you look up and analyze
the request. You see his lower lip trembling and his eyes filling
with tears. You know he wants to talk about his divorce-again-and
you have a report to finish. You recognize this will not be a
60-second interruption, no matter what he said. You resist the
reflexive "hot buttons" response ("In your dreams,
pal") because you depend on Tom in your job. A rapport with him
is a priority for you. Take the following three steps:
1) Acknowledge: Use six-second empathy to tell him
you understand how he feels and what he wants. "Tom, you look
upset-it looks like you need to talk." This calms him, because
now he doesn't have to work to make you understand. You have said,
in essence, "I understand your priority-and it's
2) Advise: Let him know your priority-calmly,
"self-fully." You start out, "Tom, here's the
situation. I have a report to finish for the boss, and it's due in
half an hour." You have understood his need, and now you're
asking him to understand yours. Many people, when told of your
priority, will back off. But not Tom. That's why there's a third
3) Accept or Alter: Accept the interruption with
time limits ("I can give you five minutes") or suggest an
alternative or option ("I'll come to your cubicle when I've
finished the report")
About The Boss?
peers, you have the "alter" option; Tom will actually
thank you and go away happy. With the boss, your best option is
almost always to accept. The boss' priorities are your
priorities-it's in the job description. However, don't leave out the
second step. Always advise the boss of your activities and
priorities. Sometimes you are keeping them informed and they're
grateful. And sometimes they want you to do it all anyway. This is
when negotiation comes into play. But never skip step two. That's
the "self-ful" step.
self-ful allows you to speak up and say what is important to you. It
even allows you to correct the boss when you notice an error. Better
sooner than later. Remember-bosses hate surprises.
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