Do you often find yourself in situations at work where you have to deal with unreasonable requests? How about feeling like you can never get people to really cooperate with you? Or maybe you get along well with your colleagues, but you freeze when you have to deal with angry customers. Clear Books breaks down how to overcome these challenges.
Assertive communication solves these problems, leading to calm interactions, honesty and respect for everyone involved in an interaction. It also fosters understanding, trust, and cooperation, which means that people are more likely to take responsibility for things, get more done, and be able to get their needs met.
Let’s unpack three assertiveness techniques:
1. Discovering Your Personal Values
The first step to good, assertive communication is actually figuring out what makes you tick. The reason that people clash is often a difference in values, so if you can figure out what really matters to you, then you’ll be able to communicate that to other people and work together to find a way forward.
So what are your personal values? Think about those things that guide your behavior and interactions, the principles you live by, and the expectations you have about other people.
If you’re getting stuck, choose five values from the graphic below, then number them in order of importance, with 1 being the most important and 5 being the least important.
2. Describing Your Feelings
Now that you know your values, you can talk about them when you find yourself clashing with someone. This is really important, because a lot of times people don’t realise it when they’re pushing up against your boundaries. Confrontation needs clarity, so be honest about what’s happening and how you feel about it. And remember, no one can make you do anything – there’s a big difference between saying “You made me angry” and “I felt really angry that you did XYZ.”
The key phrase to remember is:
“I feel embarrassed/confused/upset/annoyed when/that you...”
For example, if a colleague was two hours late, you might be tempted to say, “How ridiculous – being on time is a basic life skill.”
But that doesn’t help anyone. Instead, try really owning your feelings, and say something like, “I felt really annoyed that I had to wait so long for you”.
3. Transactional Analysis
OK, but what about those situations where you or someone else gets really upset about something and you can’t quite figure out why? This is where a technique called transactional analysis is really useful.
Transactional analysis is a technique based on the idea that there are three areas of your brain:
Additionally, transactional analysis states that transactions between people (any conversation or interaction you have with someone else is a transaction) is a stimulus, which leads to a response that’s based on data from one of these three categories.
This works fine when two people are communicating with complementary transactions, like Parent to Parent, Adult to Adult, Child to Child, or even Parent to Child/Child to Parent.
For example, if you get on the bus and you sit next to someone who says to you, ‘Buses are always packed nowadays’, that’s a belief from their Parent state that they’ve just told you. And if you reply ‘Oh yes, the things we have to deal with in this neighborhood’, you’re responding to them Parent to Parent. What you’re saying to each other isn’t based in your observation of the reality – you’ve both found a seat without any problems. But even though it’s not true, you’re not experiencing conflict, because the transaction is complementary.
Likewise, if you’re feeling upset and tell your colleague that you have a headache and ask them for a paracetamol, and they give it to you without any complaints, you’re having a child to parent interaction with them, and vice versa, so there’s still no conflict.
But when transactions cross, you start to get issues. For example, let’s say you’re looking for your keys so you can leave for work. You ask your partner where they are, and instead of telling you “They’re on the desk”, they say “Why can’t you keep track of your things? You’re always losing things! You’re not a child anymore!”, then you’re speaking Adult to Adult and they’re speaking Parent to Child – it’s a crossed transaction, and the two of you are going to have a conflict.
Dealing with Crossed Transactions
When you get a crossed transaction, it’s important to get both people in the conversation back on the same wavelength, ideally Adult to Adult if you’re trying to arrive at a solution.
So for instance, if you’re speaking to someone as an Adult and they get triggered into an emotional Child response, it’s important for you to invite them back into the Adult mode. You might say something like “I can see that this has really upset you. Can you tell me what’s made you feel this way?”
Then both of you can work with the real life data that you’re processing Adult to Adult and figure out a way forward.
- Assertive communication fosters calm interactions, trust, and cooperation, which lead to getting more done and getting everyone’s needs met.
- Everyone has different personal values, and when they clash, you get conflict.
- Take responsibility for your feelings and describe them constructively.
- Emotional data and rules stored in different areas of the brain, and you might not realize what’s setting you off initially.
- The key to moving forward is analyzing real life data.
Darren Taylor is Digital Marketing Manager at Clear Books – a simple, intuitive and award-winning accounting software for small businesses and accountants.