Thoughtful Communication: Assertiveness

Have you had the experience of wishing you would have spoken up but didn’t?  Many of us know this feeling.  It is a feeling of disappointment or regret.  On the other hand, have you had the experience of speaking too abruptly or harshly?   Many of us know this feeling as well.  It is a feeling of disappointment or regret.  Interestingly, both experiences have similar feelings.

What causes these feelings whether we don’t speak up, or speak up too harshly?  I would suggest fear is one of the root causes for both experiences.  The fears of rejection or looking bad are associated with both passive and aggressive communication.   Yes, there are other reasons and root causes for passive and aggressive communication.  However, I would propose looking deeply at the underlying reason and recognizing it could be fear.  This is what fear can sound like in a passive and aggressive message.

Passive communication is defined as accepting or allowing what happens or what others do, without active response.  A passive voice is quiet, docile, and lacks confidence.  Here is an example of a passive voice.

“If it is okay, and it isn’t a bother, because I don’t want to cause any problems, would you mind talking to our client about their issues when you get time?

Aggressive communication is defined as confrontational, arrogant, rude, and sometimes hurtful.

Here is an example of an aggressive voice.

“I need you to get your butt in gear and talk with XYZ client about their issue today, no excuses!”

Neither message is helpful if you want to have a positive influence on others.  A more inspiring message is found in overcoming your fears and committing to using an assertive voice.

 Assertiveness is defined as the ability to communicate a clear, confident message with respect and sincerity.

It takes courage and the right words to communicate in an assertive manner.  Assertive communication can show up in three different ways: request, suggest, and instruct.

  1. Request – Ask respectfully for something.

Example: “Would you talk with XYZ client this Friday about their issue?”

If you are going to make a request, know the person receiving the message has the option of saying no.

2. Suggest – Mention for consideration.

Example: “I would suggest talking with XYZ client about their issues on Friday?”

If you are going to suggest something, understand this is merely an option the receiver of the message may accept or reject.

3. Instruct – Direct someone to do something. 

Example: “To fulfill our contract, please talk with XYZ client this Friday to help them resolve the issue.”

If you instruct, use clear, descriptive, and supportive language to keep the tone positive.

Your voice as a leader is important for connecting and inspiring others.  Recognize when your voice is passive or aggressive and ask yourself why?  Practice pausing and using an appropriate assertive voice to communicate your message.