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Assertiveness- The Power of Positive Communication

Posted in Communication skills,Managing our emotions,Personal Effectiveness by Rashmi Datt on July 17th, 2011
 Recently, I found myself at the clinic of an expensive doctor. When my turn came to explain my problem, he was interrupted several times by phone calls, each of which lasted a few minutes. In my allotted fifteen minutes, I had barely spoken before he handed me a prescription.

Should I object, and express my dissatisfaction? But what could I say? Others waited in the crowded clinic with resigned patience. No one else seemed to protest. In my harried state of mind, I did not trust that my words and tone would come out right. And what if he was offended?  After all, I needed to come to him again. I ended up not saying anything, and left the clinic unhappy and bothered.

 In everyday life, when we experience stress, we sometimes keep quiet, especially when we perceive the other side to have greater power or authority. We smile even if the situation is causing us pain and distress. But this act of swallowing our feelings causes anger and frustration to build up within, while the problem has not been solved. We have avoided the real issue because of an unquestioned assumption—‘I have no choice’. Sometimes, it does not even occur to us that we can speak up assertively, in a frank, friendly, sympathetic and agreeable manner.

the mouse is startled ...

Assertiveness is described as standing up for yourself without violating the rights of others, or getting what you want using fair and reasonable means.

Factors that can increase non-assertiveness are low self-esteem, sacrificing one’s own happiness for others, too much dependency on others, lack of social and interpersonal skills, bad experiences related to conflict, and the feeling that one cannot deal with difficult situations.

When we don’t speak up we harm ourselves
Here are other examples of swallowing our frustrations and keeping quiet:
 
• ‘I wish my boss would not keep typing on his keyboard when I meet him to discuss matters that are important to me.’

• ‘The deadlines look totally unrealistic, but how can I say anything to my boss?’

• ‘When my colleague makes statements in the departmental meetings pinning problems on me, I feel so angry because he is just making a scapegoat of me. But If I respond, matters will become unpleasant.’

• ‘I think I should be attending our team’s review meetings with the client, but my boss has never asked me to come. That is really insecure of him, but I can’t make this request to him. Surely he should understand this himself?’

• ‘In my department there is a recent vacancy for a senior position, and I would like to be considered for it, but I do not want to bring it up with my boss.’

Given their inevitability, people have struggled for centuries with how to deal with these pinches. What is the correct way to address them? Is it better to be forthright, or diplomatic?  Or is it best not to upset the apple cart at all?

 Five Steps to Constructive Assertion: OPENS

1. O = Think of your desired Outcome or Objective
Ahead of time, we must think of the tangible outcome or objective, or the behaviour we want from the other party. If possible, pick the time and place so that we are in charge of our own frame of mind and the tone of the communication.

If you decide to speak to the boss about his habit of reading emails during your meetings with him, the objective is to politely request him to put aside a few minutes of ‘face-time’ for you

2. P = Ascribe Positive intention
The boss who reads emails in his meetings is being rude, but he may not harbour disrespect and it is possible that he is committed to supporting you so that the best quality of work is delivered.

3. E = Empathise or Examine the situation from the other’s Eyes
The boss who reads his mails compulsively is probably busy and hard-pressed for time.

4. N = State the facts using Neutral words
Instead of accusing ‘I feel demeaned and disrespected when you read emails while talking to me,’ say, ‘I feel anxious that I am not getting your full attention’.

5. S = State a specific Suggestion
Boss, I find our discussions very useful, your inputs are really a quantum jump ahead of my own thinking. In fact when I prepare for my meeting with you, I try to anticipate the issues you will raise. But when you are looking at your computer while attending to me, I know you are fully with me, yet I feel anxious about getting your attention. Can I request you to keep these fifteen minutes exclusively for me?’

...but not intimidated

So next time I go to the doctor, and I find him similarly busy with phone calls, I say:

‘Doctor, I do appreciate that you are very busy. I also know you are  committed and dedicated to your  patients. I know you would always want the very best for your patients at all times. When I come to you, I come with full faith in you. But I have one request of you. When I am speaking to you, and you receive calls, I feel confused and loose my train of thought. Can I request you to switch your phone off for 10 mts please?”

 




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