Assertiveness, assertive communication is an area that really merits some serious consideration when dealing with people - professionally and personally.
Following link is a good place to start to get some ideas - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assertiveness
We have to note that assertiveness is not same as aggressiveness or defensiveness. It's just being straight forward, direct and honest in communications with others.
Can you always call spade a spade? Not always. Assertiveness works well with people of highest maturity and who understand and respect the value of assertiveness. As with many things in life, only those who have gone thru life's trials and tribulations alone respect assertiveness like they do many good things in life. So, we need to tailor our assertive communications to our audience.
It's best to be most assertive with your managers or leaders. Normally we try to be submissive or sound mild with our bosses because we think if they do not like what we are saying, there may be repercussions. If that is the case, it is too bad and the your boss is very immature for his position. However, it is a good idea to assume that the person who is your boss is in that role because someone thought he has requisite or more than requisite emotional maturity to appreciate assertive communication style. If all were fair, assertive communication is the best form of communication style because it efficient, effective, saves time, avoids confusion and misunderstanding. If your boss is a good boss, he will very much appreciate your assertive style. He will not take your assertiveness in the wrong way. Who take assertiveness from others the wrong way? People who are insecure in themselves. As people mature and reach leadership positions, it is safe to assume that they welcome assertiveness as they are fairly secure in themselves. So, if you want to be at your assertive best, try it with your bosses. If it does not go well, good luck and you probably want to move on from that job.
With your peers, it helps to tamper your assertiveness. Good chances are some of your peers are far more mature that the others. So, be as assertive as you can with more mature peers, be less assertive with people who may mistake your assertiveness for lack of friendliness. Remember, your peers contribute a lot to your success or lack there of. So, it's not a good idea to antagonize them if they do not welcome assertiveness. Tailor your communication to suit their requirement for communication.
Be least assertive with the people who report to you. Because if you use assertive communication with your subordinate, chances are you scare them and freeze them. As such, people find it difficult to deal with their bosses and on top of it if you make it difficult for them, you are not going to get much done. With your subordinates, be friendly and encourage them to be assertive with you. Let them speak their mind without fearing consequences. You have the power to overrule them if you do not like what they say or if their argument if not well constructed. Whatever you do, do not freeze them.
If everything were fair, assertive communication style is the best form. But like many things, playing field of communications is not even. So, be assertive but use it with caution.
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