Avoid Becoming Overbearing
How can we make sure that our own behavior to other people is not overbearing? One of the most important aspects here is to listen to what other people are saying and implement negative assertion. Negative assertion involves looking at your own behavior and identifying negatives.
When doing this you should accept these errors with the mindset of working on them. It is important not to become anxious or defensive, but instead recognize your faults without apologizing.
An example of this would be:
Friend: “You’re not very good at listening to what I have to say.”
You: “You’re right. I don’t listen as closely as I should to what you’re saying.
The best approach to dealing with criticism is to listen carefully to what the other person is saying and demonstrate an understanding for the point they are making. If there is truth in what they’re saying agree with it, or the logic of it from their point of view. You should accept your errors and not make excuses for them. Instead sympathetically agree with hostile criticism.
While these techniques are effective, it’s also important to know when to use them. A large part of this will be down to practice. However, it’s also important to anticipate certain behaviors so you can react. By anticipating other people’s behavior, you can prepare your responses in advance and practice your responses for different scenarios.
This will greatly improve your self-confidence, enabling you to remain assertive.
Using ‘I’ Statements to Become More Assertive
Another useful technique when being assertive is to use “I” Statements. “I” statements enable speakers to be assertive without making accusations. You are saying how it is for you, or how you see things, rather than how it should or shouldn’t be, which helps prevent the listener from becoming defensive.
“I” statements convey that you are willing to take responsibility for your own thoughts and behaviors. The purpose of using the “I” statement is to improve the relationship and when used properly they can lead to effective positive communication.
Let’s look at some examples of this in action.
“I understand that”
“I think that I…”
“When I think I’m not being heard I…”
“I enjoyed your presentation.”
“I get really anxious when…”
“When you raise your voice, I feel threatened.”
“I would like…”
“I know you are busy, but I need your assistance.”
“When you arrive late, I have to wait, and I feel frustrated.”
“If you are late again, I will be left with no choice but to pursue disciplinary action. I would prefer to avoid that.”
People can get defensive when you imply their behavior affects everyone and you cannot speak for everyone even if this was the case. You can only speak for you and by using the “I” statements you’re doing so and also removing the danger of the person feeling like they’re being ganged up on.
How to Avoid Judgment, Assumptions, and Generalizations
Along with this technique it’s also important to remember to avoid judgment, assumptions or generalizations. Assumptions can lead to a world of inaccuracy and judgments can lead to frustration and defensiveness from the other person.
To ensure assertive communication use very descriptive language.
You: “You could have made more effort to make it on time!”
Friend: “My babysitter didn’t show up, so I had to make other last minute arrangements.”
This results in you feeling guilty. Remember, you never know what might have happened so give the other person the chance to explain it.
If you speak in generalizations the person you’re speaking to is going to focus on the negatives. For example, if you tell someone that they’re always late, the chances are they’re not, but they’re going to focus on the ‘always’ rather than hearing your message.
If you label someone, they’re going to be too focused on that label rather than the real issue. So if someone is late to work a lot and you state:
“You are very disorganized, if you sorted that out you’d be on time more often.”
The person you’ve said this to isn’t going to hear the message about them being late, they’re going to focus on being called disorganized.
The Art of Scripting
To tie all of this together we’re going to examine one final technique which we refer to as scripting. Scripting is an assertive technique used to view a problem as if it were a scene from a play. The DESC script was developed by Sharon and Gordon Bower and is discussed more fully in their book — Asserting Yourself . DESC stands for Describe, Express, Specify, and Consequences.
- Explanation – Explain the situation as you see it.
- Feelings – Acknowledge your own feelings & empathize with the other people’s
- Needs – Outline what you want. Be realistic, be fair, and be prepared to compromise
- Consequences – What will happen as a result?
EXPLANATION: Tell the other person how you see the situation.
“Mary, production has overspent by 30% this month and you didn’t give me any indication that this was happening. I didn’t account for, or prepare for this massive overspend.”
FEELINGS: Describe how you feel about express your emotions clearly.
“This makes me feel frustrated as I feel that you don’t understand how important it is to have financial controls in place or the severity of going too far over budget.”
NEEDS: Tell the other person what you need so they don’t have to guess.
“I need you to be fully honest with me and to let me know when production is going over budget. In this way we can make contingency plans and be prepared
CONSEQUENCES: Describe the positive outcome if your needs are fulfilled.
“I am always here to help and will in whatever way I can, if we overspend I’ll account for it but I have to know. If we work together with trust and honesty, we will be able to turn this around and make sure that we’re working as efficiently as possible.”
This is an example of scripting in action and is particularly useful if you’re worrying about a certain situation. By using the DESC scripting method, you can prepare yourself in advance for multiple situations. This makes you feel much more in control and allows you to address the issue at hand.
Be Mindful of Negative Situations
Along with all the positives of assertive behavior, it’s important to be mindful of some negative situations.
For example, some people won’t like this type of communication as they are not used to it. Others will not like that you assert yourself when they prefer to be the dominant party. Others still might not like the issues you bring to the fore or observations you make about them.
If you are being fair and respecting the other person’s viewpoint, you might not always get what you want. This is part of assertiveness. Remember it is the aggressive personality who insists on getting what they want all the time.
Sometimes, you will discover that a long-term belief or viewpoint you held is in fact wrong. This is seen as a disadvantage but it is also a strong positive.
The people who admit that they were wrong and are comfortable with reassessing their own beliefs, are the people who are being assertive in the correct way. On occasion, the onset of your new assertive behavior may be perceived as aggression by others.
Stick with it, they are just not used to this version of you, or maybe feeling aggrieved that they’re no longer able to assert their dominance over you.
There’s no guarantee of success by approaching a situation in an assertive manner, it does depend on the person or situation you’re dealing with. However, implementing the techniques in this article will give you the best chance of success and will also allow you to feel you tried everything you could to make a difference.
 Your Perfect Right: A Guide to Assertive Behavior | Robert E. Alberti, Michael L. Emmons
 Asserting Yourself | Sharon Anthony Bower