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In work relationships, clear and direct communication is often the key to staying productive and avoiding conflict. It is important to learn to be assertive with your employees and colleagues, without being overly aggressive or, the opposite end of the spectrum, too passive.

Assertiveness training can teach you to express your thoughts, both positive and negative, in an honest and respectful manner, which will help reduce stress and strengthen your relationships. You may be amazed how simply learning to say “no” politely can keep your work life balanced and calm.

4 Guidelines for Assertiveness Training

1. Practice your tone.

Your words are important, but your tone of voice is even more significant. If you speak in an antagonistic voice, chances are, anything you have to say will not be well received. Instead, use an even, firm, calm tone to demonstrate that you have a friendly message to communicate. For example, if a colleague asks you to help with a project you don’t have time for, reply firmly but apologetically, “No, I’m sorry, but my schedule is packed and I won’t be able to do that” (instead of snapping in exasperation that you are too busy).

2. Focus on the facts.

If you need to talk to someone about a sensitive situation (for example, a behavior you would like him to change or actions you disapprove of), describe concrete facts without editorializing or attacking. If you are upset that an employee is regularly arriving late to work, explain to his what the problem is and what the consequences are, then ask for his side of the story. Look for compromises and solutions; for example, if he is late because he is taking his kids to school, you could discuss the possibility of him starting 30 minutes later and making up the time at the end of the day.

3. Be honest and ask for honesty.

One of the greatest challenges of assertiveness training is learning to be honest and accept honest answers in return. Be direct, pleasant and confident when delivering difficult news, using “I” messages to focus on how you feel about the situation instead of judging or attacking anyone. In a discussion, ask questions to try to understand where the other person is coming from. Listen carefully to her responses, and strive for mutual understanding in your communication.

4. Time it right.

Timing has a major impact on how receptive your audience is to your message. Find a time when you can speak in private without interruption or embarrassment. This demonstrates respect for the other person and will make him more receptive to listening to you.

What are your personal assertiveness training tips? Share them in the comments below.


For more on this topic, learn about the Employee Development Systems, Inc. Assertive Communications course.

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