Assertiveness is one of those things everyone has heard about but no-one can easily define. We are often told to be more assertive as but what exactly does this mean? What are we supposed to do more of? How assertive are we right now? I have mentioned assertiveness quite a few times in recent articles but what is it and do you even need it?
Your level of assertiveness and comfort when being assertive can have a big effect on your overall management and leadership style. Becoming more effective as a manager is incredibly important in today’s working environment.
The way we interact with and communicate with others, to try to gain what we want or get our ideas across, is known as our influencing style.
There are many on-line self-evaluation questionnaires available. If you want to find out your current level of assertiveness, or your preferred interpersonal or influencing style, then feel free to try them out. As with most things in life, there can be good or bad and free or paid for and only you can decide which way to go.
There are four main classifications of influencing style:
- Manipulative-aggressive (aka passive-aggressive)
Passive is a type characterised by an “I must lose and you must win” attitude.
Hostile aggressive is an influencing style characterised by an “I must win and you must lose” mentality.
The last influencing style listed is termed manipulative-aggressive or passive-aggressive. This type is characterised by an “I must lose so you must lose” mindset.
All of these styles are on a continuum or spectrum. We all exhibit the different traits in different degrees at various times in our lives. Categories are useful but in the real world people are not so easily defined. Over the long-term it is likely we will favour one style over the others. If you are not sure, ask your trusted colleagues and they will tell you what style they think you prefer and exhibit most. It may shock you.
By and large, most of us choose to adopt the passive stance whenever possible, especially at work. You know the old “anything for a quiet life” and “why rock the boat” approach. Does the saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” sound familiar?
If you are going to be a better manager then you need to be as assertive as possible. You therefore need to know what assertiveness actually is so I had better start by defining it.
For our purposes I am sure we can all reasonably agree assertiveness involves being completely clear and open about how one feels, what one needs and how it can be fairly achieved. This requires assertive communication skills, assertive body language and confidence. It requires the ability to communicate calmly without attacking or yielding unnecessarily to another person.
Assertive people understand and believe they have a number of rights. They have an expectation to certain things and ways of being treated in their work. These rights and expectations come with a responsibility. Assertive people know they have to accord other people the same rights and expectations. So this idea of assertiveness adheres to a win-win approach to life. Adopt an “I get what I want and you get what you want” approach and everyone is happy.
It all sounds simple. Why are we not all doing more of it?
We should be. Learning to be more assertive will help us to express our thoughts and feelings freely. It will allow us to speak up and defend ourselves. It will allow us to know and stand up for our rights and negotiate reasonably. It will allow us to control our emotions more effectively during periods of interpersonal conflict. It also applies when we have to manage difficult people. Being assertive will help us be better managers and leaders.
Assertively managing difficult personality types at work can be something of a nightmare for many line managers and supervisors. Some managers seem to have the amazing knack of effectively and confidently with the difficult personality types they encounter. If they can do it why can’t you?
To get the low-down on assertively and effectively managing these and many more difficult personality types why not check out one of my latest books “Assertively Managing Difficult People” by Andrew D. Pope.
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