For many people the fear of upsetting or disappointing colleagues and friends means that they avoid saying what they really think, in case it’s not what the other person wants to hear.
If this is you, then remember that by not being assertive you are not only being unfair on yourself but you’re also allowing the other person to believe that their thoughts or ideas are okay with you.
This is a situation that can only result in frustration and resentment for both of you.
A study by researchers at Columbia University put volunteers in a confrontational situation and measured their level of aggression. 57% of those who thought they they were being assertive were actually measured as under assertive and many of the people who were assessed as assertive thought they were being aggressive.
So what does that mean?
It suggests that we fear that speaking up will come across as aggressive. Instead we should be concerned about not being assertive enough.
So how should you behave?
When you have a situation where you feel you want to speak up but are nervous, use these 3 suggestions:
It’s just a conversation. Instead of seeing it as a conflict, approach it as a conversation. Whether you disagree with a colleague or are upset by a friend, it’s about resolving the problem by communication. Start by asking questions to ensure you understand the facts, as you would in any conversation and then calmly state how you feel.
Don’t be defensive. If you feel you or your work is being criticised or not appreciated it can be natural to jump in and defend yourself. However your tone and body language may come across as cold and unfriendly. Instead take a moment before going full steam ahead, breathe and focus on coming across in a kind and friendly manner.
Is it that important? There are lots of instances everyday when I’m sure you could speak up, correct or question other people. So it’s worth checking in with yourself whether the situation is worth your energy. Is there another way to resolve it or could you just let this one go?
I hope this gives you some thoughts to reflect on and ideas for when you next find yourself in a conflict situation. I’d love to hear how you get on, you can comment in the boxes below or email me here.