How to speak your mind


Organisations where assertive behaviour is practiced have higher levels of staff
morale as employees are able to freely express their needs.

On the contrary "a lack of assertiveness leads to employees feeling disgruntled,
being treated unfairly or their rights being ignored,' says Human Resources specialist,
Lizanne de Jong.

Intimidating managers can contribute to this negative work environment.
Managers who ignore employee needs or fail to listen to employee complaints will also
hinder open communication in the office.

"What makes you assertive is often seated in your personality but there are
other factors that can lead to the inability to express your rights.'

De Jong identifies a lack of self-confidence, distorted socialisation and poor
communication skills as barriers to assertive communication.

The way we handle conflict situations is one indicator of our individual
assertiveness level.

"You get people who are comfortable with conflict, and who will not avoid
conflict situations. On the other hand, there are people who will avoid conflict or
ignore the conflict in the office or team.'

It is important to establish where you fall on the assertiveness spectrum. In
getting to know your personality preferences, you gain insight in how you handle
conflict. Aggression and passivity are two extremes that should be avoided.

Some people become overly assertive and can come across as being aggressive.
Aggressiveness is when we do not consider the rights of other people, and we harm
more than help in our communication with others. Passiveness is where we don't act
at all and you can be seen as a "walk-over".

The focus is to understand yourself, manage your boundaries well and know what
you want and to ask for it in an appropriate manner, says de Jong.

Awkward conversations with colleagues or managers are common scenarios that
every professional must face at some point during their employment.

According to de Jong, when these scenario's occur the first step is to focus on
how you feel about a situation. You need to describe the situation, how it makes you
feel, what behaviour would be acceptable to you and how you will react if the
behaviour persists.

"You can learn the scripting for assertive behaviour and practise the skill. In
managing and learning your assertive behaviour, you can contribute to your team in
a more productive way. You defuse conflict easier if you act assertively, and are
treated in a way where your needs are heard and respected.'

If you are battling with aggressive people in the office you can learn how to
manage them and operate in the area where you have a choice of possible actions to

When you start acting assertively you don't get drawn into office politics, you are
able to express your wants and rights in appropriate ways and no one walks over

The biggest advantage of assertive behaviour is that you feel you have more
control in difficult situations. You gain confidence the more you use the techniques
and skills and you also become aware of the games that other people play, asserts
de Jong.

The Assertive Communication Skills for Women course is
specifically suited for women, who through their socialisation, often feel they cannot
be assertive. You will gain personal insight into your personality, your personal
conflict style and will get the opportunity to practise a new skill. Being assertive will
also empower you to stand up for your rights and you will learn that you have the
power to be heard, be treated with the necessary respect and to change the
outcome of difficult conversation or interactions with difficult people.

For more insights join the Assertive Communication Skills for Women course held by Alusani Skills and Training Network. For more information call 011 447 7470, email[email protected] or visit Alusani Skills and Training Network.

By Cindy Payle - Skills Portal