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Assertiveness, Good Communication and Personal Development

Jul 13, 2008
At its most basic, assertive behaviour involves successfully dealing with potentially conflicting situations. It means that you can resolve conflict, or if not resolve them outright, or that you can compromise with another person or find a middle ground without either party suffering from undue consequences.

Seen from a broader perspective, however, assertiveness is also a means of personal development. Many of us usually prefer subsuming our own rights and needs just to avoid conflict. An equally good number of people would rather keep quiet and prefer to submit to the demands of loud and aggressive people because we do not like the alternative of conflict-ridden situations or outright fighting.

Good communication can diffuse potential conflict

First off, it would be helpful for you to recognize abusive, controlling or manipulative behaviour for what they are. The reason many people prefer not to assert themselves is because they are sometimes accused of overreacting. Though this can be a valid response to our expression of our own needs, this does not diminish our right to refuse.

By all means, express yourself, and express your disapproval or refusal to do something that another person asks you to, but don't shout or scream it back at the person.

Speak in a tone that is calm, cool and collected. This enables you to keep your head and gives you the space to formulate reasoned arguments just in case you might be called to account. Of course, you are not expected to justify your decisions, much less to try to explain to other people why, for instance, you are not responsible for finishing their work or perform errands for them. After all, you have responsibilities of your own.

But sometimes, being able to successfully communicate can also help to pave the way for a more meaningful and fruitful relationship with others.

How does this work? By calmly explaining to another the reason for your disagreement or refusal, you lay down your points in a non-emotional manner. Many individuals who act in an abrasive or aggressive way often do so without realizing it. By showing them that you are not simply being contrary but do have valid reasons for your actions, it can often serve as a check on their own behaviour.

It's a mild form of "walking in another person's shoes" - when the other person realizes that you have your own demands, needs, and opinions which are equally valid and important as their own needs. Many times, this can be sufficient for others to stop throwing their weight around too much.

Good communication can clarify your own values

What if it doesn't work and another person becomes even more demanding? Remember that you can only successfully control your own actions. You cannot control the actions of another person. If they choose to be angry or difficult, then let them be.

Ultimately, the greater benefit for you is the clarification of your own needs. When you express your personal values in a clear and rational manner, you gain the benefit of a good solid grasp on your own values. You define your own boundaries and your limits. This inner clarification is sometimes a greater advantage in the long run than blindly resisting the manipulative or coercive behavior of other people.
About the Author
Benedict Smythe recommends PDL Courses for training in most professional skills including assertiveness skills and Supervisory Management skills
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