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Assertive Communication Skills

Authors:
  • Bogdan Voda University

Abstract and Figures

Assertive communication is the ability to speak and interact in a manner thatconsiders and respects the rights and opinions of others while also standing up for your own rights,needs and personal boundaries. Assertive communication skills create opportunities for opendiscussion with a variety of opinions, needs and choices to be respectfully heard and considered inorder to achieve a win-win solution to certain problems. It can strengthen your relationships,reducing stress from conflict and providing you with social support when facing difficult times.
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Annales Universitatis Apulensis Series Oeconomica, 12(2), 2010
649
ASSERTIVE COMMUNICATION SKILLS
Maria Daniela Pipaş
1
Mohammad Jaradat
2
ABSTRACT: Assertive communication is the ability to speak and interact in a manner that
considers and respects the rights and opinions of others while also standing up for your own rights,
needs and personal boundaries. Assertive communication skills create opportunities for open
discussion with a variety of opinions, needs and choices to be respectfully heard and considered in
order to achieve a win-win solution to certain problems. It can strengthen your relationships,
reducing stress from conflict and providing you with social support when facing difficult times.
Key words: ability, assertiveness, assertive behavior, passive behavior, aggressive behavior, submissive
communication
JEL Code : D83, M12
Introduction
People communicate with each other both verbally and nonverbally. We transmit our
thoughts and feelings through words - verbal and nonvebal through body language, tone of voice,
facial expressions, gestures and actions. It is important to have an agreement between the two forms
of communication. Studies show that when there is a discrepancy between verbal and nonverbal
message we tend to believe the second one. Starting from the two forms of communication are three
styles of communication in relationships. These styles are called passive, aggressive and assertive.
It is known that people use all three styles of communication in a conversation and when the
situation requires they address only one style.
"Assertive" is a new term, introduced somewhat abused in Romanian, with an uncertain
status of neologism which refers to an assertive person, ambitious, who wants to impose, self-
controlled.
What does it mean to be assertive?
It means you can say what you do not agree with in an elegant manner, without being
verbally aggressive, without damaging or disturbing, without being placed in a delicate position,
leaving room for discussion, but in terms that you took the freedom to "impose."
We are often at home, at work, in society, faced to relate with people who do not
communicate as we want, that don’t understand the words we say. This inability to communicate
leads to frustration, disappointment and sometimes creates a feeling of powerlessness. Form there to
shouting, to raise the tone or use harsher words, there is only one step. Those who have experienced
some kind of education may not fall into this "sin", using different ways to express dissatisfaction,
disagreement or even control the discussion. But what happens to "others"? Well, the others get to
say words that they regret later, come across to channel frustration in the form of verbal aggression,
often directed towards people nearby that are not necessarily involved directly in the events referred
to in the discussion.
What is assertiveness?
1
"Bogdan Vodă" University of Cluj-Napoca, dpipas@yahoo.com
2
"Bogdan Vodă" University of Cluj-Napoca, jaradat_hadi@yahoo.com
Annales Universitatis Apulensis Series Oeconomica, 12(2), 2010
650
Assertiveness is the ability to represent to the world what you really are, to express what you
feel, when you feel it necessary. It is the ability to express your feelings and your rights, respecting
the feelings and rights of others. Those who have mastered assertiveness are able to reduce
interpersonal conflicts in their lives, thus removing a major source of stress for many of us.
Assertive behavior demonstrates respect for self and others, promotes self-disclosure, self-
control and positive appreciation of self-worth.
Assertiveness is the most effective way of solving interpersonal problems. Direct
communication, openness and honesty allow you to receive messages without distortion, which
maintains relations with others.
Understandings of assertiveness
Lazarus (1973) was the first to identify specific classes of responses in which assertive
behavior can be defined: "the ability to say no, the ability to ask favors or make requests, ability to
express positive and negative feelings, the ability to initiate, continue and finish a general
conversation."
Smith (1975) analysis assertive behavior as a fundamental right of every individual. His
concept of freedom has taken a much more extensive liberty than the social-democratic philosophy
had: "You have the right to judge your own behavior, thoughts and emotions, to have responsibility
for taking behaviors and their consequences."
Lange and Jacubowski (1976) claimed that "assertiveness involves personal rights and
expressing thoughts, feelings and beliefs directly, honestly and appropriately, without violating the
rights of others".
The most successful definition of this category is made by Rimm and Masters (1979):
"Assertive behavior is an interpersonal behavior involving relatively honest and direct expression of
thoughts and feelings that are socially appropriate and take into account the feelings and welfare of
other people”.
Some definitions are attached to the emotional exposure as a key. Wolfe (1982)
conceptualizes assertiveness as "expressing any emotion other than a person's anxiety."
Lowrence (1997) extends the concept of assertiveness to "learning ability to adapt behavior
to interpersonal situation on demands so that positive consequences are best and negative one -
minimum."
Assertive style
Assertive communication style is a combination of passive and aggressive style. This style
also requires fairness and power. This characterizes people fighting for their rights but assertive
while remaining sensitive to the rights of others and so the fight for what they deserve will not harm
anyone. This are people that are relaxed and talk openly about their feelings.
Assertive style of communication requires a balance between what these people want and
what others want. The basis of this communication style is open attitude towards oneself and others,
and hearing other points of view and respect for others. This communication style is best suited for
a good long term relationship. Studies show that people who deal in an assertive style of
communication are able to reach an emotional welfare. This communication style allows you to
argue your opinion without being aggressive and not feel humiliated.
Components of assertiveness
The concept of assertiveness was introduced by experts in behavioral therapy, assertiveness
claiming to inhibit anxiety and reduce depression. It points out that assertive behavior leads to
improved self-image.
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651
After Lazarus, assertiveness involves four elements:
1. rejecting demands;
2. request favors and making calls;
3. positive and negative feelings;
4. initiation, continuation and conclusion of a general conversation.
They constituted cognitive component involving a certain way of thinking.
The behavioral component of assertiveness includes a series of non-verbal elements such as:
1. Eye contact: an assertive person will look their interlocutor in the eye. Lack of
eye contact can send unwanted messages, such as: "I'm not sure what to say" or "I am very afraid";
2. Tone of voice: even the most assertive message will lose its significance if it is
expressed with a hushed voice (this will give the impression of uncertainty) or too hard, which
could activate depressive behavior on the interlocutor;
3. Stance: assertive posture of a person varies from situation to situation. However,
it is estimated that in most cases, the subject must stand right: not too stiff, because it expresses a
state of tension, not too relaxed, because others could interpret such a position as disrespectful.
4. Facial expressions: for the message to be assertive naturally, mimicry must be
appropriate and congruent with the message content. Otherwise, for example, if someone smiles
when he says that something bothers him, the party offers ambiguous information, which alters the
meaning of communication.
5. Timing the message: the most effective assertive message loses meaning when
taken in the wrong time. Thus, for example, no boss will respond favorably to a request for wage
increase, no matter how well made is that made, if an employee approaches you when preparing to
appear before a committee of the company's control.
6. Content: even if all other conditions are met, the message does not achieve its
purpose if it is too aggressive, with the intention of blaming the other or, conversely, expressed in a
very shy and passive way. The content of an assertive message should be narrowly, descriptive and
direct. The concept of assertiveness, relatively new in the Romanian society is "imported" from the
Americans and it means, in principle, to say "no" without feeling guilty. More articulate, assertive
communication is when you say what you want to say, firmly, spontaneous, honest and direct,
keeping your dignity and rights and at the same time, not insulting the other - so without attack him
as a person, but referring strictly to his behavior.
Assertiveness is not a natural behavior, we are born with. People behave and communicate
in relation to the two primary reactions - to flee or fight - submissive or aggressive. "Naturally, we
behave and communicate submissive or aggressive, assertiveness is a way of communication that
constitutes a behavior and is educated - so a skill that must be known and then practiced”. If we put
on a scale of two extremes - submissive and aggressive - assertive behavior is not as we expect, in
the middle.
Assertive behavior is much closer to the aggressive one, but aggressive behavior is different
in the fact that it does not infringe the rights and freedoms of others. Also it analyzes the behavior
of others and not their person.
For example, a manager who enters the office and tells his people: "I am unhappy that you
have not reached the targets that we have established. What happened?" behaves assertively, and a
manager who says: "Normally. I am not in a day and no one does one thing. Idiots!" has an
aggressive behavior.
People whose natural behavior is submissive are those who succeed are the hardest to
communicate assertively, because they are afraid all the time and don’t have the courage to address
a communication so far (close to the other end of the scale) and contrary to their behavior natural
settings. If they are the kind of employees that, when they are burdened with additional tasks, say
each time: "Well, I will do this too" or "I'm sorry I could not finish everything", will be very
Annales Universitatis Apulensis Series Oeconomica, 12(2), 2010
652
difficult to tell their boss: "Look, this report must be done by someone else and you gave it to me. I
have accomplished my tasks that I have under the job description. It is the fifth time you give me
reports that are not what I have to do. If not part of my duties, why do you still argue with me? ".
"Most people are aggressive or submissive, few are assertive," said Dorin Dancu, noting:
"Unfortunately, we see looking around us - in Romania at least - that many people fail to
communicate assertively. And to the assertiveness is a long way. "
An assertive communication means, first, to know what your needs are and how to get
them. Therefore, a communication objective is to win, but to solve problems and to have maximum
results. In terms of social or professional relationships, assertive communication is the middle way
and involves:
request of own rights;
denial of tasks in a simple, direct manner.
Assertiveness is a compromise between a passive communication, where you agree with
everything your caller says, and an aggressive one, when counter any reply and have desire to
impose.
An assertive communication is an effective adaptation to conflicting situations. In any
organization, communication is improved if there is an open, non-aggression or malice dialog.
Assertiveness includes:
Being able to express your opinions and viewpoints
To be able to say no without feeling guilty.
To be able to ask for what you want
To choose how to live your life without feeling guilt about it
Being able to take risks when you feel the need
If you feel you lack one or more of the above points, then you may have trouble expressing
yourself to the world and to show who you really are.
Very often, you may be afraid to be assertive so as not to disturb anyone or to draw
something bad in your life, if you say what you think. Have you ever thought:
"I can not say no, because you think I'm selfish."
"I do not want to make scenes at work."
"I am not allowed to say what I feel."
"I do not want to offend anyone or anyone to piss me off."
"If I express my point of view, others will not like me."
Some people confuse assertiveness with aggression, considering that both behaviors imply
to express your needs and your rights. The major difference between them is the respect for other
people that you meet in the assertive style. They respect themselves and others and always think in
terms of "win-win."
Aggressive people use tactics of manipulation, abuse and have no respect for others. The
think negative about others and do not take into account the views of others. Most often, the create
free conflicts.
Passive people don’t know how to communicate their feelings and needs. The fear of
conflict so much that they prefer to hide their true feelings and needs, to maintain peace with others.
The let others always come out winners in any conflict and this leads to total loss of self esteem.
Assertiveness affect almost all facets of life. People who acquire this skill have less conflict,
less stress, therefore, they meet their needs and help others to meet theirs as wall, and also have
strong relationships that they can rely on. All these lead to a better mental state and a substantially
improved health.
Discover your problems
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To manage to change your non-assertive behavior, you must first recognize the problem.
Remember a few situations where you felt that you needed to say what you think, but you feel that
you can not, or when you wanted from the heart to say “no” and you said "yes" in the latter, or
when you did not say anything while you were ridiculed by someone.
Do you have trouble in accepting constructive criticism?
You are often in a position to say "yes" to requests that you want to say "no", just to not
disappoint others?
Do you have trouble expressing differences of opinion over others?
When you do not agree with the others and say that, strange reactions arouse your way
through communications?
You feel attacked when someone has a different view from yours?
Answering these questions will help you understand when and why these problems of
assertiveness occur. It could be about a shyness in front of the opposite sex, or you may feel
intimidated by authority figures.
Build mental scenarios
Mental practice different scenarios in which you have an assertive speech. If you have not
done that, it might take some time, but when you start to practice often it will become second nature
to you. Here are some tips to keep in mind when practicing how to be assertive:
Stay focused on the subject matter and do not complicate things.
Be polite but firm with that person.
Listen to what that person says, but remain calm
Look in the eyes of the person, but do not stare (look at his left eye, and then the
right at then at the mouth)
Do not apologize if it is not necessary
Highlight other person's behavior
One thing that works when we have a confrontation with someone is trying to emphasize the
disturbing behavior of other people, for example to say: "Why raise your voice at me?". The
question will be confusing at the moment and it will make him/her lose the thread of thought and to
think about his/hers actions. Some people just do not realize when they become aggressive in
conversation, and this is a great way to take control in a situation like this.
Five simple steps to assertive behavior
1. When you approach someone about a behavior change that you want to see in that
person, make reference to factual descriptions of the thing that has upset you, and do not affix
labels or value judgments. Example: Your friend has delayed 20 minutes when you had to meet to
discuss something important. Do not tell him: "You are such an asshole, always late!" But tell him:
"We were supposed to meet at 17.30, now it's 17:50 p.m.”
2. The same thing is true when describing the effects of behavior. Do not exaggerate and
do not judge, just describe! Do not say “You ruined my hole night”, but said: "We have less time
available to discuss the issue, because to 18.30 I planned something else."
3. Use the word "I". You'll succeed as to focus on what you feel and how you are affected
by the behavior of others. If you start with "You", that phrase would be perceived as an attack and
the other will maintain the conflict. Do not say: "You must stop!" but, "I would feel better if you did
not do that."
4. Here's a formula for success in assertive communication: "When you [the other's
behavior], I feel [my feelings]." "When you scream, I feel attacked."
5. A slightly more comprehensive formula for such situations is: “When you [the other's
behavior], then [the result of conduct], and I feel [my feelings]. " "When you tell the children they
Annales Universitatis Apulensis Series Oeconomica, 12(2), 2010
654
can do something I've banned them, then my parent's authority is affected and I feel discredited
before them. "
Figure no.1 – The right to assertiveness
( reproduction after www.rauflorin.ro)
Assertiveness does not exist! Says Andy Szekely's trainer
The concept is actually an "American gimmicks" which refers to the courage to call spade in
a manner respectful of others.
Annales Universitatis Apulensis Series Oeconomica, 12(2), 2010
655
Assertiveness does not exist because it is actually a very abstract concept that does not mean
almost anything until you see two people who communicate assertively with each other. So,
assertiveness is not a thing but a process. It is an object of study as soon as a matter of practice.
Being assertive is to communicate authentically and effectively, while building real long-
term relationship.
One way to be contrasted with the assertiveness is aggression. I mean, to say what you want
to say without caring about the reaction of the other, dominating him mentally, emotionally and
sometimes physically.
Therefore, assertiveness is an important condition of your internal state - the way you feel
when you have an assertive behavior against somebody. It is best to choose the moments when you
feel a very good inner balance. If you have hard feelings or emotions to the person it is better to
wait a little before exposing an assertive behavior.
As a method, one can practice assertive behavior in 7 steps, as it is described as the acronym
below.
Attention
Capture attention in a way that is of interest to listen to each other. In this way you have
wide open space to negotiate and avoid rejection reaction that can occur even when you tell the
other that you want to "give a feedback”. Most people hate to receive unsolicited feedback, but
accept it because it is "politically correct".
Situation
Describe the situation briefly. Specify when, where and under what conditions the
interaction occurs. Be brief and specific.
Emotion
Tell yourself what is for the emotional impact of the situation. Be also very concise.
Reaction
Explain the behavioral response as a result of the emotion you feel. Make reference to the
consequences of emotion felt.
Test
Test your level of concern of the party by offering them a solution that you think or asking
his opinion. Do not start with the idea that your solution is the only right one. fact, if the solution
comes from him, he is more likely to put into practice, according to persuasion law called the law of
consistency.
Involvement
Get involved with the other in finding a method for monitoring the progress of the new
behavior. Ask him what he could do because it requires that the new behavior to be easily
reproducible, and to give you feedback to help more further.
Valorization
Thank the interlocutor for listening and that he is willing to accept the new terms. Show him
that for your relationship with him is valuable and important.
Conclusions
Assertiveness is a useful communications tool. Its application is contextual and appropriate
in all situations. Using sudden assertiveness may be perceived as an act of aggression by others.
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656
There is also no guarantee of success, even when you use assertive communication styles
appropriately.
Both in literature of specialty and in the literature usual, the term of assertive behavior was
faced with what we understand by the term "aggression" and "passivity." Assertive behavior is often
considered an opponent of aggressive behavior and passivity is not clearly delineated by
assertiveness. Thus, cognitive-behavioral professionals need support in a first phase of restructuring
the way of thinking, through combating negative thoughts, dysfunctional or underlying lack of
confidence in the ability to express their views. That simply means that human exposure to what
assertive behavior is & the examples of behavior will not be available to get from a pattern of
behavioral change.
References
1. Brehm Sharon S. Kassin Saul M., 2008. Social Psychology, Fifth Edition, Indiana
University Bloomington,Williams College Steven Fein, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston
U.S.A.
2. Coman Alina, 2004. Comunicarea empatică în rezolvarea conflictelor: semnalele
nonverbale în: Septimiu CHELCEA (coord.). Comunicarea nonverbală în spaţiul public.
Bucureşti: Editura Tritonic, p.167-184.
3. Coman Alina, 2008. Tehnici de comunicare. Proceduri şi mecanisme psihosociale.
Bucureşti, Editura C.H.Beck.
4. Nelson-Jones, Richard, 1996. Relating Skills. Redwood Books, Trowbridge, Wiltshire.
5. Pease Allan, Garner Alan, 1999. Limbajul vorbirii. Arta conversaţiei. Bucureşti: Editura
Polimark
6. Perlow Leslie, 2003. When You Say Yes But Mean No: How Silencing Conflict Wrecks
Relationships and Companies …and What You Can Do About It. New York: Crown
Business.
7. http://www.andyszekely.ro/blog/comunica-asertiv-nu-agresiv
8. http://www.tmi.ro/despre-tmi/consultanti/dorin-dancu.html
9. http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Lee_Hopkins Assertive Communication - 6 Tips For
Effective Use, By Lee Hopkins.
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Since the European Commission launched the Circular Economy Package in December 2015 named “Closing the loop: EU Action Plan for the Circular Economy”, many changes are expected both in European Union economy as well as in the Member States’ national economies. Due to new Package, a transposition of legislation is required as well as adjusting the business climate and citizens’ habits in order to fully implement the Package and experience the benefits of Circular Economy in Europe. The transition to a new economy pattern Commission perceived as essential due to new economic, global and environmental challenges. Assessing the waste management, the data showed that some member states already recycle almost 80 % of waste, while others are far away from achieving the Europe 2020 Strategy goals, including Croatia. The Circular Economy Package is nowadays part of EU Green Deal, one of the highest ranked strategic documents, which emphasizes the need for efficient use of resources by transition to the clean circular economy approach as well as to renew the biodiversity and to decrease the pollution. The authors analyse legislative framework and trends in green economy, with special attention on Croatia, and Primorje-Gorski Kotar county. This paper emphasizes the significance of the Circular Economy and its benefits and present the policy implementation capacities on the national and regional level to implement the circular approach to economic process.
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Brands are increasingly embracing social activism and adopting positions on controversial issues, prompting some consumers to react by making uncivil comments on social media. How should brands reply to such incivility while maintaining their positions and protecting their reputations? Two common types of reply include either a sarcastic or an assertive tone, but the effects of these types of communication on consumers’ attitudes toward brands remain largely unexplored. Results from a series of five studies exploring different causes (LGBT+ phobia, sexism, and racial equity) show that consumers evaluate brands that reply using an assertive tone more favorably than those using a sarcastic tone, which can be partially explained by the perceived aggressiveness of sarcasm. Additionally, support for a brand's stance acts as a boundary condition on the effect the type of reply adopted by the brand has on consumer attitudes toward the brand. So, the more someone supports a brand's stance, the less their perception of aggressiveness will negatively influence their attitude to that brand. We discuss the implications of these findings for marketing theory and practice.
Research Proposal
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Practice assertive communication for one week at your place of work/ home. Write a reflective analysis of your experience. (750 Words Document)
Article
Background Nursing students experience notable challenges when communicating with patients, caregivers, and health-care providers during clinical training; this adds to the stress they experience from clinical training and deteriorates their clinical competence. Objectives The aims of this study are to develop and assess a practical program for improving communication skills, clinical practice stress, and clinical competence among nursing students undergoing clinical training. This is performed by administering and evaluating the respective effects of an assertiveness-training program; a program based on the situation, background, assessment, and recommendation (SBAR) technique and a program that combines assertiveness training with the SBAR technique. Design This study used a non-equivalent, quasi-experimental pretest-posttest design. Settings This study was conducted at the nursing schools of two universities in the north and west of South Korea. Participants Ninety-three third-year nursing students were recruited through convenience sampling from two universities in South Korea. Methods The participants were randomly allocated to a group that received assertiveness training only, a group that received the SBAR technique only, or a group that received a combination of assertiveness training and the SBAR technique. Each program featured four sessions of 60–70 min each. Communication competence, communication clarity, assertive behavior, clinical training stress, and clinical competence were measured. Results The group that received the combination of assertiveness training and the SBAR technique showed a significant improvement in communication clarity, a significant reduction in clinical training stress compared to both of the other groups, and improved clinical competence when compared to the group that received the SBAR technique only. Conclusions A program that combines the SBAR technique with assertiveness training can be utilized to improve communication skills, reduce clinical training stress, and enhance clinical competence in nursing students.
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When You Say Yes But Mean No: How Silencing Conflict Wrecks Relationships and Companies …and What You Can Do About It
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Tehnici de comunicare. Proceduri şi mecanisme psihosociale
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Coman Alina, 2008. Tehnici de comunicare. Proceduri şi mecanisme psihosociale. Bucureşti, Editura C.H.Beck.
Social Psychology, Fifth Edition
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