Assertive communication techniques are very effective resources to avoid bad moments, and they also help you to become a more pleasant and empathetic person with other people with whom you live at home or at work. do you want to improve your social relationships? Then these are the tools that will be useful for you to do so.
It is likely that at some point you have had unnecessary arguments or problems for not making yourself understood, since most misunderstandings tend to grow because of poor communication skills.
Assertive communication involves much more than “talking nicely” or having a passive attitude in a discussion. It encompasses those expressions that allow you to transmit, in a much more effective way, any type of message in different circumstances, whether in your academic, work or personal life.
The characteristics of an assertive person generate healthy environments, thanks to their ability to connect with other people and know how to manage all kinds of situations that may be uncomfortable or difficult to cope with.
For that reason, in today’s article, we will talk about each of the assertive communication techniques and how to use them to create a good climate, both in the workplace and in your interpersonal relationships.
You can’t miss it, so go get pencil and paper, we are about to start!
1. Active listening technique
It must be understood that, really, without having a mutual interaction there is no communication. It is for that reason that it is necessary to learn active listening to avoid or solve any kind of conflict.
This technique for assertive communication involves being empathetic and being aware of how the other person feels at the moment. Now, how to apply this technique in daily life?
Most misunderstandings arise from ignoring the requests or suggestions that the other person asks for. Identifying and accepting our emotions is indispensable for establishing good relationships with others.
But let’s take it one step at a time! To access this assertive communication technique, the first thing is:
Correctly identify how you feel. Usually, when we experience negative situations we tend to confuse similar emotions, such as anger and sadness.
Once you are able to determine how you feel and what made you feel that way, you must move on to acceptance.
It is not bad to feel bad from time to time and even more so when there is a clear cause. People have every right to feel and experience any emotion, and this will not only help you, but also improve your social relationships. in what way? If you identify your emotions you will be able to communicate them clearly and avoid unnecessary conflicts.
Here are some examples of assertive communication to better understand the technique:
“I feel very frustrated because of the discussion I had with my boss in the morning (identification of the emotion), for that reason today I don’t feel like going out with you (acceptance of the emotion), excuse me”.
“I feel very angry about what you said to me (identification of emotion), so I really don’t want to keep talking to you right now (acceptance of emotion).”
2. Subtle rejection technique
If you consider yourself a passive person who finds it impossible to refuse requests from others, then this technique is for you. While all assertive communication techniques are aimed at improving social relationships, there are times when we really don’t feel like making conversation or doing favors.
That’s why, in this section, you will learn the subtle rejection technique. Let’s take a typical situation:
Imagine you’re strolling through a shopping mall and a nice store worker approaches you to offer extra discounts if you sign up for her catalog. It is worth noting that the worker has a smile on her face the whole time and speaks to you in a very friendly manner.
what usually happens most of the time? simple! Not knowing how to refuse a request (even more so if the person who did it was nice), they end up accepting promotions or extra charges on their purchases that they really didn’t want.
Below, we’ll show you some ways to subtly decline requests without being rude.
“Thank you for the offer, however at this time I am not interested in signing up for your catalog.”
“I’m a little busy at the moment, sorry”.
“Thank you very much for your attention, but for the moment I am fine with my purchase.”
As you can see, the idea is to highlight the positive aspects of the request and then make the person understand that you cannot help them for the moment. These assertive communication techniques will generate that the receiver of the message does not perceive it as a rejection, but rather as a momentary indisposition.
3. Clarification technique
Be direct and clear when expressing disagreement. Something very typical that usually happens in a discussion is that both parties are not clear about what they want to improve. That is why among the assertive communication techniques we will see today is the clarification technique.
it is a way of organizing our ideas to transmit them clearly to the other person. Below, with an example of assertive communication, this method will be better understood:
Person: “I hope you have time today to finish the balance sheet and not spend all your time chatting outside the office”.
As you can see, in this case, it is very difficult to identify whether what is bothering the person at the moment is that you do not have time to complete the balance sheet or that you spend more time than usual out of the office. There are many such cases and, precisely, to help you solve these situations, you have these assertive communication techniques.
A good example in which we are clear about what we are uncomfortable with and what we hope to get in the future would be:
Person: “Actually, the time you spend in the office could be used to do the balance sheet and other more productive tasks”.
4. Other people’s change technique
The technique of change is applied when, for some specific reason, you want another person to change or improve an attitude that makes you uncomfortable. It is not enough just to say that you do not tolerate it, since that can be understood as a personal attack that will create another unnecessary conflict.
To apply this technique for assertive communication, you must comply with the following procedure:
First, you will have to assume the existing problem.
Then, identify which behavior you would like to change by being clear about the specific reasons.
Finally, make the request explicit using the clarification technique.
An example to understand how to make such an order would be:
“Jorge, it bothers me that you listen to loud music at this hour. I really need to study and the noise does not allow me to concentrate. could you please choose another time to play music on the speaker or, in any case, lower the volume?”
5. Record-scratching technique
One of the best assertive communication techniques is called the broken record. As its name suggests, this technique consists of repeating a statement several times within a sentence without changing the tone and intensity of the message.
It is used in order to be persistent in an argument or make a request, trying to be respectful and without the need to use aggressive language. It is important that when implementing this assertive communication technique you can vary the words and use synonyms, as long as you emphasize your main argument.
Let’s see an example:
You: “Hello neighbor. can you turn down the music a little? I can’t concentrate very well while I’m working”.
Neighbor: “So I can’t play music?”
You: “Of course you can play music whenever you want. I’m just asking you to please turn the music down so I can work more quietly.”
Neighbor: “I understand. Then I’ll turn the music down.”
When implementing this assertive communication technique, it is essential that you keep the following points in mind:
No matter how irritable a situation may seem to you, it is essential that you remain calm and use respectful words.
If the person answers you in an offensive way, it is best to continue using polite language to avoid any kind of inconvenience.
As we saw in the example, try to add other nuances to the phrase you use as many times as necessary, but always give relevance to your main idea.
6. Assertive agreement technique
how do you react when you know you have made a mistake? Although many do not agree, criticism is necessary to improve and not keep making the same mistakes. It is also true that not all people know how to express their criticisms in the best possible way; however, it is up to us to learn to accept them in an assertive way.
The technique of assertive agreement consists of recognizing that you have failed in something when you are criticized or complained about. However, keep in mind that this assertive communication technique can be applied in two ways:
By generalizing an unusual behavior
When a person generalizes some behavior on your part that is unusual for you. In this case you must recognize the mistake, but you must point out that it does not always happen in the same way.
Let’s see an example that you can implement in your work to balance your emotional intelligence.
Person: “Why don’t you ever answer my emails?”
You: “You are right in saying that I didn’t answer the email you sent just now, but it was because I was… (include reason). Keep in mind that at other times I always give priority to what you write to me.”
The fact that a person tends to generalize our behavior may cause some discomfort. Nevertheless, the important thing in this assertive communication technique is to remain calm and let the person know that our behavior does not always occur in the same way.
By recognizing a mistake
The other way to apply this assertive communication technique is when recognizing a punctual mistake, but informing the other person that it will not be repeated.
You: “I forgot to perform what you asked me to do, but rest assured it won’t happen again.”
Nothing calms our mind more than recognizing a mistake we made. Therefore, you must accept your mistake and tell the other person that it will not happen again, just to give him/her security and peace of mind.
7. Assertive question technique
This assertive communication technique goes hand in hand with the assertive agreement technique, as both deal with how to respond to criticism.
When a negative comment is made to you, the assertive question technique consists of responding to that criticism with a question, so that the person can expand their argument and you can have an opportunity to improve. It is one of the assertive communication techniques that can be useful both in your work and professional life, and it is a very good option to avoid getting into some kind of conflict when someone did not agree with your behavior.
Here are a couple of examples:
1) Person: I received your reports but they are all poorly written.
You: How do you think I can improve them?
2) Person: Your way of answering me was not the best.
You: What do you think could have been a better answer?
how to use the assertive agreement technique? Simple, start by keeping in mind that we all have different perceptions, and what may be insignificant to you may be important to someone else.
Therefore, never take a defensive position. Dig into what bothered that person and try to come to terms with it.
Beyond receiving a comment as a criticism, take it as a way to evaluate what you are doing wrong in order to improve as a person.
8. Postponement technique
As its name suggests, this assertive communication technique consists of postponing your response when a comment, suggestion or criticism is made to you. It is implemented when you don’t have the right answer or when you need time to formulate it.
You can also use this assertive communication technique when you are in the middle of an argument that does not allow you to think clearly. Something very common in arguments is to act impulsively, which usually increases the consequences of the problem.
This is one of the assertive communication techniques that will prevent you from prolonging an argument and avoid words that may hurt the other person.
Here is an example:
Person: Why did you behave that way?
You: I prefer to explain it to you when we are calmer.
Use this assertive communication technique when you feel that, due to the tension of the moment, you could hurt the other person. This strategy is often used in arguments, so we recommend that you always remain calm and use a tone of voice that conveys tranquility.
9. Fog bank technique
The fog bank is an assertive communication technique that consists of agreeing with a person, but not completely. During a conversation, it is normal for two people to have different points of view and, for this reason, a discussion may arise.
To avoid a conflict, this communication strategy can help you to make the other person understand that you do not agree with their position and, consequently, give your point of view.
However, you must be very careful with the tone you use in this assertive communication technique, because the other person may feel that his or her position is irrelevant or inappropriate for you.
Here are a couple of examples:
1) Person: … and that’s how I feel about the subject.
You: You may be right, but my point of view is that….
2) Person: How can you disagree with me?
You: I understand your point of view, but my point of view is that…..
This assertive communication technique is used to refute an idea. However, it is essential that the tone of voice you use is as calm as possible to avoid any misunderstandings.
Try to implement a listening position towards the other person. Let them know that you understand, but also communicate your disagreement without resorting to egocentric language. Applying the technique of active listening can be very useful.
10. Technique for change
The technique for change is an assertive communication technique ideal for alleviating conflict.
If you are arguing with someone about something very specific and the conversation is becoming increasingly tense, this is one of the assertive communication techniques that can best help you calm the situation and postpone its solution to talk more calmly.
With this technique you will be able to have a global view of the situation in order to reduce the levels of aggressiveness.
Here is an example:
Person: We are late because of you, as usual.
You: No. We were late because you overslept.
Person: I overslept because you took too long to get out of the bathroom. how many times do I have to tell you?
You: Look, let’s not drag this discussion out. We’re getting off topic, we’re both feeling tired and we’re not getting anywhere. is this worth arguing about?
We know it’s hard to think with a cool head in the middle of an argument, but do your best to apply this assertive communication technique and avoid unnecessary conflict.
Evaluate the root of the argument and take it as a starting point. Arguments can snowball into snowballs that trigger more tensions, but if you start from the core and try to solve it as a whole, you will see great results.
11. First-person technique
Generally, one of the best assertive communication techniques that can be quite useful is to apply the first person to describe any negative impact someone’s actions may have had on you.
When you speak in the first person, you usually give your interlocutor to understand that you are absolutely responsible for what you think and feel. That is to say, you are able to acknowledge to the other person that your opinions are not the universal and absolute truth, but rather your interpretation of reality.
It is usually very effective in assertive communication, as it helps the other person to be much more receptive to what you have to say.
One way to apply this point is to use the following example. Instead of saying:
You have to fulfill your obligations.
You can say:
I would like you to fulfill your obligations.
The formula in which you should apply this assertive communication technique is as follows:
Express the other person’s action.
The consequence appreciated by you, from your own perspective.
Pose a question in which you show interest and validate the other person’s perception.
An example of the formula of this assertive communication technique can be seen in the following way:
When you speak too loudly (1) + I can tell that the rest of the team dislikes you (2) + what do you think?
12. Ignoring technique
We end this list of assertive communication techniques with the ignore technique. It is used when the person you are talking to is very upset and shows it in the way they speak.
Although its very name may give us an idea of what it means, it is not about ignoring that person, but informing him/her that it is better to continue the conversation when he/she feels calmer.
Person: “I’m sick of this situation!”
You: “You are very upset right now. We’d better talk when you’re calmer and have a willingness to dialogue.”
Try not to match the tone of the person you are talking to. This will only generate more anger for both of you and you could end up hurting each other.
Remember that this assertive communication technique is not about ignoring the other person, but about making him/her understand that his/her way of speaking is not the right one to establish a conversation. Therefore, you should be as patient as possible and use soothing language.
Tips to consider for better assertive communication
“50% of projects fail because of poor communication and leadership. The skill with the most impact on our success is how we connect with other people.”
Therefore, if you are a team leader or part of a team, you should implement assertive communication techniques so that your relationships with your co-workers become better and better and communication is much more fluid.
even with telecommuting! You can have excellent assertive remote communication if you do your part and contribute to building a good organizational climate.
Although there are procedures to promote a better work environment, getting to that point can be very complicated. Therefore, we offer you these recommendations to keep in mind to have a better performance in your workspace.
Don’t assume things and ask questions
One of the main assertive communication strategies is to avoid making assumptions, question your point of view and, instead of taking the other person’s behavior personally, ask questions about what is happening.
It is common for people to make assumptions about various situations. We tend to take things personally and this often leads to unnecessary conflict.
In a study by business theorist Chris Argyris, replicated by the Harvard Business Review website, the existence of a Ladder of Inference is posited. what is so special about this?
In the Ladder of Inference, there is a process that contains the following stages:
The creation of destructive conflict
how do you get off this ladder? With assertive communication, by executing the following steps:
Identifying the assumption.
Questioning the veracity of your assumption (as well as its usefulness).
Questioning the other through empathy and curiosity.
Invite the other to commit to a solution to the problem.
Rehearse a difficult conversation
We are aware that there are certain conversations that are more difficult to engage in than others. For this reason, one of the assertive communication techniques we recommend in this list is to practice these types of conversations.
why do you have to rehearse a conversation? Because there is the possibility of hurting some susceptibility and touching some sensitive point. So, if you apply some assertive communication strategy, you will be more likely to avoid saying something inappropriate and be more prepared about the direction the conversation may take.
If you want to learn how to rehearse a conversation, we recommend the following steps
Envision what you are going to look like
It is essential that, if you want the direction of the conversation to take the way you want it to go, you must know how you should look. Imagine yourself expressing yourself firmly and confidently, about your emotions and visualize the image.
Knowing how others perceive you will be of great help in conveying your messages in a firmer and calmer way to your interlocutor. And although the conversation may take a different direction, if you are well prepared, you will be able to get out of any situation you propose.
Write what you will say
We are not saying that you should write a speech and read it. You should just write down, on a piece of paper or on your phone, what you want to convey to the other person.
This way, you will be able to know if you are applying assertive communication techniques well or not.
Practice your talk
If you are confident enough with another person, you can practice with that person. Ideally, this individual should be able to recognize assertive communication techniques.
how important is this last point? That this person will be able to give you solid and consistent feedback on how you are expressing yourself.
One thing is to mentally visualize yourself saying what you are going to say and another is to observe yourself in front of a mirror or recording yourself. And, although it may not seem like it, this point is very useful.
This way, you will be able to know if you are conveying what you really want to say and if your body language is the most appropriate to convey your message.
For Professor Franco, it is important to start by understanding that people, by themselves, are already channels of communication. From the micro expressions, you can already give a positive or negative impression when engaging in a conversation.
These communication techniques will help you establish better structured conversations and allow the words or phrases you use to fit the tone of any conversation. This way, you are guaranteed not to go through unnecessary problems or constant misunderstandings.