Assertive communication became an issue at work in the mid-1970s, and has never gone out of fashion. It quickly became recognised as an invaluable communication skill in the workplace, and one that is relevant to all.
Assertiveness is not about ‘winning’ or achieving something at the expense of anyone else. It is a matter of communicating clearly and effectively. In fact, an assertive approach often leads to success because points that are clearly stated are understood, and thus have a greater chance of being acted upon. Even where it ‘fails’ and the assertive communicator does not get what they want, dignity is retained, so that the other person or situation can be faced again.
Assertiveness is a positive communication style, forward-looking, problem-solving and based on negotiation. It recognises that both, or all parties in any situation have needs, rights and responsibilities, and it helps move the situation towards the best outcome.
Some people are born assertive – naturally confident communicators with sensitivity towards others. Others have to learn the skills, some finding it easy, some taking more time. Everyone’s assertiveness varies according to the situation they are in, the personalities they face, and their current mood. Most people will display non-assertive, aggressive and assertive behaviour, maybe in the space of a few hours.
‘Difficult to manage relationships sabotage more business than anything else – it is not a question of strategy that get us into trouble; it is a question of emotions.’
John Kotter, Harvard Business School