Feb 07

4/21 Conflict Solutions and Practicing Assertiveness

So far in our blog, we have defined ‘assertiveness’ and discuss how this method of Conflict Solutions differs from being Passive or Aggressive.  We now want to present some practical ways of achieving this goal to better resolve Conflicts.

People often find that even if a conflict is not resolved, they feel best when they have been assertive because they have tried to find a mutually beneficial solution and have done so in a respectful way.

A.  Knowing what to Say

There are ways to express what you really want to say in ways that people are more likely to hear what you are trying to say.  Expressing how you feel and taking responsibility for your feelings rather than blaming or labelling the other people is a good foundation for healthy communication.  Some people think they need to put others down in order to be heard.

Your feelings may be an expression of affection as well as any anger or frustration you may be experiencing.  Here are some suggestions to help get your message across:

1. Be as specific and clear as possible about what you want, think, and feel.

If we are vague or tentative in our statements, we will likely be misinterpreted. Try to be as precise about what you are feeling, what you want and then some suggestion as to resolve the conflict.

2.  It is your message so try and “Own” what you want to say.

Acknowledge that your message comes from your frame of reference and your perceptions. You can acknowledge ownership with personalized (“I”) statements such as “I don’t agree with you” (as compared to “You’re wrong”). Blaming statements such as this, rather than a statement of ownership, will likely foster resentment and resistance rather than understanding and cooperation.

3. Ask for feedback and then listen carefully to the other person.

“Am I being clear?” Does that make sense? How do you see this situation? What do you want to do?”

Asking for feedback can make it clear to the other person that you are expressing an opinion, feeling, or desire rather than a demand. Listening to their feedback and engaging in a discussion can correct any misperceptions either of you have. Encourage others to be clear, direct, and specific in their feedback to you.

B.  So how can I learn to be more assertive in my conversations?

If often feels strange when you set out to be more assertive.  Here are a few hints to help you get started:

1.  Make eye contact with the person you are talking with. 

Your interest and attention to the persons will show you are sincere and want to communicate with them.  Try not to stare too intently or to shift your eye focus away too often.

2. Be aware of the physical distance and contact with the person.

Grabbing them by the hand and pulling them toward you probably indicates your overwhelming sense of gladness at seeing them.  However, this also may offend others or overpower them in your desire to talk with them.  Remember different cultures have norms about touch or closeness.

Remember your own reactions when someone stand too close or touches you when you wish them to step away?  That is a normal reaction from others if you are too close.

3.  Watch your tone of voice.

Keep your voice clear and your volume at a place others find you easy to listen to.  Think of a snowflake in the wind – too little volume and ‘push’ and it will disappear but too much force in your voice and the person will step away.

4.  Be aware of your facial expressions.

The look on your face will give away more than you know.  Frowns may show concentration or rejection.  Use a friendly smile, not a ‘wolf grin ‘or a, non-involved smirk.  Use hand and arm gestures that emphasis your message without invading their boundaries.

5.  Try and project your body posture to match your interest in their conversation.

Arms crossed or facing them sideways may show a disconnection or anger at their words.  Face them squarely, slightly leaning if intent on showing involvement in their words.  A passive, slumped body stand my imply tiredness but can be taken as disinterest.

6. Quiet spaces in the conversation usually imply disinterest.

Sometimes however, silence implies you are thinking through their statements.  Try and retain eye contact of some physical sign you are thinking so the other person doesn’t just walk away out of being bored.

7.  Time your responses to show involvement.

Use your responses as appropriate methods of showing you are listening.  Answer questions or reply to their statements with words that show interest and listening skills.

C.  Practice Reflective Listening

If you wish to engage the person in conversation, aim to hear and reply to their comments before you add your own opinions.

Personal Questions:  The first step in becoming more assertive is to take an honest look at yourself and your responses, to see where you currently stand. The answers to the following questions will help clue you in:

Do you have difficulty accepting constructive criticism?

Do you find yourself saying ‘yes’ to requests that you should really say ‘no’ to, just to avoid disappointing people?

Do you have trouble voicing a difference of opinion with others?

Do people tend to feel alienated by your communication style when you do disagree with them?

Do you feel attacked when someone has an opinion different from your own?

If you answered yes to several of these, you may benefit from learning assertiveness skills.

As you focus on making clear statements, expressing your feelings, stating what bothers you and then making a suggestion on possible changes, you will find people will listen more.  In our next post, we will continue with assertiveness and

Susanne Fengler. Blog Author

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