Role models for assertive action
According to Le Mon (1997) there are four major components to assertiveness, as follows:
- The assertive person clearly represents what he or she is thinking and feeling.
- There is no apology for expressing emotions and thoughts.
- The assertive person refuses to be manipulated by false guilt.
- The assertive person never sacrifices others’ rights to get their own way.
(Le Mon 1997)
Assertiveness begins with the assumption that each human being is given rights that do not depend on performance or position. These are your basic human rights:
- You have the right to be human and take full responsibility for your decisions and actions.
- You have the right to be wrong.
- You have the right to tell others what you are thinking and feeling.
- You have the right to change your mind.
- You have the right to stand in judgment of your thoughts and actions.
- You have the right to express yourself without intimidation or guilt.
- You have the right not to accept responsibility for others.
There are three basic ways your body language can communicate:
Assertive body language
- At ease
- Shoulders and back are straight
- Reflects the appropriate tone of the conversation
- When hands are used for emphasis, fingers are slightly apart
- Arms and hands invite closeness
- Index finger is directed at self.
- Periodically looks away
- Makes direct eye contact (where appropriate).
Tone of voice
The tone and volume of a person's voice will also demonstrate assertiveness. The qualities of the voice should be as follows:
- Appropriate volume for setting
- Good modulation for emphasis.
Assertive tone of voice
Listen to the following audio clip of an example of an assertive tone of voice.
Text version: But the others didn't get fired, you did. How's that similar to the other jobs you lost?
Confronting conflict assertively
The following are the main principles of assertively confronting conflict:
Keep it short
Use short sentences such as ‘I hear what you said’.
Speak slowly, as your thoughts will sound much more logical.
Deepen your voice
If you feel your throat tighten during conflict, slow your speech and make an effort to relax, and you will hear a noticeable deepening of your voice.
Use a firm tone
Don’t whine or be aggressive, but remain firm and assertive, which may require practice.
An effective tool of the assertive communicator is their ability to summarise what the other person has said. By paraphrasing you show the other person you understand what has been said, and can exhibit empathy in the process.
Always describe the facts and omit the opinions.
Confirm the facts
If you are not entirely sure what the other person is saying, paraphrase and ask for confirmation.
Keep in check
- Never interrupt someone’s conversation
- Never answer for another person
- Don’t lose eye contact
- Don’t label people or ideas
- Don’t play psychologist and attempt to work out others’ problems.
Scenario to demonstrate positive ways to handle a conflict situation
As a community counsellor at the local neighbourhood centre, you have been working with a woman, Joan, who is dealing with a number of personal and relationship issues. This client also struggles with a dependence on alcohol, particularly when she is going through periods of high stress.
Joan presents for her counselling session this week in an inebriated state, and begins to behave belligerently towards you when you question her as to whether she has been ‘drinking’ today.
Discuss how you will assertively manage this situation, so that the rights and needs of both you and Joan are considered; and the client–worker relationship can be fostered and sustained.