The way you act towards other people can be categorised into three types of behaviour: Passive, Aggressive and Assertive.
If you tend to act passively then you may be seeking to avoid conflict, often at the expense of your own needs.
If you tend to act aggressively, you may go to the other extreme and escalate conflict in an attempt (not always successful) to get your own needs met.
Most people would agree that usually it is best to avoid both these extremes if you can and to act assertively – to express your own needs and wants, not to hide them, but to do so in a way which is reasonable and which allows others the opportunity to communicate their wishes and feelings too.
If you are in a relationship with someone or in a work situation where you feel that your needs are not being met or that the other person is acting in a way which you don’t like, then it will usually be helpful to express your feelings and thoughts to them assertively rather than to conceal them passively or to express them too aggressively.
Below are 15 tips for preparing yourself before entering into a conversation, discussion or negotiation with someone where you want to try to get the other person to act in a different way or treat you differently.
1. Write down in advance an outline of what it is you intend to say to the other person.
2. In the outline, describe the situation or behaviour which is creating a problem for you and which you would the person to change.
3. When describing the situation be specific and give examples of when the behaviour has occurred.
4. Avoid using exaggerations or generalizations. Be honest and keep your description as straightforward and simple as possible.
5. Express your thoughts and feelings about the situation, acknowledging them as your own thoughts and feelings rather than expressing them as a general truth.
6. Ask for reasonable changes from the other person that would help to improve the situation for you.
7. Listen to what the other person has to say in response – without necessarily agreeing with it.
8. If there is a ‘win-win’ situation where a change in the other person’s behaviour or in the situation or in both your behaviour will benefit them as well as you, try to explore that possibility with them.
9. If there is no win-win situation, then decide beforehand what is the minimum that you would want. Be prepared to negotiate a solution in between that minimum and the maximum you would like.
10. In respect of those aspects where you might compromise, think of possible suggestions that you might make to the other party about what you would like in return from them if you compromise on those aspects.
11. Be clear in your own mind as to what the consequences will be and what you will do if your minimum is not met by the other person.
12. If the person is willing to change their behavior towards you in a constructive way is there something that you can reasonably offer to do for them in return?
13. In the light of your relationship with the other party and your knowledge of them, give some thought in advance to what style of approach is most likely to encourage the other party to respond positively to your request. Will it help for you to be encouraging and constructive and try to engage in a joint search for solutions or will it be more likely to be productive if you take a firm stance from the outset, indicating absolutely clearly what you want and what will be the consequences if your wishes are not met or at least are not met in full? The best style of approach may vary for different situations.
14. When, where and how do you want to approach the topic to give yourself the best chance of getting a friendly constructive or at least helpful response from the other party. In most cases if possible you may want to raise the subject at a time when both you and the other party can give full attention to the discussion without distractions and when you are not preoccupied with other matters or very tired or stressed.
15. Whilst you are looking for a good time to raise the topic, as indicated above, don’t put off the moment for ever! The perfect time will probably never happen. If you find yourself delaying too much, then select a specific time or occasion to raise the matter and keep to your commitment.
About the Author
David Bonham-Carter, MA, DipSW, CPE is an international life coach specialising in self esteem issues, assertiveness, anxiety and stress management.
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