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How to be heard, gain respect and garner positive outcomes

Dec 01, 2019

Many people confuse ‘assertive’ with ‘dominant’, and to their own professional detriment. To be an effective communicator, you need to be an assertive communicator, says Fiona Flynn.

Being an effective communicator is a very important soft skill in business. It helps us influence others and to ensure that our voice is heard in a busy and often stressful environment.

Effective communication demands a certain amount of assertiveness. Unfortunately, many Irish people have a problem with being seen as assertive. Whether in business or our personal lives, we often don’t want to appear overly dominant and many of us can tend to lump ‘assertiveness’ in the same box as ‘dominance’. However, this is a cultural misnomer. Yes, there are those who are dominant and assertive, but it is equally possible to be understanding, accommodating and likeable while still being assertive.

Benefits of assertive communication

Developing the skills to become an assertive communicator can help you in myriad ways. If you’ve ever walked away from an encounter thinking ‘I should have said…’ it is likely that you haven’t fully flexed your assertiveness muscles. When you communicate with assertiveness, you are more confident in articulating your point clearly. Confusion and misunderstandings are then easily avoided.

Confidence

A key element of assertive communication is your ability to react to conflict situations without emotion. When you present yourself as cool and confident, this injects calm energy into the interaction. Although others may become emotionally charged, you are able to remain level-headed. The confidence that comes with assertiveness prevents you from becoming a doormat.  

Conflict resolution

Assertive communication also equips you to read those with whom you are interacting. We encounter many different personality types in our professional lives; some are easy to work with while others can be challenging. It is inevitable that conflict will arise on occasion and there are a number of ways that people tend to react. Some avoid it and are seen as passive. Others are aggressive, and there’s a large cohort who present with a combination of the two.

The best way, however, to deal with conflict is by using assertive communication. This approach allows you to listen to the opinions of others, air your own views, gently challenge others while attempting to find some common ground without alienating anyone in the process. This approach is a sure way to gain respect from those around you – even if they don’t agree with your viewpoint.

Influence

In his book, Pre-suasion, Robert Cialdini identifies six influence strategies. From establishing rapport, to showcasing your authority, and giving what you hope to receive, these strategies are not rocket science, but they are very clear, implementable strategies to positively influence those around you. When you examine them, however, you will notice that, to be successful, all of these influence strategies require a degree of assertiveness. Even while building a rapport with someone we hope to influence, we must be confident enough to disagree with points of difference so that when we find points of agreement they are seen and appreciated as truly genuine.

Fiona Flynn is an Associate Director of Talking Talent and President of PWN Dublin.

Fiona will host a training course on Assertive Communications at Chartered Accountants Ireland, The Linenhall, Belfast on 10 December.