I think we should listen to “Brave” by Sara Bareilles at full blast and let this become our anthem for improved communication:
“Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave
With what you want to say
And let the words fall out”
There is of course a big difference between being straightforward and being rude, but although we respect the difference, we still, too often, err on the side of caution by not voicing our opinions or stating our needs. We play and talk “small”, we communicate indirectly, we downplay our achievements and we apologise far too much! I think we do this partly because we have been raised this way and partly because we are scared of being labelled “aggressive” or “emotional”.
We can be putting ourselves at a disadvantage by conveying a sense of inferiority in our communication style. Instead, we should make a point to practice body language and a communication style that conveys a sense of confidence and authority.
The first step to developing assertive communication skills is to identify the differences between assertive, passive, and aggressive behaviour.
Passive behaviour: the act of ignoring, suppressing, or disregarding one’s thoughts, feelings, and needs by withdrawing from a situation—mentally, physically, and/or emotionally
Aggressive behaviour: the act of emotionally and forcefully standing up for one’s thoughts, feelings, and needs with disregard for the thoughts, feelings, and needs of others
Assertive behaviour: the act of expressing one’s thoughts, feelings, and needs in a direct, clear, honest, and respectful way to others. You don’t expect other people to know what you want, so you speak up to ask for what you need calmly and with confidence.
Assertive Communication is key to being successful in our professional and personal lives and our body language, confidence and poise under fire can make or break our ability to advance and succeed in the workplace and to foster healthy inter-personal relationships.
I believe assertiveness is far more rooted in behavior than it is in feeling, in other words we need to act and behave assertively, not necessarily whilst feeling all that assertive. However it should be what we convey in our behaviour, body language and communication style. People respond to what they “see and hear” in our communication, they cannot (luckily)see into our hearts and souls to ascertain our level of confidence.
Sheryl Sandberg said: “Confidence and leadership are muscles. You learn to use them or you learn not to. If you are afraid to speak up at a meeting, every time you force yourself to do it, you get better at it.” — Forbes, September 2016
People are naturally attracted to assertiveness, confidence and positivity. They want to work with, work for and buy from strong, decisive people. The ability to communicate directly, confidently and assertively is a critical skill that we need to continuously practice in our work and home lives, in order to foster healthy inter-personal relationships across all spheres of our lives.
*About the Author:
Ms Elmarie Pretorius is the Managing Owner of The Mindspa Institute a Training Company that specialises in skills development through Management Training, Leadership Development, Office Professional and Secretary Training. She is also an international speaker, trainer and author.
She obtained a BA (Hns) degree in Communications from North-West University. She started her career as Public Relations Officer for Toyota Marketing and held various marketing positions while steadily climbing the corporate ladder. At the age of 34 she was appointed MD of Primedia Publishing, a position she held for 3 years, before accepting the challenge of CEO of Cinemark. She turned Primedia Publishing around in the first year and won Primedia’s Most Improved Company of the year. After her promotion to CEO of Cinemark, Elmarie’s highly skilled leadership and ability to change and motivate her team resulted in the company also being awarded “Most Improved Company” after the first year when the team grew the business bottom-line by 68% year on year, and after two years was nominated for Company of the Year.
After 21 successful years in the publicity, media and marketing industries Elmarie left the corporate world to concentrate on her own business. Her passion for business and people in particular has led her to apply her extensive experience and passion in the field of designing and delivery of innovative business and people solutions through strategic training interventions.
Elmarie has facilitated various strategic and training interventions for clients such as Sasol, Discovery, Volkswagen SA, Wilderness Safaris, AHA Hotels, Vumatel, Cellucity, FCS Namibia, Iemas, Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems Africa, Caxton, Assupol, Premier Foods, Bosphorus Conferences (Turkey) and SAAB Grintech Defense.