Saturday, March 28, 2009

Assertiveness for Conflict Management

“The basic difference between being assertive and being aggressive is how our words and behavior affect the rights and well being of others.” - Sharon Anthony Bower

Assertiveness is much talked about topic at the corporate world where conflicts arise for lack of assertion skills. People often confuse aggressiveness with assertiveness. In fact, it is not so. Assertiveness is the art of saying ‘No’ without hurting others and without compromising one’s rights. It is the art of saying ‘No’ politely but firmly. Assertiveness indicates ‘I am ok and you are ok’. In contrast, aggressiveness represents ‘I am ok but you are not ok’ and submissiveness describes ‘I am not ok but you are ok’. Of all the three situations, it is assertiveness that pays off well in the long run where in the person can lead a conflict-free and successful life. In a nutshell, assertiveness is a kind of win-win situation where all are comfortable in communication.

Research reveals that 80 per cent of the work related problems are the result of improper communication. Assertiveness is again an integral of effective communication. When people communicate with assertion the message can be carried forward properly, positively and peacefully without compromising the rights of people involved. It is for these reasons, companies conduct training sessions related to assertiveness so that employees can reap the benefits out of it and function smoothly and successfully.

Leaders like Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi and Winston Churchill are the symbols of assertiveness. They succeeded as leaders as they never compromised with their principles and equally respected that of others. Martin Luther King fought for the rights of Blacks in America, Mahatma Gandhi brought freedom to India through non-violence and Winston Churchill was instrumental in winning the Second World War through affirmative communication. Therefore, assertiveness is one of the pillars for effective leadership.

Assertiveness for Managing Conflicts:

For managing conflicts, people respond in different ways. Few people avoid or withdraw from conflict as they lack confidence. At times, they do not want to hurt or strike back. As a result, they suffer silently. Few people believe in striking back with aggression. It is a kind of tit for tat scenario. Finally, few people think coolly, logically and make others to understand the situation from multiple perspectives. And they are assertive people. As people are different in nature, their approaches towards conflict are also different.

In a nut shell, in submissive style, people tend to avoid conflict and suffer the pain silently. In aggressive style, people tend to inflict pain on others by being indifferent to others. While in assertion styles people empathize with others and strike a fine balance by respecting others as well as by protecting themselves.

When people are suppressed for a long time, they build and develop volcano like situation and explode after some time. It is basically because they failed to assert their ideas, views and rights for a long time. Such submission affects their health and mental status and leads to depression at times. On the contrary, when people constantly dominate and dictate others unmindful of the others’ sentiments, views and ideas, they will be disliked by others. Such aggressive people often resort to conflicts everywhere. They are threat to corporate peace and harmony. These people demonstrate negative body language.

How to Assert Yourself?

• Don’t get influenced by others’ opinions. Try to look at the individuals and issues objectively and unbiased from your own perception.
• Accept if you have made a mistake. To err is human. Accepting the same reflects your magnanimity. It projects you in a better light.
• Learn the art of saying ‘No’ politely. Practice is the key.
• Analyze your own body language. There will be few cues from your body language sending signals unconsciously and negatively. Try to correct the same by taking feedback from experts and well-wishers.
• Avoid boasting yourself as it sends your aggressive tendencies resulting into strained relations with others.
• When you praise, highlight a specific behavior that touched you. And praise immediately. When you criticize, emphasis on a particular behavior that disturbed so that other person takes the same positively and constructively. And don’t attack the individual. Finally don’t criticize when you are in anger.


It is not conflict but cooperation that pays people finally. Assertiveness plays a crucial and key role for cooperation at the corporate world. It is time people realized the importance and significance of assertion skills. It is the base for building leadership qualities. History has proved time and again that it is not ‘might’ but ‘right’ succeeded at the end. Assertiveness is the key to survive and succeed at the corporate world as it minimizes conflicts and maximizes productivity for better organizational excellence.

The End

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