Between 70% and 80% of teams are dysfunctional because they do not know how to communicate.

"You may know what you said but never what the other heard."
Jacques Lacan, French psychiatrist, and psychoanalyst

Assertive communication in the workspace (and in daily life) seeks the need to express ourselves as well as possible to reduce the chances of misunderstandings.

First things first: Let's try to define what Assertive Communication is

If we stop to think, all relational problems with people have, at their root, a communication problem. Someone who did not tell the truth about how they felt or thought they said something but did not express themselves correctly. Or maybe they did, but the other person understood something that had nothing to do with it. This tongue twister represents the chaos generated by miscommunication or a misinterpretation of something that was miscommunicated.

Example: "I didn't do it because I thought you would do it"... "I understood that you didn't want me to because you told me a certain thing"... "I never thought that this affected you because you always behaved in such a way," and thousands of other etceteras.

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Bringing this down to earth at the workspace, we realize that something as banal as not communicating things well generates a snowball of problems, frustrations, and unfulfilled expectations, and even burnout can occur if communication problems cause exhaustion and burnout at the work level.

Graphic design in purple and blue colors showing a computer with black text saying: "Many people believe that the other person is in their head and that they can read their thoughts, and this is not real"

Let’s turn our speech to some positiveness:

Assertiveness is the ability to express your thoughts, feelings, and perceptions, choose how to react and speak up for your rights when appropriate. It is the ability to communicate frankly and directly, saying exactly what we mean and defending our rights without hurting other people's feelings.

Communication is the key to an organization's success in creating a good work environment. A good work environment is partly due to the motivation of the employee in this work context and the quality of the experience they have in the scenarios of their daily life.

How can we make our workspaces more assertive?

Graphic design in purple and blue colors, with a person with many arms pointing to different tips for increasing assertiveness.

Here are some simple tips and tricks to improve our abilities in assertive communication:

  • Ask rather than assume:

Avoid assumptions and ask straight to the point. No one is in the other person's mind to understand 100% what you are trying to say, so the best way to clarify is to talk.

  • Make eye contact:

We need the non-verbal expressions of our body to reinforce what we want to say. It is a way of showing respect to whoever is speaking or listening to us. Thanks to nonverbal communication, we generate confidence when talking.

  • Assume responsibilities from the self:

Someone empathetic does not seek to blame others, but on the contrary, accepts that they have made a mistake and, therefore, will take the consequences that will affect them. Speaking from the "Self or I": is expressing a point of view from a personal point of view. Imagine that you are talking to a co-worker and would like to receive feedback from them because you have doubts about whether you have managed to synthesize your argument clearly. Instead of asking, "Did you understand me?" it is more assertive to ask, "Did I make myself clear?".

  • Learn  to put limits:

Abuses occur when people do not know how to put a brake on others or situations around them. For empathic communication to exist, we need to establish from the beginning what our limitations are. In this way, other people will understand what our threshold is. What does this mean? People must know when to help others and when it is time to stop taking on responsibilities that are not their responsibility.

  • Clarify priorities and objectives:

When we are aware of our goals and preferences and know our limits, we will be able to understand when it is necessary to give in and when to defend our criteria and rights in certain circumstances.

  • Listen actively:

Active listening is a big part of communication. It generates respect, empathy and makes communication more enjoyable.

Perks of having assertive communication in workspaces

1. Improves interpersonal relationships:

a. Assertive communication helps to establish clearer and more effective communication with co-workers, which can improve interpersonal relationships in the work environment.

b. Allows team members to easily solve problems, better manage their emotions, feel more self-confident, and more at ease, and thus achieve their goals without causing conflict.

2. Reduces Conflicts

a. Assertive communication can prevent and resolve conflicts by expressing disagreements or differences clearly and respectfully.

b. Assertiveness in the workplace helps employees to identify and clearly express their needs within the organization and to establish their priorities for themselves, the organization, and those they work with.

3. Increases Effectiveness

a. By communicating assertively, one can be clearer and more specific in what is expected of others, increasing effectiveness in completing tasks and projects.

b. It brings us closer to achieving our goals and eliminating the anxiety of uncertainty.

c. Stimulates synergy between members.

d. Stress levels are reduced, and, therefore, less prevalence of suffering from burnout syndrome.

4. Increases self-confidence:

a. By practicing assertive communication, you can increase your self-confidence and ability to express ideas and needs clearly and effectively.

The need for self-awareness to achieve better communication

Graphic design in purple and blue colors, with black text saying "Assertiveness at workspace"

Between 70 and 80 percent of teams are dysfunctional because people don't know themselves.

People tend not to know their limits, do not know themselves, and do not understand what they need. So here is the importance of knowing oneself to be assertive!

What happens to our workspaces when miscommunication comes up?

The great weight of conflicts generated in the workplace is due to the absence of assertive communication at work:

  • Among teammates
  • Bosses
  • Supervisors
  • Customers
  • and suppliers

No one escapes the existence of misunderstandings for not knowing how to explain themselves.

Assertive communication at work is the only alternative that can help companies to create a good environment among colleagues and, consequently, to improve the work.

"The quality of my life depends on the quality of my communication"
Tony Robbins, American author, coach, speaker, and philanthropist.

What are some examples of communication that is NOT assertive?

  • When we assume instead of asking:
    "I didn't do this task because I assumed you did it."
  • We produce general statements like "you always..." or "never...". Exaggerated expressions that can hurt others and alienate them from us:
    “I didn't do my homework because you always take care of those things that come up.”
  • We assume a position of victimization, where we hold the other person responsible for how we feel instead of taking it upon ourselves:
    "I didn't do my homework because you put me in a bad mood with your comments.”
  • A lack of assertiveness can lead a person to accept everything, not knowing how to set appropriate limits firmly and respectfully:
    "Well, come on, I'll do it"
    When internally, we don't want to do something. We say yes to everything to   show courage, power, or availability. Or for fear of my leader's response.

    Then this is uncovered in poorly done tasks, fatigue, affecting other jobs, bad   bonds, resentment, etc.) - which can lead to burnout.

How can I identify assertive People?

There are some characteristics of these types of people who constantly communicate assertively:

  • They speak fluently and confidently. Listen with interest, do not interrupt, ask for clarification, and know how to say no.
  • They can listen to others to understand why they do what they do and say what they say.
  • They defend their interests without attacking or imposing. They accept their own mistakes and those of others and know how to make and receive criticism.
  • They know what they want for themselves. They do not seek to win or to make someone else lose.
Graphic design in purple and blue colors saying "Food for thought".

Wrapping up

Try to do the exercise of thinking about the most assertive person that you know. In what ways are you similar to them? And in what ways are you not?

Remember, self-awareness is the first step to assertiveness!