Be Assertive in the Face of Problems

“Wait and see…”  As a runner, there are pains that just need time to heal, so I wait and see if they go away.  I plant grass and wait to see if it grows.  When it snows, I determine if I should shovel now or wait and see if I can do it all later.  There are times when “wait and see” is an acceptable answer.

But when I hear “Jason, I think we’ve got a problem!”, wait and see is the last thing that crosses my mind.  It’s time to jump into action!  It’s time to be assertive and face problems head on.

4 styles of comm2

There are 4 styles of communication.  We’ll get to assertive in a minute, but the other 3 are:

  • Aggressive: My way or the highway!!
  • Passive-Aggressive: My opinion doesn’t matter, but neither does yours
  • Passive: I’m sorry, but I’m powerless and you have all the power

Assertive I classify as “let’s sit down and figure shit out!”  Your goal is to collaboratively work together and come up with a solution that all parties can agree to, even if some of them make concessions.  But when being assertive, others could see your assertiveness as being aggressive because you’re moving to figure out the problem quickly.  They’re not aware of your intent, so they’ll automatically assume the worst.

Being assertive can be a delicate act when interacting with others.  Your characteristics, both verbal and non-verbal, play a critical role in getting things resolved.  assertive skillsSome of these are:

  • Ensure you have the right people identified to help get things resolved (don’t need a committee here)
  • Create a clear sense of urgency by identifying the problem and its impacts
  • Gather the key members together with a clear agenda and goals
  • Keep your voice calm when talking, even if you feel like shouting
  • Say things like “I believe if we work together, we can get this resolved quickly with little impact” and “Your input will be critical to moving forward.”
  • Engage everyone at the table so all opinions are heard
  • Create a sense of urgency for the follow-ups and actions

Bad news doesn’t get better with age, so waiting to see if problems go away is not a good strategy.  Being assertive when an issue arises will help get it resolved faster.



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