In the workplace, we all run into conflict. Many of us would love to speak up and assert ourselves to correct it. And, in a perfect world, it would be easy. You could finally tell that colleague who keeps interrupting you exactly how you feel. You could give him a piece of your mind, releasing the frustration and anger that’s been gnawing at you for months. You could finally express that part of you that feels so underappreciated and marginalized.
But speaking up can be difficult — and sometimes overwhelming — especially if you are shy, lack confidence, or come from a culture where it is inappropriate to speak up. It can feel pushy and overly aggressive to be assertive, especially if you’re timid or hate conflict. It can also feel awkward and unnatural, not least if you’re more inclined to voice your frustrations and discontent in an indirect or passive manner.
But there is hope for the chronically unassertive among us. Fears about speaking up are hard but not impossible to overcome. Voicing your frustration with an “assertiveness formula” can help.
1. Start with a short, simple, objective statement about the other person’s behavior — what you’d like to see changed. For example: “When you interrupt me during meetings” or “When you take sole credit for the work we’ve done collaboratively.” Your goal here is to get the other person’s attention and, in doing so, minimize their defensiveness. The statement should be short, to the point, and evenhanded and unemotional enough that they can hear your message and not immediately disagree or disengage.
2. Describe the negative effect that this behavior has had on you. Explain why the person’s behavior is causing a problem. For example, if the first part of the formula is “When you continually interrupt me during meetings,” you might then add, “I don’t get a chance to voice my opinion.” Or, for “When you take sole credit for the work we’ve done collaboratively,” you’d add, “I don’t have a chance to highlight my role and contribution.” The goal here is to build a cause-and-effect logic, linking an objective statement of their behavior to the impact that the behavior has had on you.
3. End with a feelings statement. Here, you want to indicate how their offending behavior has not only negatively impacted your actions but also hurt your feelings. An example of a feelings statement might be “I feel marginalized” or “I feel underappreciated.” While the other person may feel surprised— and even uncomfortable — to hear this, it’s hard to refute a person’s feelings. Adding this element makes the assertiveness message as a whole that much more powerful.
最后要表达你的情绪。在这里,你想说明他们的冒犯行为不仅对你的行为产生了负面影响,而且还伤害了你的感情。举个例子,你可以说 “我觉得被边缘化了”或者“我觉得被低估了”。另一个人听到这些话可能会感到惊讶甚至不舒服,因为很难反驳一个人的情绪和感受。说出你的情绪会使传达自信的信息变得更有力。
Putting it all together, you have something like this: “When you continually interrupt me during meetings, I don’t get a chance to voice my opinion, and I feel marginalized.”
A well-crafted assertiveness message can be effective on the spot, if you have the emotional wherewithal to deliver it. But it can also be something you hone and craft in preparation for an upcoming conversation, especially if you don’t feel particularly practiced at the craft or if you’re anticipating a defensive reaction from the other person.
Of course, even with a formula in hand, assertiveness isn’t always easy. It’s quite possible that the recipient of your message will react negatively, so you’ll want to meet any response with a calm, steady, and confident presence. You’ll also want to accumulate as much evidence as possible to support the first part of your message — the statement about the other person’s offending behavior. Your goal is to provide enough clarity and specificity about this behavior that your statement impossible to refute. What also helps is demonstrating a pattern of behavior over time, which might require you to keep a diary of instances when you’ve felt hurt, undermined, or offended by the person’s actions. Don’t use this record as an opportunity to harp on your colleague for the many times you felt they were at fault; use it only as backup material if your counterpart refutes you and needs convincing. This evidence will be key for increasing the likelihood that your message will be heard and ultimately have the intended effect on the recipient.
In the end, speaking up is genuinely hard for many of us. And the results are far from guaranteed. The other person may respond in a positive way immediately; they might respond positively and productively but with a significant delay; or they might not change at all. But for you, getting up the courage to voice your frustrations in the first place can be a significant win.