Tips on communication, assertiveness and dealing with conflict?
As kids, we develop our own style of communication and level of confidence based on our family environment, which is basically the very first organisation we were part of.
As adults, we bring these learned behaviours to the workplace. If you lack confidence, you’re likely to take a passive approach, avoid conflict and not put yourself out there. Over time, these behaviours will seriously put the brakes on your career development.
The answer? Work on building confidence. The good news is, confidence can be learned and we’ve got some tips in this article that can help build yours. First though, let’s take a look at the different styles of communication we find in workplaces everywhere and how they interact with each other.
Passive communicators do everything they can to avoid conflict. This often leads to them putting their needs last or not speaking up if they feel what they have to say will create conflict. Passive communicators often allow others to infringe on their rights, apologise frequently and can be taken advantage of.
Those with an aggressive communication style can come across as bossy, dismissive of the options or feelings of others, lacking in appreciation, and arrogant. Aggressive communicators frequently employ tactics like intimidation, criticism and humiliation to exert their authority and have their way in the workplace.
Passive aggressive communicators engage in a deliberate and masked way of expressing hidden anger. They will often ‘sugar-coat’ their hostility. A few classic signs of passive-aggressive behaviour include sarcasm, manipulation, procrastinating on important tasks and silent treatment.
Assertive people can effectively communicate their thoughts, perspective and what they want while being mindful and respectful of others. They openly discuss issues, listen respectfully and communicate their feelings without being apologetic. They aren’t pushovers, seek win-win outcomes and don’t bully their way to what they want. Basically, it’s a happy medium between aggressive and passive.
If you identify naturally with a more passive behavioural style, there are a few steps you can take to bolster your confidence at work with communication and conflict resolution skills.
Tips for improving your communication skills at work
Effective communication skills help us be heard and understood clearly. This increases confidence and empowers us to speak up more frequently at work.
Don’t just email
Research shows that asking in person is more effective than typing out a request over email, in fact, an in-person request is 34 times more successful than an email. Get out of your email zone occasionally and build confidence by practising face to face or phone communication skills.
Repeat what you heard back
Misunderstanding is one of the main factors in workplace conflicts. Honing your communication and listening skills will minimise confusion as a source of conflict. During an action based discussion where directions are outlined, repeat back to the speaker any instructions that have been given, using their words. This gives you confidence to progress knowing you’ve understood directions clearly.
Keep it positive, not personal
It’s true, not all discussions will end in the outcome you’re hoping for but do your best to keep the tone of communication positive and the focus professional.
Tips for dealing with conflict
Conflict in the workplace, when handled properly can be healthy and contribute to smarter solutions, growth and innovation. However, if you’re a passive person, dealing with conflict can be a real challenge and produces an adrenaline-fueled “flight” reaction. Getting past these challenges is crucial for professional growth, research shows how you approach conflict can make or break your career.
Write down your thoughts
Gathering your thoughts together before you speak will help you feel confident to say what you want to and how you want to say it. Let your leader or coworker know you need some time to consider things and schedule a check-in for the following day. This gives you time to prepare.
Look for opportunities to speak up during smaller conflicts. Practice ‘taking a risk’ and being more assertive in less intimidating situations, it will help your mind become more emotionally resilient to conflict over time. Then when it comes to more serious conflict, you’ll be better equipped to handle it.
Own the mistake – quickly
Made a mistake? Rather than staying quiet in order to avoid conflict, speak up quickly. Getting help or input can resolve the issue much quicker than letting it snowball. This will only lead to a bigger problem and more conflict in the end.
Ask for support
Learn how to manage conflict in productive ways with professional development resources and training. Prepare research on appropriate training options and make a time with your leader to put forward your request to attend training.
Tips for becoming more assertive in the workplace
We’ve given you a few pointers above to help improve your conflict resolution and communication skills. Working on these play a key role in becoming more assertive in the workplace but there are a few other tips that can help too.
Know what you’re talking about
Without clear data or murky knowledge of a situation, it can be hard to confidently state your opinion. Feeling assured your research or understanding of the situation is correct can help you put forward your position convincingly.
Use the power of body language
Cut the shoulder slumping, shuffling around, averted gaze and adopt a more assertive body language. Walk steadily, holding your back straight and your head up. Talk directly to people rather than sidling up to them and practice speaking clearly and directly.
Simplify your speech
When we’re feeling uncertain, it’s easy to stuff the conversation with a lot of ‘filler’ words that detract from the value of the point we’d like to get across. Watching what words you use and cutting out any unnecessary ramble will help you appear and feel more confident, especially in meetings or large groups of people.