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Assertiveness and Conflict Resolution Skills

General Guidelines

1. Be clear on what you wish to be assertive about. Define the real issue at hand to be dealt with. Do not bring up past, irrelevant, or unrelated issues.

2. Be specific. Do not make broad or sweeping requests. Limit your targeted focus area. A narrow focus will be more likely to get some results.

3. Be prepared. Be clear about your intended topic. Have all relevant supporting information available and easily accessible.

4. Be ready to repeat and clarify exactly what you want of your employee or manager. Have a list or notes available to refer to. Do not rely on memory, as it can be hampered when under stress.

5. Variable outcome. Assertiveness does not mean you will get what you want. It simply helps each party express their desires with an INTENT toward accomplishing a specific goal.

6. Personal versus a business behavior. Be able to recognize when your work behavior is being critiqued, as opposed to a personal attack. When providing feedback, stick to the business-related task at hand. Avoid broad or sweeping generalizations, as they are likely to induce defensiveness.

7. Avoid aggression. Remember assertive conflict resolution does not mean aggressiveness. Assertion is a balance between passivity and aggression. Aggression has no goal except to vent your emotions. It does not increase the likelihood of accomplishing your desired goal.

Specific Tools and Techniques

1. Stop and think. Wait before confronting the person or situation. Impulsive reactions are often not thought out and are less likely to yield the results you desire. They may actually accomplish the opposite of your intended goals.

2. Develop a clear picture in your mind of the intended goal and outcome of the confrontation. Picture it as you would like to be in the best of circumstances. Know what you would like to happen as a result of your efforts.

3. Know your limits and the limits of your position. Even assertive behavior has its limitations and you need to know when to let go and move on.

4. Make clear and reasonable requests. Assertiveness assumes a reasonable basis in reality.

5. Take a break. When an assertive request to an employee or manager is not received as desired, leave it for a time and come back to it later. If need be, try a third time. Repetition can plan a key part in assertiveness. Be sure not to add new things each time you go back to the person. Keep it clear. Keep it simple. Keep it consistent.

6. When no resolution occurs, re-tool. Go back a few steps. You may wish to sit down with the person(s) and brainstorm ideas. Throw out anything at all and write it down. Do not stop to evaluate each idea’s potential merit. The goal is to generate as many possible solutions or compromises to evaluate later.

7. The solution may be contained in the problem. Brainstorming may afford the opportunity to unlock otherwise ignored ideas for resolution. You may be able to view the problem in such a way that it provides some previously unseen opportunity for change.

8. Avoid over-responsibility, also known as co-dependency. This may be seen as an excessive amount of concern over how your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors affect another person. The key here is that this excessive concern blocks assertive and self-oriented behavior. Too much protection can be stifling and actually do a disservice to the person being "protected." All persons should be able to benefit from experiencing the consequences of their behavior without interference. This is how we learn and modify our actions.

Copyright ©1998 David Greenfield, Ph.D., LMFT


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