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Conflict & Assertiveness

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University Counselling Service

Participants Handout
University Counselling Service
Conflict & Assertiveness

Personal Bill of Rights

1. I have the right to be the judge of what I do and what I think.


2. I have the right to say no to requests or demands I cant meet
without feeling guilty.
3. I have the right to express all of my feelings, positive or negative.
4. I have the right to change my mind.
5. I have the right to make mistakes and not have to be perfect.
6. I have the right to follow my own values and standards.
7. I have the right to say no to anything when I feel I am not ready,
it is unsafe, or it violates my values.
8. I have the right to determine my own priorities.
9. I have the right not to be responsible for others behaviour,
actions, feelings or problems.
10. I have the right to expect honesty from others.
11. I have the right to be angry at someone I love.
12. I have the right to be uniquely myself.
13. I have the right to feel scared and say Im afraid.
14. I have the right to say I dont know.
15. I have the right not to give excuses or reasons for my behaviour.
16. I have the right to make decisions based on my feelings.
17. I have the right to my own needs for personal space and time.
18. I have the right to say I dont understand.
19. I have the right to be in a non-abusive environment.
20. I have the right to make friends and be comfortable around people.
21. I have the right to change and grow.
22. I have the right to have my needs and wants respected by others.
23. I have the right to be treated with dignity and respect.
24. I have the right to be happy.
25. I have the right to make my own decisions.

(Compiled from: The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook, by E. J. Bourne, and


from: The Treatment of Anxiety Disorders, by G. Andrews, M.
Creamer, R. Crino, C. Hunt, L. Lampe, and A. Page).

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Conflict & Assertiveness

Conflict & Assertiveness

University Counselling Service Group Program Conflict & Assertiveness 1


Curtin University of Technology Session 1

Overview

Goals and objectives

Conflict, respond & Sources


Conflict Styles

Conflict Experiences @ Work

Summary

University Counselling Service Group Program Conflict & Assertiveness 2


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Goals and Objectives

Focus on conflict, recognising own behaviour,


conflict experiences

Focus on assertiveness, recognise own communication


style, overview on assertive techniques, Body language
(Session 2)

Integration of conflict and assertiveness, assertive


techniques (Session 3)

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Curtin University of Technology Session 1

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Group Rules

Keep information confidential


Own your own message
Speak for yourself
Respect others people
Listen carefully
Do not judge other people
Treat each other respectful
Acknowledge others people opinion

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What is a Conflict?

A disagreement
Between parties (more then one party)
One person, or parties perceive a threat to their
Needs, Values, Interests, Concerns

FACT
VINC

Values, Interests,
Needs, Concerns

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Conflict Responses

Behavioural
What Im doing?

Physical
Emotional
What I sense
What Im feeling?
in my body?

Cognitive
What Im thinking?

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Sources of Conflicts

Lack of information, misunderstandings, different


interpretation of the same information
Role incompatibility, sandwich positions, undefined role
positions,
Working conditions are stressful, not enough time, high
work load
Unresolved conflicts (cold conflicts, prior conflicts)
Personal differences (values, needs, goals, styles)
Structure within the organisation (micro management)

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Curtin University of Technology Session 1

Conflict Style

COMPETITION COLLABORATION
(Offensive, aggressive, misusing (Both parties can express their
power) needs and values)

COMPROMISE
(meeting in the middle, search for
a solution)
Assertiveness

AVOIDANCE ACCOMODATION
(Ignoring, do not deal with the
(Agreement, confirming)
issues)

Cooperation
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Conflict Style Summary

Recognise your own behavioural style


No one style is good or bad!
You will be effective in conflict when you can
access all five styles.
Take a deep breath before responding
Communicate your own needs
Do not blame other people
Do not confront others in public
Choose time to talk to the person you want to
Give the other time to respond to it
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Conflict & Assertiveness

Conflict & Assertiveness


Session two

University Counselling Service Group Program Conflict & Assertiveness 10


Curtin University of Technology Session 1

Overview

Communication Styles

Techniques for
Assertiveness

Body Language

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Have your say

I have the right to be the judge of what I do and what I think.


I have the right to say no to requests or demands I cant meet
without feeling guilty.
I have the right to express all of my feelings, positive or
negative.
I have the right to change my mind.
I have the right to make mistakes and not have to be perfect.
I have the right to follow my own values and standards.
I have the right to say no to anything when I feel I am not
ready, it is unsafe, or it violates my values.
I have the right to determine my own priorities.
I have the right not to be responsible for others behaviour,
actions, feelings or problems.
I have the right to expect honesty from others.
I have the right to be angry at someone I love.

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Curtin University of Technology Session 1

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Have your say

I have the right to be uniquely myself.


I have the right to feel scared and say Im afraid.
I have the right to say I dont know.
I have the right not to give excuses or reasons for my
behaviour.
I have the right to make decisions based on my feelings.
I have the right to my own needs for personal space and time.
I have the right to say I dont understand.
I have the right to be in a non-abusive environment.
I have the right to make friends and be comfortable around
people.
I have the right to change and grow.
I have the right to have my needs and wants respected by
others.
I have the right to be treated with dignity and respect.
I have the right to be happy.
I have the right to make my own decisions.
University Counselling Service Group Program Conflict & Assertiveness 13
Curtin University of Technology Session 1

Communication Styles

Passive Active Active


Non assertive Assertive Aggressive
Avoiding Collaborating Competing
Accommodating Compromising Perpetrator
I wont get it right Lets see which You dont know how
options we have and we did that before,
consider an action let me tell you how I
plan am going to do it
Doesnt express Expresses their Voice their opinion,
needs, keeps quiet, needs, opinions, sometimes over-
cant say no concerns to others, correcting of being
able to converse and too passive,
to say No, is aware inappropriate dealing
of other people with anger
needs
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Communication Styles

Passive Assertive Aggressive

Doesnt meet own need Balances own need Puts own need first,
Considers priorities and tells others off
acts on it
I am wrong, you are I am right, you are I am right, you are
right. right. wrong
I am okay, your are
I am not okay, you are I am okay; you are not okay
okay. okay. You get what you want
at the expense of
Doesnt get what you Often you get what you others but often your
want want deeper needs
(acceptance) are not
met and anger and
Frustration and Anger frustration build up
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Communication continuum

Passive ASSERTIVE Aggressive

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Contributing factors to non-assertive behaviour

Culture
Self-esteem
Self-confidence
Self-efficacy
Anxiety

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Assertiveness techniques

I Language
Say what you mean
Be direct
Communicate calmly
Saying yes when you mean it
Feedback
Respect others rights
Use facts
Negotiate
Timing
Listen actively
Consistent persistence
Behavioural rehearsal

University Counselling Service Group Program Conflict & Assertiveness 18


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Conflict & Assertiveness

Body Language

Passive Assertive Aggressive

Bent, crooked Stands straight Tensed, stiff


posture Maintains eye posture,
Blank face, no contact Leans forward
movement Clear and steady Red face, frowning,
Looking down, looking voice Staring
away Speaks fluently Fast voice
Low voice, hesitant Pointing fingers
when speaking
Restless gestures

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Curtin University of Technology Session 1

Conflict & Assertiveness


Session three

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Overview

I-Messages

Broken Record

Active Listening

Feedback

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Conflict & Assertiveness

Assertiveness techniques

I Statement
Broken record
Active listening

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I Statement

Own your message.


Keep the focus on the problem.
Your message comes from your perception.
Address your message to whom it is intended.
Ensure your message is clear.
Dont accuse or blame the other person
Accept the responsibility for your own emotions
Explain exactly what you mean and exactly what you dont
mean
I feel (describe your feeling) when you . (describe a
behaviour) because (describe the effect).

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Dealing with Resistance

Broken record
Time-out
Avoid red herrings
Dealing with guilt
Avoid unnecessary apologies
Direct negative feedback
Selective ignoring
Disarming anger
Ill let you know

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Conflict & Assertiveness

Broken Record

To use when Conversation gets stuck.


Repeating the same again and again.
You think you are not getting what you want.
Keep saying what you want.
Stick to your point.
"When you.." (state facts)
"I feel uncomfortable ...." (state feelings)
"I would like.(state requirements).in this way
we will be able to work together more productively
because.." (benefits to the other party)

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Broken record

Make a request

You: Im not satisfied with the outcome; I would like to


bring it up again.
Reply: There is no time left to discuss it again.
You: I know, but I would like to discuss it again, Im sure
we will find some time.
Reply: Look, we discussed everything; I see no point for
further discussion.
You: Im convinced we will find time. Lets have a look in
our diaries.
Reply: Well, if you can come in half an hour back then I
will have some time.
You: Thank you, I see you in 30 minutes.
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Curtin University of Technology Session 1

Broken record

Refuse a request: Your boss ask you work late.

1. Identify your goal and make a clear and specific


statement:
" I won't be able to work late this evening"
2. Acknowledge the response of the other person whilst
maintaining your statement:
"I understand you are under a great deal of stress, but I
won't be able to work late"
3. Moving up a gear. Repeat the statement without getting
sidetracked:
"That's really not relevant to the main issue which is that
I won't be able to work late"

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Curtin University of Technology Session 1

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Conflict & Assertiveness

Active Listening

Concentration
Focusing on the speaker
Listening to the
Eliminating distractions
whole message

Separating fact from Active Suspending judgements


underlying feelings
listening

Checking understanding Taking notes

Making eye contact

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Active Listening

Pattern: If I heard you correctly, what you are saying is


I get the impression

get information

share anothers views

broaden your own knowledge

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Summary

Acknowledge and be honest about your own feelings to


yourself
Adopt new positive inner dialogue for situations where you
need to be more assertive
Be clear, specific and direct in what you say
If necessary, keep repeating your message if you
encounter objections
If necessary ask for clarification if you are uncertain
about something
If necessary, acknowledge diversion tactics, then again
repeat your message
Adopt appropriate body language to back up your assertion
Keep calm and stick to the point
Always respect the rights of the other person
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Conflict & Assertiveness

Dealing with conflicts

People have different needs, values, interests and concerns. It is not a question whether
thats right or wrong. It is a question of whether we are willing to verbalise them and
how we do so. Lack of awareness of these differences can often result in a clash of
goals.

Sometimes the differences are not obvious and we dont even recognise they exist.
Arguments result when we are convinced that our opinion is right and we focus on
providing reasons to push our point of view. At the beginning of a rising conflict we often
meet moments of argument. It can be healthy to argue and to discuss options because it
clears the air between people, ensures everyone knows each others position, and
provides opportunities for change.

A conflict is a disagreement between two or more persons whereby one person perceives
a threat to their needs, values, interests, concerns. Communication takes place on two
levels, rational and emotional. The rational level consists of all facts, while the emotional
level is comprised of our values, needs, interests, and concerns underlying the surface.
Every one interprets messages differently and sends messages differently; therefore
the potential for misunderstanding and confusion is high. Often arguments start because
we havent begun by stating our own interests or values. This is also often the case when
we are asked to define the issues. In order to prevent conflicts it is important that we
understand our own responses and are aware of our values, interests, needs, and
concerns. If we are able to clearly communicate these needs we are likely to be able to
prevent conflicts. It is also important to ensure that we address our issues with the
person whom it concern. If we are able to use even just one of these strategies we will
be better able to prevent conflict and resolve the issues with the person in question.

A new roster
Kevin, a manager of a team of 12 staff members developed a new roster system because
the old system did not work anymore. In fact; it never was a good system to start with
since everyone could come and go as they pleased. Kevin often discussed the system with
his team and asked them for their opinions. He reminded them of the impact this
inefficient system has on their every day work. For example he stated that the missing
roster affected their work as a team, only 6 out of 12 staff members attended the
team meetings and often they were not used for professional discussions. He suggested
his poor team work was reflected in the lack of service to all clients who need their
every day support.
In the past Kevin used to discuss everything with his staff in the hope to get more
professional understanding. He thought it would be best to involve his team members in
all of his decisions. After a lot of complaints from clients he decided to behave like a
manager and make some decisions on his own. (e.g. stronger, top down decision). His
primary goal is to organise every day in terms of service hours provided to his clients. To
do this he needs to develop an efficient roster system and ensure that all his staff
members work with it. . He wrote a letter to everyone in his team and asked them to
start working with the new roster tomorrow. Nobody followed his directions except
Maria. Kevin asked her for feedback. She agreed that the new roster was needed to

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bring more structure into the team and ensured Kevin that the new roster would lead to
more efficient team work.

Here is an example of a conversation between two staff members, Maria and Marc.
Marc: Did you get the letter from Kevin about the roster? (Comes into her
office)
Maria: Yes, why do you ask? (Sitting in front of her desk)
Marc: I tell you what; I dont want to work on this roster. He must be crazy to
decide it without asking us. (Voice is getting louder, takes place beside
her chair)
Maria: I want to work on this roster. I think he is the manager and he is able to
decide things like that on his own. (Looks strait ahead to the desktop)
Marc: You are so stupid. We will all lose our say. Its so unprofessional to
behave like that. I cant understand Kevin.
Maria: I thought you would respond like this. You are so inflexible. It doesnt
matter what the problem is, your attitude is always the same. Every time
we want to change something or try something new, you are against it.
(Turned her chair and talks face to face to Marc)
Marc: Thats not true. Im not the only one. Ask the others. They dont want this
new roster. You are the only person in here who agrees to everything
Kevin wants us to do.
Maria: Your behaviour is quite annoying. You are not able to have a productive
discussion or accept other peoples opinions. I will talk to Kevin about it.
(Turned her chair and started to write some notes)
Marc: I cant believe it; you are not willing to work in a team. Maybe its better
for you to change team. (Goes to the door and left shouting her office)
Maria: You are a bloody fool. I will not continue this discussion with you. Your
abilities to communicate are below any acceptable level. I wonder
whether your clients are happy to talk to you. We will see how Kevin
responds to it. (Shouted after him)

Some information about Kevin, Marc, and Maria


Kevin (42): He used to work as a staff member of this team for more than 5 years.
He knows a lot about social work and brings a lot of experience to the
team. Five month ago his manager left this workplace and Kevin was asked
to take over his position. His old manager thought Kevin is up for the task
to lead this team.
Marc (47): Marc has worked for this social company for more than seven years. He
spends a lot of time at work; he likes his work with clients. When his old
manager left the company he expected to get the promotion to replace
him. He wanted to get it because he tends to get burned out.
Maria (27): Maria is a new staff member; she has only been working in this team for
four month. Before that she used to be a manager of more than one team
in a different social company. She is quite educated and qualified. She is
27 years old; thats a good age to get new responsibilities and to start
her career. Kevin knows Maria from a different background. He agreed
her to come and work with his team. He also told Maria that he wants to
work as manager for only 2 years.

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A new roster.
The manager developed a new roster system.
Everyone of his team has to comply with it.
Here is an example of a conversation between two staff members.

Stay on Move on
Nothing to change something to change
Position: I dont want to work on a new roster Position: I want to work on a
new roster

New
roster

Marc
FACT Maria

VINC

Values, Interests,
Needs, Concerns

Position: Im not able to get up early every Position: Im happy to start early every
day. day.
Value:
Flexibility is one of the most important Value:
things at work. I think everyone has the same right. Its
Interest: only fair that all start at the same time.
I want to start later. I prefer a more Fairness is one of the most important
flexible system. things at work.
Need: Interest:
I need to sleep in one day/week. I want to be the next one who is up to the
Concern:
If we change the roster I get bored.
Need:
I prefer the same structure every day.
Concern:
If Im not doing what my boss want me to
do I wont get the new task.

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Examination of conflict definition

A disagreement means that there are levels of differences in positions of two or more
persons. Take a few moments and read the conflict example A new roster.

Marc and Maria are having a disagreement. Maria wants to work on roster; Marc doesnt
want to do it. Its a disagreement between two different positions.

Thats the true disagreement between Marc and Maria; they are having different
opinions. If you read the conversation between them again, you will see that both of
them are leaving the level of the true facts. They are discussing completely different
issues to that.

Why could this happen?

Human communication takes places in two levels, rational and emotional. As you can see it
in our model there are also two levels. One level includes all facts. The other level
contents our values, needs, interests, and concerns.

Every one can interrupt messages differently. And every one of us sends different
meanings. We tend to start new arguments without stating our own interests, or values.

In our example Marc and Maria are two of 12 staff members; they are a part of a social
system. At the beginning Maria doesnt have a conflict to work on a new roster. But she
is influenced by Marcs responding whether she would or not. Based on her own
perception of the ongoing issues she takes side in this dispute.

Marc is facing this conflict. To him is it a kind of threat. If you read his values, needs,
interests, or concerns you will get an understanding why he used to start an arguing. But
he doesnt address it to Kevin, he addresses it to Maria. He expects that Maria to
support his opinion. But he recognises that she has a completely different opinion. He is
angry about it, because he wants all other staff members to be against this new roster,
system.

Marc doesnt communicate his real needs, values, interest and concerns.

We are more likely to do the same when we have to define the problem. Often there is a
threat to our own needs.

In our example it could happen, that Marc cant attend his yoga class anymore.

To prevent conflicts its important to get an understanding of our own responding and to
be aware of our values, interests, needs, and concerns. If we are able to state one of
these needs we will be able to prevent conflicts. Address your interests to the person
who has to do with it. If we are able to identify at least one of these components, we
will be better able to present conflictsand address our concerns with the person whom
we are in conflict with.

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General tips
Recognise your own behavioural style.
Recognise your upcoming feelings.
Remind yourself it comes from your perception and be prepared that other
people probably do not see an issue.
Know about your hot buttons and warnings signs.
Acknowledge your judgements and separate them from the other person you are
in conflict with.

Before you respond


Become awareness of your needs, concerns, interests, goals and values.
Consider importance of the issue and the working relationship.
Separate the issue from the person.
Do not make assumptions on other people needs.
Tackle problems as early as possible.
Get professional advice to get a third perspective.
Look up further information on conflicts, grievance, and complaints.
Be willing to change.
Make a decision to clarify the matter and to solve the problem.
Set up a time to talk to the person you want to and set up the venue.
Take a deep breath before you raise your issue.

How to respond?
Speak only on your behalf.
Communicate your own needs and feelings.
Do not blame other people, or confront them in public.
Pay attention to other peoples view.
Listen for upcoming ideas to solve the matter, or to improve dealing with
difficulties.
Take notes to follow up.
Use the persons name.
Repeat important points.
Give the other time to respond.
Do not interrupt one another.
Do not finish other persons sentence.

Day to Day Skills in Conflict Communication


Use I Statements to speak from your point of view and on your behalf.
Be assertive to have your say.
Be an active listener to separate the issue from the person and to explore
underlying feelings, needs etc. of the other person.
Ask questions for clarification not for justification.

Professional Skills in Conflict Resolution


Facilitation
Negotiation
Mediation
Arbitration
Litigation
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Active Listening

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Concentration
Focusing on the
Eliminating speaker Listening to the
distractions whole message

Separating fact Suspending


from
Active judgements
feelings Listening

Checking Taking notes


understanding
Making eye
contact

Communication styles

Communication is a complex, often confusing, but integral part of human interaction.

Humans are social animals and therefore it is through communication that we are
able to interact and relate to others.

Communication is a 2-way street it involves the sender and the receiver/s. Both
parties can be influenced by many factors.

Communication includes not only what we say and/or write but also, our tone,
gestures, and mannerisms that we portray. Communication encompasses all of these
aspects. Also, it is important to remember that messages are delivered within a
context, and contexts are ever-changing in a dynamic manner. Many people are not
aware of some aspects of communication. Thus, many of us are not aware of exactly
what we may be communicating to others that is, the message sent is not always
the message received.

Appropriate social communication can result in feelings of happiness and fulfilment in

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relationships whilst poor social communication can make relationships unenjoyable,


unrewarding, stressful and even aggressive.

We learn to communicate primarily through our experiences with the social world
around us, which may involve the influence of parents/significant others, teachers,
peers and society. Many of us are taught that we should always please others, that
it is not OK to consider our needs above others, that we shouldnt make waves, that
we should just stay away from people who do or say something to hurt us rather than
address it with them and that it is better to avoid confrontations. Implicit in this
is consideration of cultural norms (e.g., Wood & Mallinckrodt, 1990).

Continuum of Communication

It is important to understand that communication styles vary on a continuum. Thus,


assertiveness can be seen on a continuum of behaviour choices. The key word here is
choice. A person can choose to behave using submissive behaviours, assertive
behaviours, or aggressive behaviours. Again, it is important to note that different
cultures will have different expressions of these behaviours. They will also have
different perceptions/understandings of how the appropriateness of some behaviours
(e.g., eye contact, making requests, open expression, refusing requests).

What does it mean to be passive or non-assertive?


Typically, this involves not respecting your own rights, wishes, feelings and/or thoughts.
Sometimes, this results in acting apologetically and diffidently. Sometimes, this can lead
to feelings of anger and disappointment with oneself. Sometimes, this results in doing
things in a passive-aggressive manner that is, we do things to hurt the other person in
a covert manner.

It is important to consider that sometimes, such behaviours show not only a lack of
respect for our own needs, but also a lack of respect for the other person it assumes
that they cant cope, adjust, and/or consider your thoughts, feelings, needs.

What does it mean to be aggressive?


Although aggressive behaviour involves standing up for what you feel, think, and want, it
does so at the expense of others it involves violating the rights of others. It is also
important to consider that aggressive behaviour violates your own rights as you are
imposing your thoughts, feelings, wants on others as opposed to having them being
accepted in a considered manner. Also, there usually negative consequences of
aggressive behaviours such as loss of self-respect, loss of respect of others, hurting
others, physical property damage, and legal/practical consequences.

What does it mean to be assertive? The happy medium


Assertiveness encompasses at least 3 types of behaviour (Christoff & Kelly, 1985; Wood &
Mallinckrodt, 1990)

1. Not agreeing to the requests of others in a socially appropriate manner


2. Expressing ones feelings and/or thoughts in a socially appropriate manner
3. Making requests in a socially appropriate manner

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That is, it involves saying/acting with the intent of This is what I think. This is what I
feel. This is my view of things. Thus, it involves expressing ones feelings and thoughts
honestly in a socially appropriate manner, thus respecting the rights, thoughts and
feelings of others and oneself.

Assertive behaviour promotes equality in human relationships, enabling us


to act in our own best interests, to stand up for ourselves without undue
anxiety, to express feelings honestly and comfortably, to exercise
personal rights without denying the rights of others
(Alberti & Emmons, 1995, p. 46)

Assertive behaviour is (Alberti & Emmons, 1995): self-expressive; respectful of the


rights of self and others; honest, direct and firm; mutually beneficial; verbal and non-
verbal; appropriate for the person, situation and culture; socially responsible; and learnt
its not innate/inborn

Techniques for Assertiveness

Use I language to communicate your own needs and feelings.


o I statements indicate ownership of your message and keep the focus on the
problems youre having, not accusing or blaming the other person. By using I
statements, you accept the responsibility for your emotions rather than laying the
blame on others for the way you feel.
o Acknowledge that your message comes from your frame of reference, your
conception of good vs. bad or right vs. wrong, and your perceptions.
o You can acknowledge ownership with personalized I statements such as I dont
agree with you rather than Youre wrong, or Id like you to mow the lawn
rather than You should really mow the lawn, you know.
o Suggesting that someone is wrong or bad and should change for his or her own
benefit when, in fact, it would please you will only foster resentment and
resistance rather than understanding and cooperation.

Say what you mean. Be clear and specific about what you feel, need, and think. Give
your reasons for what you want. The following statements project this preciseness:
o I want to
o I dont want you to
o Would you?
o I liked it when you did that.
o I have a different opinion, I think that
o I have mixed reactions. I agree with these aspects for these reasons,
but I am disturbed about these aspects for these reasons.

It can be helpful to explain exactly what you mean and exactly what you dont mean, such
as I dont want to break up over this, but Id like to talk it through and see if we can
prevent it from happening again.

Be direct deliver the message to the person for whom it is intended. If you want

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to tell Jane something, tell Jane; do not tell everyone except Jane; do not tell a
group, of which Jane happens to be a member.

Communicate calmly without attacking another person and stick to the point.

Only say yes if you mean it and say no when you mean no rather than agreeing
with something just to please someone else.

Ask for feedback. Am I being clear? How do you see this situation? What do you
want to do? Asking for feedback can encourage others to correct any
misperceptions you may have as well as help others realize that you are expressing
an opinion, feeling, or desire rather than a demand. Encourage others to be clear,
direct, and specific in their feedback to you

Always respect the rights and point of view of the other person. Be empathic and
tactful. Acknowledge others feelings when appropriate. For example, saying You
seem upset by what Ive said, and checking whether this is an accurate perception.

Use facts, not judgements. For example, instead of Your work is really sloppy say,
Your punctuation needs work and your formatting is inconsistent

Be prepared to negotiate. Keep the we in the relationship and be prepared to be


flexible and to compromise as appropriate.

Be aware of timing.
o Use your judgement to maximise receptivity and impact. Say what you want when
it is an issue. Speak up when the issue is hot. Try not to wait until the issue isnt
important any more, or keep a list of all the things that bother you so that the
pressure builds up over time.
o However, sometimes it may be better to wait until you calm down before you speak
up. Alternatively, you may need to wait until the other person has calmed down.
For example, if you have become very annoyed by another persons behaviour while
out in public, you may want to wait until you are alone together before you speak
up.
o Timing then, needs to be carefully considered. On the one hand, you need to speak
up when the issue is hot so that you dont miss the opportunity. On the other
hand, you need to speak when things are calm and when its appropriate.

Listen actively to what the other person is saying. Assertive communication is a


two-way process, so its important to listen to what the other person is saying.
One of the best ways to make sure you are not misunderstanding the other person
is to use reflective listening. This means to put into your own words what you
think the other person is saying. For example, you may say What I hear you
saying is In this way, the other person knows that you have heard what s/he
said. Then you can add Have I got that right?

An important aspect to being assertive is consistent persistence. That is, be firm


and stick to your point.

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Behavioural rehearsal. Practise how you want to look and sound. This can be
particularly helpful when you are first practising assertiveness communication
techniques.

Body Language
Copied from: http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/career_and_jobs/article4205754.ece

Posture
Non-assertive postures include slouching, hunching shoulders, shuffling or marching
around like a whirlwind, hiding you face behind your hair, your mouth behind your hand,
cocking your head to one side or standing off balance (especially with your hands clasped
behind your back).
Walk steadily, holding your back straight and your head up. Relax your shoulders and
spread your weight evenly on both legs.
Try to be at the same physical height as the other person. If they are sitting in a higher
chair, you may decide to stand up or lean against the radiator. If you are both standing
and the other person is taller, why not suggest sitting.

Distance
Learn what is the most comfortable distance for you. Allow yourself enough room to feel
at ease and move when/if necessary.
Try always to approach someone directly (and not to sidle up to them). Then sit or stand
directly in front of them. Try not to talk across someone's desk. Do not be afraid to
move chairs to a position where you will be more equal. Do not be frightened to move
nearer, to directly approach someone, particularly when saying something important, be
sure to be near enough to be heard clearly without shouting.
Eyes
Do not try to talk to someone who has their back to you, who is watching television or
who is reading a newspaper. Make sure you have the person's full attention.
Try to look directly at the other person when you are making an assertive statement or
request but avoid 'eye-balling' or allowing yourself to be 'eye-balled'.

Mouth
Be aware of thrusting forward shoulders, jaw, chin. This communicates aggression
and/or tension (even though the words may be the same when assertive or aggressive,
the mouth may give a stronger or contradictory message).
Do you smile to disguise nervousness or when expressing anger? This gives rise to a
mixed message or 'body leakage', a clue that gives away the real feelings of the speaker
despite attempts to control and disguise them.

Voice
Whispers and very loud voices are out! Try to strike a balance.
Practice using the high and low registers of your voice - breathing and relaxation will
help.
Subtle changes in pitch and tone can indicate so much. Do you whine or plead sometimes?
Is your voice tinged with an apologetic tone sometimes, or is it a sarcastic or hostile
one?
Try to speak slowly, audibly and calmly. Gabbled words confuse people and can result in

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your not being understood or taken seriously.


Watch your inflection. Do not allow statements to rise at the end and so sound like
questions.

Gestures
Do you constantly twiddle your hair? Claps and unclasp your hands? Bite your fingernails?
Fiddle with jewellery or watch?
When you do, you are conveying tension and nervousness (even though that might not be
how you are feeling). The same impression is given use using 'filler' words such as
'actually' or 'you know' which are only verbal twiddling.
Small changes in your gestures an make and enormous difference to how you feel and
consequently to how you are perceived by others.

Appearance
Our appearance says a lot about how we feel about our bodies as well as the mood we
may be in. The colours we wear, the clothes we wear for a particular occasion all say
something about us.
Feeling assertive can have the effect of making you want to express yourself clearly via
your appearance. Feeling good about your appearance can sometimes help to encourage
assertive feelings. It is nothing to do with being 'pretty' or dressing up to please
others. Finding a personal style, discovering things that express your personality and
make you feel comfortable and confident do not need a lot of money or time, just a
belief that you are worth knowing and caring about.
Small things can add up to make and overall impression. Focus on the tiny details (eyes,
gestures, etc.) and by making minor adjustments you an produce major changes in your
overall effectiveness and communication.

Assertive Body Language

Use open, confident and secure body language. Stand upright, but in relaxed manner
with your hands open.
Stay calm.
Maintain direct eye contact. This shows interest and sincerity. By looking at
someone directly in the face you will reinforce the importance of what you are
saying.
Use appropriate gestures to help add emphasis but not dismissive ones.
Keep your voice calm and fairly soft, not whiney or abrasive. Maintain a level, well-
modulated tone that is convincing and acceptable, rather than intimidating.
Carefully choose where, when and how you choose to comment.
Actively listen to the other persons perspective. Hear and understand the other
persons point of view, validating the other persons feelings, asking for clarification
etc. Tune in to the other person by stopping other activities and ignoring other
activities. Attend to the message by using eye contact if possible, and try to
understand what the other person is saying by thinking about the underlying message
and the feeling behind the words.
Maintain a pleasant but serious facial expression.
Match your spoken and non-verbal messages.
Dont fidget or mumble.
Dont use sarcasm or put-downs.

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Dealing with Requests and Resistance

Refusing requests
Refusing requests is difficult because you dont want to let others down. However, if
you said yes to every request, you would soon run out of time. What are some reasons
why you do not say no:

Some thoughts that may go through your mind may be If I am a true friend, then I
cant say no. Or, you may worry about looking as if you are rejecting the person. If
you have thoughts like these, it may be because you are confusing the person with the
request. Remember that friendship involves giving, but not endless giving.

You may not like to say no because you dont want a confrontation, so it may be easier
in the short-term. However, in the long term, it may make things harder for you if you
say yes because you may resent the person for making the request, or you may resent
yourself for not refusing. You may also worry about being asked again. In this instance,
you may want to explain why you refused this time.

Its important to be direct when refusing requests. If you use excuses, you may find it
difficult to get out of something. It would be more helpful to use an explanation rather
than an excuse.

An explanation gives a reason.


An excuse is an attempt to justify yourself.

Explanations reveal something about yourself. Explanations account for your reasons
and actions. In this way, explanations are important in close relationships because they
help others to understand something about you.

Making requests
Again, its important to be direct. For example, if you want your partner to do the
dishes, it is better to ask him/her than to make a lot of noise banging about in the
kitchen. You also need to give the person an opportunity to say no. For example, you
may say I can understand if you cant say yes. Timing and tact are important when
making requests.

Dealing With Resistance


Sometimes, others do not want to hear what you are saying. They may try to persuade
you to their point or stir up feelings of guilt. In these cases, you may want to try the
following techniques:

Broken record: Keep repeating the message until the person gets your message.

Time-out: It may be possible to defuse the situation by calling for time-out. For
this to work, you need to both agree beforehand that either one of you can call
time-out when necessary.

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Avoid red herrings: Often, people try to confuse you by mentioning unrelated
or irrelevant points. For example, a friend may say to you:
Some friend you are if you cant go out tonight!.
You can say:
I am your friend, its just that Ive got something planned for tonight.

Dealing with guilt: We sometimes feel guilty because we take seriously an


expectation imposed either by ourselves or by others. Often the expectation is
that we must be perfect. At such times, it can be helpful to remind ourselves
that this is unrealistic and that any such expectation is unreasonable. In this
way, our feelings of guilt may be reduced.

Avoiding unnecessary apologies: At times, it is appropriate to apologise.


However, the words Im sorry are often over-used and not genuinely meant.

Direct negative feedback: When others do something that annoys you, it is


important to give them feedback straight away. For example:
Id prefer it if you called me Joanne and not Jo.

Selective ignoring: This refers to situations when you choose not to respond to
inappropriate aspects of another persons communication to you. This can also be
helpful when someone keeps criticising you for something that happened in the
past.

Disarming anger: If someone becomes aggressive, you can


disarm the anger by refusing to carry on the conversation until
the anger has subsided. You may both choose to have time-out
if you are both angry at the time. However, it would be important
to return to the discussion at a later stage and listen to their concerns.

Ill let you know: When you have been in the habit of always saying yes and
are learning to say no, it can be helpful to give yourself more time to think
about your rights and wishes. Here it can be helpful to say:
Ill get back to you about that tomorrow, or
Ill need to check my diary and let you know later, or
I need to think about it.

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Broken record
Copied from http://www.gp-training.net/training/leadership/assertiveness/broken.htm

This is a technique to use when you are clear about what you want to say and you want
this to be known. It helps you to avoid getting angry, helps in situations of conflict and
when others are not listening to your expressed feelings or opinions. It is also useful
when you are asking questions for clarification or when people are trying to take
advantage of you. The BROKEN RECORD is a good way to deal with red herrings,
attempts to steer you away from the point, guilt tripping and manipulation.

How do you do it?


You speak as if you were a record that is broken or cracked and so repeats itself again
and again. You need to be persistent, to stick the point and keep saying it; ignoring all
the side issues. Use a calm voice. Eventually you are likely to be heard if only because it
is uncomfortable to have to listen to a broken record for too long!

How do I use this technique?


1. Identify your goal and make a clear and specific statement:
o " I won't be able to work late this evening"
o " I don't want another drink, thank you"
o "This item is damaged and I would like a refund"
o "The cheese is stale and I would like my money back"
2. Acknowledge the response of the other person whilst maintaining your
statement:
o "I understand you are under a great deal of stress, but I won't be able
to work late"
o "You may want to have another drink, but I don't , than you"
o "I understand you weren't serving here yesterday but I want a refund as
this item is damaged"
o "It may not be unusual for you to get complaints about this cheese, but it
is stale and I would like my money back"
3. Moving up a gear. Repeat the statement without getting sidetracked:
o "That's really not relevant to the main issue which is that I won't be able
to work late"
o "No, I don't want another drink"
o "But the point is that the item is damaged and I want a refund"
o "Regardless of others opinions, this cheese is stale and I would like my
money back"
4. Do not let the distractions of the other person confuse you. Do not introduce
other information or start making excuses. You may wish to offer some
explanation later, but this must come after you have got your point across and
when you are sure that the point has been heard and understood.
5. 5. If an important side issue comes up, you may want to say something like
o "I would be happy to talk about that as soon as we settle this ...". If you
do say that you are going to deal with a side issue afterwards, it is
important that you do.

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Summary

Communication and Conflict Styles


Passive Active Active
Non assertive Assertive Aggressive
Avoiding Collaborating Competing
Accommodating Compromising
Victim Perpetrator
Sample statements
I wont get it right Lets see which options we have You dont know how we did that
and consider an action plan before, let me tell you how I am
going to do it
Behaviour
Doesnt express needs, keeps quiet, Expresses their needs, opinions, Voice their opinion, sometimes
cant say no concerns to others, able to over-correcting of being too
converse and to say No, is aware passive, inappropriate dealing with
of other peoples need, is able to anger
refuse a request without feeling
embarrassed or guilty
Disadvantages and advantages
Doesnt meet your need Balances your need Puts your need first and tells
Considers priorities and acts on it others off
Power outcome
Lose Win Win Win Win Lose
I am wrong, you are right. I am right, you are right. I am right, you are wrong
I am not okay, you are okay. I am okay; you are okay. I am okay, your are not okay
Doesnt get what you want Often you get what you want You get what you want at the
Frustration and Anger building up expense of others but often your
deeper needs (acceptance,
closeness) are not met and anger
and frustration build up

I have the right


to be the judge of what I do and what I think to say no to requests or demands I cant
meet without feeling guilty to express all of my feelings, positive or negative to change
my mind to make mistakes and not have to be perfect to follow my own values and
standards to say no to anything when I feel I am not ready, it is unsafe, or it violates my
values to determine my own priorities. I have the right not to be responsible for others
behaviour, actions, feelings or problems to expect honesty from others to be uniquely
myself to feel scared and say Im afraidto say I dont know ...to my own needs for
personal space and time to say I dont understand to be in a non-abusive environment
to have my needs and wants respected by others ...to be treated with dignity and respect
to make my own decisions. 11

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Body language
Non assertive Assertive Aggressive
Bent, crooked posture Stands straight Tensed, stiff posture,
Blank face, no movement Maintains eye contact Leans forward
Looking down, looking away Clear and steady voice Red face, frowning,
Low voice, hesitant when speaking Speaks fluently Staring
Restless gestures Fast voice
Pointing fingers

Techniques
I Statement Broken record Say NO
To use when To use when To use when
- Always! - Conversation gets stuck. - You dont want do what
- To own your message. - Repeating the same again and other people want you to
- To accept the responsibility for again. do.
your own emotions and needs. - You think you are not getting
what you want.
How to do How to do How to do
- Keep the focus on the problem. - Keep saying what you want. - Say no and give an
- Address your message to whom - Stick to your point. explanation of your
it is intended. feelings, concerns and
- Ensure your message is clear. reasons.
- I feel (describe your - Finish your statement
feeling) when you . (describe with Thank you for
a behaviour) because asking me. if it is
(describe the effect). appropriate.
Example Example Example:
You: I felt ignored when you left You: Im not satisfied with the Request: Can you read the draft of
the room within our discussion, outcome; I would like to bring it my research article and give me
because I am worried that I cant up again. some comments on it?
address my concern. Reply: There is no time left to You: No, I feel much pressured
Reply: Oh, sorry. This wasnt my discuss it again. at the moment, because I
intention to make you feel that way. I You: I know, but I would like to already committed to read
havent been aware of my behaviour. discuss it again, Im sure we will another paper. Thank you for
find some time. thinking of me.
Reply: Look, we discussed
everything; I see no point for further
discussion.
You: Im convinced we will find
time. Lets have a look in our
diaries.
Reply: Well, if you can come in half
an hour back then I will have some
time.
You: Thank you, I see you in 30
minutes.

Please refer to: Assertive modules @ Centre for Clinical Intervention +++ Assertiveness pocketbook
by Max Eggert +++ University Counselling Service @ Curtin
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1 Compiled from: The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook, by E. J. Bourne, and from: The Treatment of Anxiety Disorders, by G.
Andrews, M. Creamer, R. Crino, C. Hunt, L. Lampe, and A. Page)

The contents in this handout are based on the following resources:

Alberti, R. E., & Emmons, M. (1990). Your Perfect Right. Revised edition. San Luis Obispo,
CA: IMPACT, 1990.
Andrews, G., Creamer, M., Crino, R., Hunt, C., Lampe, L., & Page, A. (2003). The treatment of
anxiety disorders. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Antony, M. M., & Swinson, R. (2000). The shyness and social anxiety workbook. Oakland,
CA: New Harbinger Publications Inc.
Barsky, A.E. (2000). Conflict Resolution for the Helping Professions [Thomson, Brooks/Cole]
Bolton, R. (1986). People skills: How to assert yourself, listen to others, and resolve
conflicts. Brookvale, NSW: Prentice Hall.
Boulle, L. (2005). Mediation: Principles, process, practice: 2nd edition. Chatswood, NSW:
LexusNexus.
Christoff, K. A., & Kelly, J. A. (1985). A behavioral approach to social skills training. In L.
L'Abate & M. A. Milan (Eds.), Handbook of social skills training and research (pp. 361387).
New York: Wiley.
Condliffe, P. (2nd edition). Conflictmanagement, a practical guide [LexisNexis Butterworth]
Cook, S. (1997). The Facilitation Toolkit [Orange House Publishing]
Eunson, Baden (2002). Dealing with conflicts [John Wiley & Sons]
Eunson, Baden (1994). Negotiation [John Wiley & Sons]
Francoeur, R. (1991). Becoming a sexual person: 2nd edition. New York: Macmillan
Publishing.
Glasl, F. (1997). Confronting Conflict: A First-Aid Kit for Handling Conflict.
Harper, G. 2004). The of Conflict Resolution.New Society Publisher. Canada
Page, A., & Page, C. (1996). Assert yourself. Woollahra: Gore & Osment Publications Pty
Ltd.
Powell, T. (1992). The Mental Health Handbook. Great Britain: Winslow Press.
Wood, P.S. & Mallinckrodt, B. (1990). Culturally sensitive assertiveness training for ethnic
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Wertheim, E., Love, A., Peck, C. (2nd edition, 2006). Skills for Resolving Conflicts [Eruditions
Publishing]

Useful websites on assertiveness communication:


www.EzineArticles.com/?expert=Lee_Hopkins
www.mind.org.uk
www.babcp.com
www.psychotherapy.org.uk
www.business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/career_and_jobs/article4205754.ece
www.gp-training.net/training/leadership/assertiveness/broken.htm
www.crnhq.org
www.ohrd.wisc.edu/onlinetraining/resolution/aboutwhatisit.htm
www1.orange.co.uk/about/community/downloads/open_for_business/customercare/

Images in this handout were obtained from:


Microsoft Word for Windows Clipart
Assertiveness Pocketbook
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Notes

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Please contact the UCS

Get professional advice in dealing with conflicts as well as use the UCS if you
need a Mediator to solve a conflict.
Ask for further information on conflict counselling or mediation.
Attend workshops related to dealing with conflicts, or assertiveness
(register online).
Address any further training request. The Counselling Service also
offers developing conflict trainings for your area.

University Counselling Service


Email: counselling@curtin.edu.au
Phone: (08) 92667850
Fax: (08) 92663052
Website: http://counselling.curtin.edu.au/

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