Assertiveness & Interpersonal Skills

Dr. Purushothaman
October 1, 2013

"Make the most of yourself, for that is all there is of you." Ralph Waldo Emerson

Assertiveness skills are very important in many situations; by being assertive you are letting people know what you want, need or prefer, in a way which is acceptable to both you and them. Put simply; assertiveness is about getting what you want without upsetting anyone!


hope that you will get what you want,
sit on your feelings,
rely on others to guess what you want.

You Don't:
ask for what you want,
express your feelings,
often get what you want,
upset people,
get noticed.

ask for what you want directly and openly,
ask confidently and without undue anxiety.

You Don't:
violate other people's rights,
expect other people to magically know what you want,
freeze with anxiety.

try to get what you want in any way that works,
often cause bad feelings in others,
threaten, cajole, manipulate, use sarcasm,

You Don't:
respect that other people have a right to get their needs met,
look for situations in which you both might be able to get what you want ('win-win situations')

Understanding and recognising assertiveness is a major step in helping you to develop your interpersonal and influencing skills.

There are two other important factors however:

* How you prefer to behave with other people

* How the people you interact with, like others to behave towards them.

For example, some people are the life and soul of the party, dress flamboyantly and speak in loud, fast voices; get two of them together and it's almost a competition to see who can burst the other's eardrums! Try approaching one of these people in a polite, mild-mannered and factual way and you're unlikely to make an impression.

Other people like to conduct business in a very formal way, they're abrupt and to the point and only interested in "the bottom line". Approach a meeting with these people with a barrage of questions about family, hobbies and what they did during the weekend and you've probably burned up 80% of the time they've allocated for the meeting!

How can you ensure that you approach people in the correct way?

"Knowing About Social Styles", developed by Merrill and Reid, is very useful. In the Social Styles Model there are four basic "styles" or preferred ways of interacting with others.

Merrill and Reid believe that a person's Social Style is a way of coping with others. People become most comfortable with that style, in themselves and others. Understanding your own style and those of others can help in making meetings more productive. The main objective of Social Styles is to help people develop versatility in dealing with others.

A person's Social Style is measured in relation to three behavioural dimensions:

* Assertiveness
* Responsiveness
* Versatility.

Measures the degree to which a person is seen as attempting to influence the thoughts, decisions or actions of others either directly by "tell" behaviour or by questioning, i.e. "ask" behaviour.

TELL BEHAVIOUR: Is risk-taking, fast-paced, and challenging.

ASK BEHAVIOUR: Is co-operative, deliberate actions, minimising risks.

Measures the degree to which a person either openly expresses their feelings or controls their feelings. The ends of the scale are "control" and "emote".

CONTROL BEHAVIOUR: Is disciplined, serious, and cool.

EMOTE BEHAVIOUR: Is relationship-oriented, open, and warm.

The two scales combine to give a two-dimensional model of behavior, which will help you to understand how others perceive you. The dimensions of behavior will also help you to plan how you can deal more effectively with people of different Social Styles.

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