Learn About Assertiveness Techniques

Dr. Purushothaman
October 1, 2013

Have you ever been criticised and didn't know how to respond? Have you conversely been given feedback that was positive and still didn't know how to respond! Assertiveness techniques are useful to use in day to day life.

Receiving Negative Criticism
The most important bit of advice before any verbal response is given to negative criticism is to remain calm. If you are able to not react emotionally at all, as this is an attribute you already have, this is the time to let that show. If it won’t be possible not to react emotionally at all then just listen and don't speak until the other person has finished.

Criticism is only valid if it is specific and about a behaviour. If it is about anything you cannot change it is a pointless criticism!

All criticism is a part of life, like breathing, there is no escape so it is wise to learn how to deal with it without looking foolish. There are two areas to look at when it comes to criticism. Do not be passive and accept the criticism and promise change. Do not be aggressive and justify any of your actions. Be assertive and listen, as you may actually learn something about yourself.

These are a couple of assertiveness techniques you can try when dealing with negative criticism.

1) Agree

As strange as this sounds!

For example,

Person 1 (them)
You are late again.

Person 2 (you)
I know I'm not always on time.

And again,

Person 1 (them)
You're always making mistakes.

Person 2 (you)
I'm not perfect I know. I have made mistakes sometimes.

By doing this you are accepting that the criticism is either partly true whether it is true or not! A person who criticizes will not expect acceptance as they are often expecting resistance. Some people criticize because they actually like confrontation so don't give them what they want.

2) Ask a Question

For example,

Person 1 (them)
You are so stupid.

Person 2 (you)
Can you explain specifically?

And again,

Person 1 (them)
You are always rude to people.

Person 2 (you)
Always. Every time I speak to a person I am rude? How do you know that?

And so on. Any type of question will do. You are trying to obtain information or facts on specific behaviours.

If they are giving you constructive criticism then your questions will give you real insight and not be so generalized. Only then can you decide what to do with the feedback, which would be to change or stay the same.

Giving Constructive Criticism
As you have likely at some point been on the receiving end of criticism have you ever wanted to give constructive criticism?

If you want to be critical of a person or group of people think back to when you last received criticism. Remember how you felt about what was said when it was directed towards you. It may have made you angry or upset or even confused. Below is a process you can apply to ensure there are no misunderstandings and that you can give criticism in a tactful way.

Give criticism as soon as possible after the behavior takes place
Be specific about the behavior you are criticizing
Give examples of the behavior (facts are good)
Only criticize behavior that a person can change
Use a sentence such as 'I need to talk to you about something that may make you feel uncomfortable before giving the criticism
After the criticism use a sentence such as 'I have faith that you can improve or a simple 'Thank you for listening to me would suffice

Giving and Receiving Positive Feedback
As well as negative criticism it can be just as awkward for some individuals to accept feedback that is positive. There are many good reasons to just accept positive feedback with a polite 'thank you' and a smile. If you say such things as 'it was nothing' it offends the person giving the compliment. Also, don't feel awkward or shy bask in the good feeling that somebody thinks you have done a good deed, etc. There is nothing more important than feeling good and relish in it.

Also, when giving positive feedback it makes the receiver feel so much better if
1) you mention their name, and
2) you give specific detail about what it was that pleased you.

For example, 'Janet, I was really grateful for the way you handled that aggressive customer this morning'. Or 'Ben, that was a really informative and entertaining presentation you just gave'. Don't overdo positive feedback as it may come across as insincere but it is definitely a free and easy way to make another person feel good, and also more likely that they will like, help, and support you in the future.

Using assertiveness techniques requires some practice. Learn by rote some pat responses so that you are not put on the spot at the moment trying to think of a response, which makes it look like you are making up a response. This way your responses will appear more truthful as they are spontaneous.

Read Related Recent Articles