Speak the meaning, not just the words

Your Excellency logoMy first 2 blog posts have been on a similar vein – speaking your mind and sharing what you are feeling.   I want to follow these posts up with some more “theoretical” info which I share with my clients during training sessions.

I’m going to share with you the art of being assertive and how you can share your thoughts and feelings so that the message you are delivering “lands” and is received in the most impactful way – and, more importantly, in the way you intended it to be received.

So, firstly let’s be really clear about what assertiveness is. Assertiveness is about standing up for what you think and putting forward your point of view. It’s about aiming for a win-win solution. It’s also about valuing the viewpoints and perspectives of others.

Using the research of former Harvard Professor, Albert Mehrabian, we know that when communicating face-to-face and sharing our thoughts and feelings, communication can be broken down into 3 areas, namely 1) the words that we speak 2) the tone that we use and 3) the body language that we use. The words that we speak account for 7% importance in getting our message across, the tone for 38% and the body language for 55%. If we use Mehrabian’s research in terms of responding assertively then it is clear that we need to pay attention to how we deliver our assertive message as well as the actual words that we use.   For our message to be the most impactful we need to ensure our words, tone and body language are all “congruent” and aligned.

Where possible take time to plan your assertive response – I am an advocate of the saying “failing to plan is planning to fail”! You can think about your response in terms of the 3 Mehrabian areas with the following “checklists”:

Assertive Words:
  • Be open, honest and to the point
  • Use “I” statements – this is about your view
  • Share your feelings – take ownership of the fact that we are emotional beings. Say “I feel….” and claim the emotion you are feeling
  • Acknowledge your own rights, wants  and needs
  • Ask questions of others to find out their wants and needs. Empathise with the other person’s views and respect the fact that people are different and have different views
  • Focus on problem solving, moving forward and thinking about the future.  The ideal outcome for any assertive response is for a win-win situation. Propose a way forward and then “bounce” this back to your  recipient asking them what they think
  • Use phrases such as “I appreciate……” to help your listener understand that you have considered things from their viewpoint. Use “And I am sure you appreciate…..” to get your listener to understand things from your viewpoint.
Assertive Tone:
  • Think about how you say the words
  • “Speak the meaning, not just the words”
  • Think about the timing of your response – put your own view forward and allow others to have their say
  • Ensure your breathing is relaxed and steady
  • Use evenly spaced words
  • Speak at an even pace
  • Emphasise key words
Assertive Body Language
  • Ensure your eye contact is direct, relaxed and  gentle
  • Deliver your message at the same eye level to your recipient(s)
  • Keep your posture upright and balanced (“plant” your feet firmly on the ground – so you feel truly “grounded”)
  • Ensure you are facing the other person and at the same time respecting their personal space
  • Ensure your gestures are balanced and open
  • Ensure your facial expression is open and pleasant
Assertiveness Aura

In addition I believe assertiveness is at its most powerful when you achieve an Assertiveness Aura – a state of being, a presence, an aura that comes from your belief in yourself – the belief that you are entitled to be assertive, that your opinion is valued and deserves the respect of others – whilst you yourself respect and value the opinion of others.

About the author

Lindsay Taylor is the owner and Director of Executive Coaching and Training Organisation Your Excellency Limited. She is also the author of the blog ‘Wise Words Indeed’. You can follow Lindsay on Twitter: @your_excellency and @wisdom_pearls.

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