Being Assertive Is all About Choosing the Best Words
By Brenda Smyth
Speaking assertively means using direct, positive language.
My 13-year-old daughter recently dodged a text from a good friend inviting her to sleep over. She didn’t want to because “she talks too much and always interrupts me when I’m talking,” my daughter explained. On the heels of a 4-day summer camp, she’d reached her tolerance threshold with the exuberant girl and wanted to take a break. Taking a break wasn’t a bad idea, I agreed, but rather than dodging the friend and hurting her feelings, I urged her to suggest they get together next week. And, when she’s with her friend next, to stop her when she interrupts and say, “I don’t like it when you interrupt me. It makes me feel like you aren’t interested in what I have to say.”
Many of us still have trouble speaking assertively. We don’t know exactly how to say what we’re feeling without confrontation. We end up avoiding the person or complaining about them behind their back rather than dealing gently and directly with the problem. Instead of telling a co-worker that his humming makes it hard for us to concentrate, we practice tolerance (a good thing) until we explode over something seemingly minor. Or, we sit hoping our boss will notice our outstanding work and suggest to us that we should get a raise—rather than ask for one. Doesn’t work that way, my friends.
Assertive language begins by being respectful of the person you’re speaking with—preserving the relationship. Yes, you should practice tolerance first—things can’t always be your way. And yes, people should be more aware of how their behavior affects those around them. But if you’re feeling angry about how something is going because you weren’t able to influence the outcome, it’s probably a sign that you could be more assertive, suggests quirks.com.
Being assertive includes the right body language and and preparation. But using the right words is key. Here are some specific words from Your Total Communication Image:
Use “I” statements. Starting a conversation by saying, “You always …” is a great way to start an argument. It puts the person you’re talking with on the defensive. Instead, consider how their behavior is affecting you and talk about that.
Be specific. Include details about what you’re looking for. Remember this is not your opportunity to vent! It’s a way to bring about change. Instead of “Your reports are always late.” Try: “The last three reports I got from you were each a week late. The data is perfect, but getting it late makes it impossible for me to get my proposal back to the client on time and I can’t close the deal when we start out on a bad note like that.”
Ask for information. Picture yourself in a meeting. You are asked to make a recommendation and you do. Then a colleague pipes up with “That’ll never work.” Instead of responding with “You’re not even considering the information I just presented.” Try: “I’m convinced that my recommendation is the right one. But what specifically is making it seem risky to you?” (These should not be leading questions designed to make the speaker feel pressured or silly for speaking up.) Rather, you should genuinely be trying to uncover components you may know (since you did the research) but may not have communicated well. Or it may uncover hidden obstacles that you haven’t considered—causing you to change your mind.
Demonstrate respect. Let the person know that you’re also interested in what they have to say. When a co-worker interrupts, don’t cut them off by saying, “Shut up until I’m finished.” Try: “Let me finish. And then I’d be very interested in hearing about the obstacles you’re concerned about.”
Don’t start statements with apologies. Apologies are intended to right something you’ve done wrong. Many people have gotten into the habit of starting their dissenting opinions with apologetic (qualifying) language: “I’m sorry, but I just don’t think …” or “I may not know much about this, but ….” Instead, speak confidently about your opinion (when you have one). “Based on my research, I think our customers would enjoy ….”
Use tactful, positive words. “That’s dumb, weak, awful. You have to do this. This is a waste of our time …” are all negative. When you put people on the defensive, they don’t listen to the rest of what you have to say. Also, steer clear of controversial or sensitive topics.
Assertiveness is speaking up for yourself. But it doesn’t mean closing your mind to what someone else has to say. So begin by choosing your words carefully. Being heard doesn’t usually mean you need to shut the other person down, but rather understand their perspective. It takes a high level of maturity to speak up in such an open-minded way.
By Victoria Clayton
A mix of new technology and old standbys is helping prevent and diagnose vision problems. There’s good news if you’re heading to the eye doctor. Technology has really improved the eye exam experience. There are still low-tech aspects to even the best exams, but for the most part the eye check has become more efficient and effective. Here’s what you need to know.
1. Be prepared for questions. Exams typically start with a brief medical and family history. Just tell the doctor as much as you know. You should disclose preexisting health conditions, such as diabetes or high blood pressure and any medications that you take.
2. The eye chart is still the thing. The Snellen chart, named after the scientist who developed it, is still alive – with a twist Most eye docs use a high-tech computer version. You’ll read the chart on a wall-mounted flat screen while the doctor changes the picture with a remote. Same concept of “What is the smallest line you can read?” – but much slicker.
3. A newer way to check your prescription. The old school retinoscope, the instrument the doctor used to shine a light in your eyes, measured how light changes as it enters your eye. That’s called the refractive error, and it helps determine prescriptions for glasses or contact lenses. Now a machine called the autorefractor does the same thing and is more objective than a human. That means getting your correct prescription may happen more quickly. There’s still the fine-tuning process where your doctor will use a series of slightly different lenses in front of your eyes to check which help you see better.
4. Don’t fear the air puff. Increased eye pressure is a red flag for glaucoma, a group of diseases that damage the eye’s optic nerve and lead to vision loss. During most eye exams, docs use a tonometer – that’s when you feel the quick puff of air – to measure the pressure inside your eye. It’s painless, but if things don’t check out, you’ll be referred for more testing.
5. Your doc can get a closer look with digital images. With technology called optical coherence tomography (OCT), doctors can take digital images of each of the retina’s layers, mapping and measuring thickness. The retina, at the back of the eyeball, contains cells that are sensitive to light and that trigger nerve impulses that pass through the optic nerve to the brain, allowing for vision. Now images are so good they’re almost like looking at a biopsy of the tissue. The measurements help determine if you have a healthy retina or serve as a tip-off for conditions such as diabetic eye disease or age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which is a leading cause of blindness.
6. Dilation is a maybe. While OCT has improved imaging, your doctor may still need to dilate your eye using special eye drops to enlarge pupils. Don’t skip this step if it’s recommended. Yes, it’s a hassle because it takes extra time and can blur vision for an hour or more after the appointment, but it’s the only way to get a true picture of the back of the eye. It allows doctors to look for indications of trouble, like a form of cellular debris called drusen that’s a sign of dry macular degeneration, the most common form of AMD. It also can help identify the blood vessel changes indicative of wet macular degeneration, the most debilitating type of the disease. Doctors can often detect these changes – as well as signs of health problems like diabetes, high cholesterol, hypertension or thyroid disease – long before you notice symptoms.
7. Your exam may be free. While eye exams are reasonably priced, especially if you have vision coverage, regular health insurance does cover some checkups. This is especially true if you have a health condition like diabetes.
Breaking Down 10 Colossal Myths About Workplace Conflict
By Dan Rose
For many, workplace conflict immediately invokes thoughts of shouting matches and negative relationships. While this extreme is not good for any workplace, conflict should be embraced and not avoided. It’s a natural part of relationships and human communication and shouldn’t be viewed as inherently negative or unhealthy. What matters is how one manages conflict with others.
Here are 10 myths about workplace conflict that most people believe, but shouldn’t:
Myth #1: Workplace conflict is a result of poor management
In fact, conflict is a natural part of communication. By gaining multiple perspectives, work groups are better able to come up with optimal solutions. Groupthink and the strong desire to conform in a group can actually squelch great ideas.
Myth #2: Conflict is always an indicator of low concerns for the organization
An employee willing to give a dissenting opinion is usually someone committed to organizational goals. Simply nodding and going along with the boss’s ideas is easy. Sticking your neck out in a respectful, honest way is hard work.
Myth #3: Conflict and anger are negative and destructive
Conflict and anger are negative when they are not managed skillfully. Constructive conflict happens when the individuals involved know that disagreement is not personal and is part of the process to reach the best end result. Hostile tones and personal attacks have no part in business conflict.
Myth #4: Conflict, when it surfaces, must be resolved immediately
Address conflict immediately. However, moving TOO quickly to end the conflict can diminish the positive outcome. Also, it is management’s responsibility to have policies in place that prevent unnecessary conflict over trivial things. Good conflict relates to problem solving rather than disagreement over procedures or processes.
Myth #5: Conflict, if left alone, will resolve itself
Often, problems are caused by what isn’t said rather than what is said. Unaddressed conflict festers and hostility grows until the problem explodes, suggests positivesharing.com
Myth #6: Men don’t deal with conflict; they just disagree
There are plenty of people, both men and women, who are bad at handling conflict. An aggressive approach may clear the air but permanently damage the relationship, according to huffingtonpost.com. While conflict avoidance keeps the peace temporarily, it lets things fester and the parties never reach resolution.
Myth #7: Women should take conflict personally
Thoughtful disagreement can be a sign of respect, suggests Ben Casnocha in an article for womenofhr.com. Women and men should work to stay respectful when disagreeing … and in turn, receive comments in a non-personal way.
Myth #8: When you deal with conflict and don’t resolve it your way, you should shut down
Conflict should not be personal. The goal of positive conflict is to find the best solution. Your contributions to the discussion, whether chosen or not, lead to the final solution. Addressing potential obstacles and optional approaches is all part of reaching consensus.
Myth #9: Losing a conflict means you’ve failed
People consistently believe that they are right and they are being reasonable. Seeing another person’s view and being able admit that it just might be a great solution (or at least as good as yours) demonstrates that you can be objective. Failing occurs when you stubbornly lose objectivity.
Myth #10: Choosing to confront conflict is an indicator of an aggressive nature
It takes tactful and skilled communication to confront conflict. An aggressive approach makes the situation worse. It can make the other parties defensive and hostile.