Being Kind, Firm and Clear will help you avoid being either aggressive or passive.
When you are appropriately assertive, you help both yourself and the other person, because you set boundaries and reduce ambiguity in a way that is more likely to help them accept your position.
And we recognise that assertiveness may take courage before you become comfortable with using it. First, you need to be clear in yourself about what you want, and trust that it is the right thing for you. Holding on to your position in the face of opposing ideas takes courage: Others might not like what you say, and they may challenge you, or criticise you personally, for the stand you take. Although being assertive is not always easy, knowing what makes for true assertiveness can help.
Kindness is the oil that reduces friction in difficult conversations. When you are being assertive you may be saying something that the other person may not like. They may feel that you don’t like them because of what you say. They may feel hurt or misunderstood. So being kind in these moments is essential to help the other person deal with their own feelings, which might include disappointment, rejection, being misunderstand, or not being appreciated.
Kindness doesn’t mean being lenient, overindulgent, spoiling or being a doormat to stay popular. You can still hold onto an unpopular decision and be kind.
Firmness is an essential characteristic of assertiveness. Firmness is not about being brutally honest and rigid. It is about ‘sticking to your guns’ and not being pushed into something that you don’t like. The other person may not like what you say and may want you to change your mind. That is why it is important to have thought carefully about what you are saying.
However, if you do need to reconsider what you have said, you can do that, and still set boundaries (i.e., be firm) in terms of how long any further discussion might go on for, and what you are willing to discuss.
Note that you don’t need to shout to be firm. Being quietly firm with kindness recognizes that while they might not like what you say, you are setting a boundary that is not easily moved.
When you communicate your position, try to say it using clear, plain language.
Sometimes the other party may say “What?” This response may not be so much because they didn’t hear or understand you, but because they do not like what you say. There is a temptation to use different words to restate what you have said. It’s usually best to simply use the same words that you used to begin with. This will indicate that you are clear about what you are saying. If they really don’t understand what you are saying after that, you can ask them which part they don’t understand and give an explanation to help clarify if needed.
If they respond to your initial statement with “What” it’s not helpful to say something like “You heard me!” That’s aggressive and would come across as judgmental, especially if you have your hands on your hips like a parent or a schoolteacher might (yes, body language is important, too!) Instead, simply repeat your original statement in a clear and kind way.
So, a quick note about body language – it is good to keep your body relaxed. Check that your shoulders are down, and your body is open (i.e., not hunched), and you are facing the person / people you are talking to if they are present.
These are the three secret KFC spices to make assertiveness tastier for you and for those hearing you.
The next time you go past the big red and white signs with the Colonel, you can remember: Kind, Firm and Clear 🙂
This tasty formula was created by Sarah Amy Glensor Best – Parenting & Relationships Thought Leader and senior facilitator at TUF: Thriving Under Fire. Used with permission.