Assertive techniques for resolving conflicts

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Louise Hay

Assertive techniques for resolving conflicts

Applying assertiveness in our interactions with others will help us prevent and resolve conflicts. What's more, it will allow us to do so while we protect our own interests and without harming those of others.

Last update: January 06, 2022

In many cases, communication does not flow as we would have liked. Misunderstandings and conflicts arise that disturb relationships, giving way to frustration. In these cases, assertive techniques are simple procedures that help us defend our rights and do not scratch those of others.

Knowing and practicing these simple techniques will lead us to include them in our natural repertoire of responses. At first, they may seem artificial to our ears, but this feeling will fade with practice.

What is assertiveness?

Assertiveness is a communicative style whereby the subject is able to express their desires, needs and opinions without, however, causing damage to the interlocutor. We can understand this better if we take into account the existence of three basic forms of communication:

  • Passive: in this case the person is unable to express their opinions or defend their rights. Usually he doesn't show that he disagrees for fear of sparking a confrontation. His strong need to please others leads him to feel manipulated and misunderstood.
  • Aggressive: at the opposite pole we find those who turn to others imperatively and without showing interest in their point of view. They try to impose their opinion and typically make use of intimidation, accusations and anger.
  • Assertive: this communication style is the most suitable and is characterized by the ability to disagree and express one's opinions while respecting the point of view of others. It is typical of people with good self-esteem and results in a satisfying interaction for both of them.

Assertive techniques for resolving conflicts

Far from being an abstract concept, assertiveness can and should be practiced when we relate to others. To succeed, we can put into practice a basic sequence when we want to deal with a conflict situation: 

  • Begin by giving concrete rather than generalized facts. Instead of saying, "you never spend time with me," try saying, "we've only seen each other on a couple of occasions in the last few weeks."
  • Express how a certain situation makes you feel instead of blaming or labeling the other. Saying "this makes me sad" is better than saying "you are selfish".
  • Make a concrete proposal. For example: “I would like it if we could choose a day of the week to meet”.
  • Explain how this would improve the situation. "That way we could spend more time together and stop having arguments."

Broken record technique

It consists in repeating one's affirmation several times, in a calm tone and without provoking.

We always arrive late because of you.

-I had to entertain myself at work because I had a meeting.

-It is always like this.

-I tell you again that I had to leave work later because of the meeting.

Assertive techniques: the fog bank

This technique is used when the other person criticizes us or gives us advice with the sole and perverse intention of manipulating us. In this case we will give part of the reason to our interlocutor, but leaving the final decision in our hands. 

-You are not going out with us anymore, you are neglecting your friends.

-You are right, I don't go out with you so much anymore, but my new working hours prevent me. 

Technique of the assertive agreement

In this situation we will accept the error in our conduct, but not in our person. In other words, we will get rid of the label that the other tries to put on us, while taking responsibility for our mistake.

- You always leave without tidying up. You are a fool.

- You're right, I didn't collect things because I went out in a hurry this morning, but other times I do.

Technique of ignoring

This technique is often used when the other person is very upset or angry. It is a question of ignoring the reason for the discussion and postponing it to another, more suitable time. 

You are very angry right now and we may end up hurting ourselves with words. Better talk about it later, when we both have calmed down.

These are just a few examples of the many techniques that are meant to include assertiveness in our life. As we have seen, the secret is to keep a calm, calm and respectful tone, avoiding provocations, but defending our point of view. With practice, assertiveness can become our best ally whenever we need to communicate.

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