Be Assertive Without Being Rude

A negotiation or mediation requires a degree of mutual understanding, a willingness to compromise and to be open to the needs of the other side. As warm and fuzzy as this sounds this doesn’t mean allowing yourself to be verbally pushed around according to the Harvard Business Review. You may need to be assertive but not to the point you alienate the other attorney or party.

We run into conflicts big and small every day. Any number of people may wrong you, intentionally or not. You may be reluctant to speak up and stand up for yourself, deciding that the potential benefits just aren’t worth the potential costs.

When you feel the need to address the fact you’ve been wronged with the perpetrator, there are steps you can take to communicate you’re standing up for yourself efficiently, and that the prior acts or words are not acceptable. You can start with a short, objective, factual statement of what happened. Next, you can describe the adverse effect it had and how it impacted your, or your client’s, feelings.

  • Before sending an assertive message, you should think about whether your message is infringing on the other person’s “space.” whether the behavior is repeated or unusual and how your message could impact your overall relationship with the person. If the problem is something that’s isolated or you risk an essential relationship, you may want to avoid a confrontation.
  • If it’s time to stand up for yourself, send your message without a lot of “small talk” and get to the point. Make eye contact, sit or stand upright and lean slightly forward. Your facial expression should match your message. Provide enough clarity and specificity about this behavior, so your statement is impossible to refute.
  • After you communicate your message, be quiet. Allow the other person to interpret and understand what you are trying to convey.
  • The response may be aggressive; there may be questions or an attempt to sidetrack the issue. You may get new information, and your assertive message may result in a new and positive direction in the relationship.
  • Avoid debates, focus on the behavior and the solution and treat the other person with respect. You may need to repeat your assertions to force the other person to focus on the conversation. Don’t take a defensive response personally. Ignore personal attacks and don’t reward this behavior. If you’re criticized, and there’s truth to the criticism, recognize the fact and admit your fault.
  • The process may need to be repeated until the other person recognizes the behavior or the matter is resolved.
  • Don’t force a yes or no response and allow the person a chance to take appropriate action. Compromise by both of you may be one solution. Make sure the solution meets your needs. Once you have come to a resolution, repeat the solution back again and thank the other person for resolving the issue.

If you feel you’re not being treated properly and it’s impacting you or your work, it may be time to address the problem instead of ignoring it, hoping it may go away. Inform your mediator of the situation. The mediator should be able to pick up on these cues and help both sides reach a mutual understanding and resolution.