Conflict Management: the Main Barriers to Assertiveness

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Pitfalls that Threaten the Practice of Assertiveness in the Workplace

Although diverse applicable communication techniques (examples) can help us deal with conflicts in a more harmonious way, it is also of interest to note that certain personal tendencies and habits can undermine our efforts. 

It is indeed difficult to list up all specific situations and personal factors that have an impact on the practice of assertive communication. What is certain, however, is that some individual needs, although perfectly legitimate and understandable at the start, can constitute serious obstacles to assertiveness once they become too invasive. Here are a few examples of such attitudes, as well as suggestions as to how to counter them:

  1. Striving to be loved at all costs: Like all human beings, we want to be loved and are looking for affection. Wanting to be loved and appreciated at all costs in the professional context, however, can quickly lead to dependence. Demand the respect of others (without necessarily becoming a dictator!) and your self-esteem will automatically grow.
  2. Wanting to be recognized by all: If you make kindness your number one priority, then your freedom of maneuver will be considerably diminished. The search for recognition corresponds to a natural and legitimate need. However, an excessive sensitivity toward what others think of you may cause you to lose your independence and freedom of action.
  3. Seeking to impose your ideas on your team members at all costs: Give the people around you the right to disagree, let them exercise their freedom of thought and speech. Conflicts that are managed properly are the drivers of evolution.
  4. Developing a "superman complex", seeking to control all situations: It is preferable to avoid playing the role of the “savior” and rather choose to participate in a collective strategy.
  5. Seeking perfection in every action: One way to counter this tendency is to focus on what is essential and really represents a source of added value on the longer run.
  6. Trying to gain sympathy by overworking oneself: Assertiveness in this case consists in acknowledging and respecting one’s limits.
  7. Denying oneself the right to fail: Telling yourself “I can’t do anything wrong” is like forgetting that he who has never done anything wrong in life…has never done anything at all!
  8. Setting oneself conflicting goals: Assuming responsibilities while seeking to avoid conflicts at all costs will certainly prove to be a major cause of disappointment. Moreover, in order to achieve ambitious, realistic and relevant goals, you first have to set yourself a well-defined target, imagine the steps you will have to make to get there, and check that this target is consistent with your other values and needs, as well as your environment.

Here is the PDF version of this document: The Main Barriers to Assertiveness (Document)

The article "Conflict Management: Two Examples of Real-Life Applications of Assertiveness" offers you to take a closer look at two concrete applications of assertiveness in potentially conflictual situations: the reprimand interview and the retirement interview.

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