In the workplace, we all run into conflict. Many of us would love to speak up and assert ourselves to correct it. And, in a perfect world, it would be easy. You could finally tell that colleague who keeps interrupting you exactly how you feel. You could give him a piece of your mind, releasing the frustration and anger that’s been gnawing at you for months. You could finally express that part of you that feels so underappreciated and marginalized.
But speaking up can be difficult — and sometimes overwhelming — especially if you are shy, lack confidence, or come from a culture where it is inappropriate to speak up. It can feel pushy and overly aggressive to be assertive, especially if you’re timid or hate conflict. It can also feel awkward and unnatural, not least if you’re more inclined to voice your frustrations and discontent in an indirect or passive manner.
But there is hope for the chronically unassertive among us. Fears about speaking up are hard but not impossible to overcome. Voicing your frustration with an “assertiveness formula” can help.
I first learned about the idea of an assertiveness formula many years ago, reading the book People Skills, by Robert Bolton. Although Bolton applied his formula to instances of everyday life (for example, discussing household chores), I found it equally appropriate for the workplace. Over time, I’ve developed my own three-part version of it in my teaching and training.