How to be Assertive with a Rage Monster
Okay, maybe a rage monster is a bit extreme but what about the overly unpredictable and aggressive coworker?
What do you think of when you hear the word assertive? I have to admit that from my position, my history, my upbringing, that it wasn’t a positive word. It made me a little bit uncomfortable because it means potentially disagreeing or going against the flow. It could cause painful situations and someone else’s feelings to be hurt.
I realize now that my upbringing and experiences tended to spin me toward the passive side of life. As I’ve experienced life, adulting, work, relationships, and the search toward the most effective and efficient way to get things done, my view has shifted. In working through the principle of Genuineness within TIGERS® I now understand the science behind its importance and some of the tools in creating intention and long-lasting change. Being assertive doesn’t mean hurting another’s feelings but rather protecting what you need and what another needs to reach a goal. This article describes the basics around assertiveness (regardless of whether you tend towards passive or aggressive), how to understand yourself and others, and how you can use it to create better relationships and get more done in those relationships.
Let’s look at a hypothetical situation. Someone you work with is known to be a rage monster. They are aggressive. You avoid them at all costs but realize there are times where you just can’t hold back with a suggestion that might save everyone on the team time. If you were to remain passive you would not be doing yourself any favors. And no one else could benefit from alternative solutions.
You could say that you and this other person are on different ends of a spectrum. One is aggressive and highly concerned for themselves. And you are passive and have much more concern for others and keeping the status quo. Neither end of this spectrum is ideal. One may be more kind but is not moving forward the growth, learning, and likely whatever project your team is working on.
Being assertive, utilizes a little bit of both personas. An equal amount of concern for self and concern for others.
Concern for self
You look for what you need in situations. You understand your goals and your priorities. Without a concern for others this person could be described as aggressive.
Concern for others
You want others to be happy. You understand what others need. Without a concern for self this person could be described as passive.
Let’s unpack that a little “Genuineness delivered with empathy and respect is the difference between aggression and assertiveness” -Dianne Crampton.
You have a healthy dose of both concern for self and concern for others. You understand how what others need and what you need meet in the middle. You don’t sacrifice your own needs, but you may compromise to allow for things to move forward.
Impacts of being Assertive
By having a respect for your own needs but the ability to consider others’ views you are creating a snowball of positive results. You are providing solutions for the current situation and are setting an example by being willing to work together. This provides an opportunity to both parties to achieve success and a solid foundation to build upon. A momentum of force in a positive direction that people can join along with or at minimum will feel the breeze as you blow past.
So how can this relate to our range monster? Let’s say this person jumps to quick conclusions, is always unhappy, and takes it out on others. They get away with this and their tendencies for aggressiveness and fulfilling their need for protecting self are not challenged. Often, other people around these folks learn to deal with them by being passive. “It isn’t worth it enough to me to help them figure out life.” Sounds like an unengaged employee. This situation creates a lot of wasted time and only one person is contributing. You could miss out on innovation and effective ways to do things that could save time and money!
This type of situation always comes to a head. There will eventually be someone who doesn’t put up with this attitude at some point. Unfortunately, it is usually someone who is fed up and has an emotional outburst of their own. So why not rip the band aid, bypass the wasted time, the bad feelings, the dread of going to work and sort things out from this day forward?
How to be assertive
When doing the work around being a genuine person, you first have to know who you are. What are your triggers for shutting down and deciding it isn’t worth dealing with this rage-monster? Is it something that your past dictates you react to in an emotional way? Or is this truly an unprofessional act by your co-worker? The answer to that can give you a lot of insight toward your next steps. Sometimes it brings realization about ourselves and “me problems” vs “you problems”.
Do you understand why they are acting the way that they do? Use empathy to better get an idea of important factors. Be calm and tell them what it is you need to get done and how their behavior or actions impact that. Try not to point fingers but rather, provide solutions that encourage them to work with you. There are many tools and tricks to this but when it comes down to it, remember to be genuine.
Likely, they too want success in the task at hand and if your intention in approaching their behavior is purely for success, they will come around.
And best of all by taking these actions you are encouraging others to do the same. The first time may be clunky but keep the momentum going. Other teammates may find use in your methods. The angry person maybe isn’t as angry as everyone thought and could become a great team player with the right encouragement. And if not, you have made your best effort – which at the end of the day is all you can really control anyway.
Looking for ways to increase how you communicate genuinely? Self-paced and leadership development options are available.
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