Use Assertion Theory To Resolve Conflicts With Others & Yourself

Originally posted on Celi-chan In Wonderland Blog, January 16th, 2018

In last weeks article, Understanding Approaches To Conflict: Passive, Aggressive & Everything In-Between, I examined why resolving conflict is so difficult due to communication etiquette, the fight or flight response, the different approaches to resolving conflict, and the effects of certain approaches on conflict resolution. Through this examination we was discovered that assertion is the best approach to resolving conflict. Today, I’ll be going over the questions that we left off on last week regarding assertion and conflict resolution:

Is it possible to get over the fears of social anxiety and fight or flight response? Or the guilt stemming from misconceptions of communication etiquette? How does one be assertive and why does it matter? Is it possible to be confrontational with out being aggressive? And how does one resolve an issue by being assertive?

To answer these questions, I’ll be exploring the concept of assertion theory, how to deal with why it’s important, and ways to assertively confront and resolve issues.


Assertion Theory

What is assertion theory? Well, as Faiez Seyal, a renowned expert on applied behavioral science, puts it,

” Assertion Theory is based on the premise that every individual possesses certain basic human rights. These rights include such fundamentals as “the right to refuse requests without having to feel guilty or selfish,” “the right to have one’s own needs be as important as the needs of other people,” “the right to make mistakes,” and “the right to express ourselves as long as we don’t violate the rights of others ”. “

With this in mind, being assertive and approaching conflict assertively takes on a more comprehensive method. But what does it mean to be assertive, and why does it matter in conflict resolution?


The Importance Of Being Assertive

Last week I mentioned the flow of conversation, which I termed communication etiquette, as a reason for why conflict occurs due to inaccurate assumptions on the delivery of a conversation. These assumptions however, are best amended through assertion. Seyal continues, stating that assertion is therefore,

” the act of standing up for one’s own basic human rights without violating the basic human rights of others… It is a response style that recognises boundaries between one’s individual rights and those of others and operates to keep those boundaries stabilized. “

This, along with Seyal’s explanation of assertion theory above, begins to show the depth of the meaning and importance behind assertive ideology. To be assertive means to:

  • Stabilize boundaries and separate your feelings from those of others. Don’t let the possibility of causing someone to feel guilty, cause YOU to feel guilt, AND vise versa. Communicate what you’re feeling openly
  • Act without guilt, selfishness, or fear that stems from communication etiquette or fight or flight response. By doing so you will be able to communicate better, meaning there’s less of a chance for miscommunication, and less anxiety for you in the long run
  • Understand equality, respect for others, and respect for yourself. That your needs are just as important as someone else’s
  • Insure that communication is clear. So that no one needs to piece together hints or clues and make assumptions to understand the issue
  • React appropriately to other people’s actions or behaviors. This can be difficult at times, especially when things seem far from reaching a resolution. Remember that you can at least control how you react in any situation
  • Admit and own up to mistakes as a way to rectify them. If necessary, make a meaningful apology. Being assertive doesn’t just mean being honest and direct when you’re trying to prove a point. Take responsibility for your actions, and act accordingly

Now that we’ve covered the importance of assertiveness, one question remains. How do you confront and resolve conflict assertively?


How To Be Confrontational: Be Aggressive Assertive! Be -Be- Assertive!

Confronting someone about an issue can be stressful or scary, but luckily when being assertive there’s no place for feelings of fear and doubt. A good way to think of confrontation is to instead think of it as a negotiation or settlement meeting. A time and place where individuals come together to find a common ground for what the want. Speaking of a time and place, remember that when you’re confronting any issue, you can control when and where it happens. Find a quiet or private place with few distractions during a time that’s appropriate. When confronting conflict assertively:

  • First, take a deep breath and collect your thoughts
  • Smile to help yourself stay positive and to show your support
  • Be genuinely polite, kind, supportive, and understanding
  • If need be, preface your argument point of view with more than just saying, ” No offense but…”, be specific. Explain how you feel and what you want to express, but also how you don’t want to be perceived as
  • Voice your concerns freely. Be honest, clear, and firm with what your intentions and what outcome you see for the situation, for their benefit and yours
  • But don’t be afraid to say no, with or without a reason
  • Be sure it’s an equal exchange. Be considerate and let the other person explain themselves. Listen attentively, and ask questions if you’re unclear on anything
  • Be open to compromise. With that said, remember that you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink. You can’t change someones mind, they must decide for them selves if they are open to or want to make that change towards a resolution
  • If the other person doesn’t seem open to compromise, remind them that you are being supportive and considerate of their needs, and would appreciate the same consideration
  • Take your time to talk it out. Maybe take a break if need be and return to the conversation later
  • Follow up sometime after settling an issue to make sure your message was received and understood properly, and to sort out any other issues there might be

If the persons becomes overwhelmed or upset, be reassuring, and try to stay clam. Don’t escalate the situation by antagonizing or pressing your expectations on to them. Just keep your cool and the rest will follow.


In Conclusion

Communication is key but sometime people aren’t just the best at it. Things can get misunderstood, or even go unreceived. When that happens conflict arises and confrontation is necessary. There’s a distinct difference between being confrontational and being aggressive. Confrontation is the pathway leading to an open conversation that one can assert themselves. And being assertive means recognizing the basic human rights of yourself and other’s with honesty and understanding. Assertion takes courage gives you the courage and focus needed to resolve nearly any issue life throws at you. Aside from resolving conflict, assertiveness results in cohesive work environments, stronger relationships with others (family members, co-workers, or your significant other), as well as a fuller understanding of how and why people feel or act the way they do.

If you haven’t read the previous article about approaches to conflict, be sure to give that a look.

And if you’re interested in learning more about the subject of what motivates people do what they do, or maybe you’re trying to figure out your own needs and motivations, I’ve written about that in 4 Theories To Help Understand Your Needs, Wants, & Motivations In Life  and 17 Strategies To Help Get You Motivated .

As always, I hope you enjoyed this article and found it helpful. If you did please consider commenting or sharing it. Thanks for reading!


Featured Image by on Unsplash



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