I recommended listening before talking because it is more likely someone will listen to you after they feel understood. Starting with empathic listening is no guarantee, however, that the other person will be able to hear your message. By using this 5 Step Respectful Assertion Process for delivering your message you increase the odds that you will be heard and understood.
One: Structure. Set things up for maximizing your potential for success. Structuring usually includes choosing the optimal time and place. Schedule a time when you and the other person will be rested, well fed and as unstressed as possible. Select a place that is neutral and comfortable for both of you. Structuring also includes making sure the other person is ready to listen. Invite them to the conversation, don’t surprise them. You can make an appointment, or if you need to talk urgently, ask, “Is this an ok time to talk?” And, be willing to delay, even if it is only for a short time for them to finish something they are doing.
Two: Know Your Message. Get clear on specifically what you want the other person to understand. If you don’t understand your perspective, you can’t expect someone else to. Consider the following: 1) What is the situation as you understand it? 2) What conclusions have you drawn it? 3) What is the outcome you would like? 4) What are your feelings about it? 5) What is the impact on your life? 6) What is the meaning you derive from the situation?
After you have this clarity, you can decide how much of this you want to express. The more intimate and trusting the relationship, the more you will want to include. Where there is a lack of trust, you may want to be more strategic with your self-disclosure.
Step II: Acknowledge Areas of Agreement. Even when you feel like there aren’t any, you can usually find something upon which you agree. The Center for Right Relationship talks about finding the 2% truth. You may find this is a useful shorthand for looking carefully for areas of agreement. When you start by acknowledging where you are aligned, you seem more reasonable and open, thus making it more likely that the other person will listen when you express your perspective.
Step III: Speak Subjectively. Acknowledging that you don’t have a lock on THE truth is important even when you feel sure that you do. Most of the time, what we express as a “fact,” is merely our opinion, perception, belief, interpretation, or assumption. Acknowledge your expressions for what they are. The more one speaks in absolute terms; the less likely the other person is to listen with an open mind and the more likely they are to feel sure that you are wrong.
Step IV: Be Clear, Succinct, and Confident. By using words judiciously, you increase the odds that someone else is going to listen to and understand your message. When we aren’t feeling confident about our message, we tend to add a lot of extra words as qualifiers, hedgers, explainers, etc. So it is important to use Step One to get clear with yourself about what you want to say. Then, express yourself clearly and confidently.
Here are a few things to keep in mind as you implement this 5 Step Respectful Assertion Process.
A respectful expression doesn’t suggest a censored expression. Don’t fail to express your perspective fully because you are worried about how the other person will react. Your point of view is important. So, trust the other person’s ability to take in what you have to say. And trust yourself to be able to handle their reaction, even if they don’t like what you have said, and even if they say so forcefully.
Once you have expressed yourself, remember to check in with the other person to see if your message was understood. If they haven’t fully understood, clarify what is important for them to understand. When the other person again comes from their perspective, remember to listen emphatically and make sure they feel understood before again coming from your point of view.
This Respectful Assertion Process is for situations where you want, or need to make a joint decision. If you have the authority to, and will ultimately be deciding yourself, don’t pretend that it is otherwise. It is still OK to invite the opinions of others, and when you do, to empathize with what they say, but don’t pretend that you are deciding together if ultimately you are going to be making it unilaterally.
If you would like some help crafting your messages, so others are more likely to listen, schedule your no-cost, no obligation, Clear Compassionate Communication Consultation.