What does it take to be a successful leader? Some say it’s the art of identifying and seizing opportunities. Others attribute it to education and preparation. While many say it all comes down to hard work. While they aren’t necessarily wrong, there is something else that is equally (if not more) important than all these other factors combined: Positive communication. In fact, it is central to all these other dynamics. Because it helps us learn about opportunities, manage decisions and cultivate connections with people and shareholders. But not all communication is created equally. Which can see you walking a fine line between assertive and aggressive interaction. So here are some valuable communication tips on how to be a leader who people want to follow by using assertive rather than aggressive approaches:

What is aggressive communication?

Aggressive communication is all emotion. It is characterised as a ‘tell’ rather than an ‘ask’. This style of interaction is received as confrontational and inconsiderate. It runs the risk of damaging the self-esteem of the very people who are there to help you achieve your goals. It results in unnecessary pushback, which makes people resistant to comply with unnecessary drama.

What is assertive communication?

Assertive communication is unemotional. It is characterised as a ‘suggest’ even though there may be no actual choice involved. It is also a listening strategy. It makes space for others by cultivating an environment of respect and mutual satisfaction. This will result in a team mentality and will build reciprocal relationships. Cultivating an environment of barrier-free communication encourages a solution-driven environment. What you ultimately want to strive for is a team that will push towards a common goal rather than rally against you.

Five ways to ensure an assertive communication style

1. Open your door

Create an environment that is open and encourages communication. Flatten your communication channels. This will allow your team to do the same with you. Also, bear in mind that face-to-face communication is always advised where people are concerned.

2. Listen before you speak

Don’t approach your own silence as a gap before you get to have your say. Rather, try to listen. You may hear something you had yet to consider. The ‘Talk to Listen’ ratio should be equal if not weighted towards ‘listen’. This will provide an atmosphere of reciprocity. Remember that these may be things you don’t want to hear.

3. Help your people think bigger

Often people get tunnel vision when it comes to their role and either forget to consider an end goal or don’t know what it is in the first place. If they understand your business objectives and what their role is in achieving it, they will feel empowered to support it.

4. Keep calm and carry on

Losing your temper is the fastest way to halt productive communication and ensure your employees don’t open themselves up again. It isn’t always easy to be unemotional about issues that involve your business and livelihood but try to express these fears outside of the general work environment.

5. Be clear

Clearly outline roles and responsibilities from the start. When employees know what is expected of them they will align their communication accordingly. An employee is less likely to complain about a task if they know that it is their responsibility.

As a business owner, you often feel like you’re alone in the daily challenges you face. Having a team that supports your business goals can relieve the pressure and allow you to concentrate on the bigger picture. A business is a living and breathing entity that ultimately comes down to its people. An employee with an allegiance to their work will go over and above expectations. Positive assertive communication is a big step towards achieving that goal.

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