On the 13th February, I was lucky enough for my company Embryo Digital to fund an Assertiveness course for me to attend that was run by the brilliant M Training (for any company that offer training courses for their employees I would highly recommend using these guys). Initially, I had always associated being assertive as ‘aggressively saying it like it is’ or referring to somebody as ‘being blunt and to the point’ without considering how delivering your message may affect the person on the other end of the conversation. In fact, assertiveness is actually completely different to either and actually focuses on:
- Showing empathy
- Speaking up for ourselves in a way that is honest and respectful
- Communicating with someone in a respectful and controlled manner
- Understanding how to say the right thing at the right time, especially when interacting with an angry or difficult person.
Communicating assertively means that you are able to express your feelings, thoughts, and desires in a non-judgemental and non-threatening way. It provides you with the ability to negotiate so that you reach a workable compromise to find a solution to a problem or conflict.
The course looked at a variety of things:
- What is assertive behaviour?
- Understanding different behaviour
- Why do people behave differently?
- Face-to-face communication
- Assertiveness techniques
Being an Operations Manager for a Digital Marketing agency often involves dealing with all different types tasks, one day I can be focusing on finance, the other HR, the next sales forecasting for the directors, office/team management, and don’t get me wrong I LOVE this about my job and I quite like to think I’m extremely good at it but I will happily admit that at times this can be very HARD. Dealing with all types of situations and occasional conflict with different personalities can be very hard! This is why understanding 1. Assertiveness techniques and 2. Why people behave differently can be very helpful.
One thing that I really found interesting in the course was Eric Berne’s psychological theory called Transactional Analysis. The US psychologist developed this theory in the 1950s to help us explain why we think, act and feel the way we do. It claims that we can better understand ourselves by analysing our transactions (conversation/interaction) with the people around us.
Transactional Analysis is based on 3 principles:
- We all have three ‘ego states’ = Parent, Adult, and Child
- We all have transactions (with ourselves or other people)
- We all (unconsciously) activate our ego states in our transactions, which can lead to conflict, pain, negative emotion, etc.
Overall, transactional analysis is about discovering which ego states are present in our transactions so that we can become more aware of our thoughts and behaviours. Thus, ultimately have more constructive transactions with people.
What Are The Three Ego States?
Parent (stemming from our past) – This focuses on the attitudes, feelings, and behaviour incorporated from our parents (or primary caregiver). It involves ourselves responding as one of our parents would have. There are two key things to look at here:
- Nurturing Parent (NP): caring, loving, helping
- Controlling Parent (CP): critical, reprimanding, punishing, setting boundaries and rules, etc.
Adult (stemming from the present) – This is having the ability to think and act based on rational and objective thinking. The adult behaviour allows us to focus on what is happening here and now without letting our emotions take over.
Child (stemming from our past) – This behaviour relates to the thoughts, feelings, and behaviours we experienced as children. There are two types of behaviours here:
- Free Child (FC): Curious, creative, open, spontaneous
- Adapted Child (AC): Afraid, cautious, anxious, prideful, trying to please everyone.
Once you understand these types of behaviours, it becomes much easier for us to be aware of our own as well as others around us. In turn, we can then encourage others to respond with our adult brain during transactions.
Here is an example for you to assess which ego is being displayed:
‘An admin assistant cannot find an important letter and looks inquiringly at a colleague who replies…’
- ‘You really ought to be tidier!’ (Do you hear your parents CP voice here?)
- ’Ask Mr. Anderson, I am sure he can help you’ (Adult response)
- ‘Do not look at me. I have not touched it.’ (This statement is a clear FC response who does not like blame or consequence)
How does this help us in our jobs?
Once you become more aware of the above this can be a real game-changer for you in many ways, personally and professionally. Not only is it fascinating to understand but it also helps us in everyday life when conversing with people. It allows us to become much more self-aware of our behaviour and enables us to communicate respectfully.
I am lucky enough to have a fantastic team around me at work, our SEO, Content, PPC, Social and Website design/development departments all collaborate exceptionally well together. We pride ourselves on our high level of customer service and delivering results for our clients.