Report Support Article Written by Tori Olanski
Over the course of your career and throughout your personal life, you may have noticed that the higher the stakes, the more challenging it feels to effectively and intentionally communicate your message to others. Maintaining a calm demeanor can be especially challenging for individuals when these two behaviors come into play—Assertiveness and Emotional Energy. Of course, there are many different parts of your personality that impact communication style, but it’s especially important to manage these two behaviors when the pressure begins to rise.
Let’s start with an example. The client you are currently working with received feedback that they can become too aggressive in meetings. You look towards their Assertiveness scores but notice that they look too low to be the cause of this issue, contrary to what you were expecting. How can that be? Under stress, high Emotional Energy can disguise itself as the domineering style we most often attribute to Assertiveness. That’s because under stress, these two behaviors have one communication goal – expression of what I believe to be true.
Assertiveness is your tendency to speak up and express opinions openly and forcefully. The higher your score, the more strongly you will assert your views around others. In its productive behavior, Assertiveness allows for healthy discussion and debate. At the same time, Emotional Energy is your openness and comfort with expressing emotion. The higher one’s score, the more they will naturally express and reveal how they feel about the topic at hand. In its productive state, Emotional Energy encourages an enthusiastic discussion of feelings and subjective issues.
You can see how these two behaviors can look similar when under stress.
High Assertiveness and high Emotional Energy can both show up as intense, exaggerated communication when under stress.
If this is the case, how can you coach individuals with these stress reactions to be more effective communicators?
- Be aware of making exaggerated statements – Help the individual make fewer overstated comments. Create a phrase for them to use when they catch themselves doing so, such as ending the statement with, “While that may have sounded like an exaggeration, the point I want to get across is ____”.
- Help other people speak up even in light of your intense style – Due to their intense style, others may have a hard time speaking up and sharing their thoughts on the matter. Therefore, the individual should try to remember to ask everyone else in the room what they think of the topic at hand. They can ask, “What is your opinion on the matter” or “How do you feel about this?” Others will likely get less frustrated with the individual if they are able to express their opinions too, instead of feeling like it is a one-way conversation.
- Communicate more than just what you believe – Embed your messages with facts supporting your argument so that others see that you are not just trying to get your opinion or feelings across. It is much harder to discredit what someone is saying when it is truly supported by logical, supporting evidence. You may even find that writing down three points on a piece of paper will help you stick to the key points without inundating others with what might seem like verbal dominance or emotional outbursts.
It is possible that if not managed, these styles will impact the individual’s communication effectiveness in the workplace. However, the lower end of the spectrum (individuals with low Assertiveness and low Emotional Energy) will face their share of challenges when under stress as well—yet it will look quite the opposite. In their productive style, the lower Assertiveness and Emotional Energy will show up as suggestive and strive for agreement using practical and objective solutions. Under stress, these behaviors can be taken too far and appear passive and detached, giving others the opposite impression of the higher stress reactions. Since these individuals will have difficulty speaking up and may withhold their views from the group, they may give the impression of being passive-aggressive. The detached, Emotional Energy stress will appear to lack enthusiasm and downplay the importance of feelings and sensitivity.
Low Assertiveness and low Emotional Energy can both show up as disengaged communicators when under stress.
How can you coach individuals with these stress reactions to be more effective communicators?
- Speak up even though it may feel uncomfortable – While open conflict and debate may make you feel uneasy and possibly shut-down, remember that there is more harm in not speaking up and holding back your ideas. If you are having trouble speaking up, you can try to piggy-back off someone else’s comment as a way to transition into your own ideas.
- Use powerful language to appear more invested – To appear more enthusiastic about the topic at hand, use language that will tap into other’s emotions, such as “urgent, critical, immediate, imperative, vital, or revolutionary”.Even though you may not look emotionally engaged, these words will help you connect to the emotions of others.
- Don’t be intimidated by those with a louder volume – At the end of the day, what’s most important is that you get your point across. Use powerful data or facts to get others to connect with your message. You may even prepare a presentation or one-page document with the important points you want to get across to more easily voice your opinion.
Assertiveness and Emotional Energy are both important behaviors in the workplace, and when managed and used effectively they can help deliver important messages and create meaningful discussion. What’s important to remember is how you may react under stress, and knowing the tricks to stay effective during those times.