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Communication skill: Assertion

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I resonate with the points in this thread.
I am always looking to learn more about conflict resolution, assertion skills and handling conflicts of interest.
I have read the book "People Skills" and have found it more suitable in personal contexts.

What I learnt from Lucio in another thread was to also keep the business interests and outcomes in mind for each person in a professional context.
This is the masculine approach to business communication.
Far less emotions and more result-oriented as Lucio stated.
And it also makes practical sense because teams need a clear direction and strategy to execute within the broader context of the company.
It will often be too time-consuming and often impossible to make everyone agree or be happy with your decision.

Assertion in the Context of Agreeing to a Decision - Jeff Bezos' Approach to Decision-Making

Jeff Bezos has a fascinating approach towards decision-making, which I am exploring at the moment.
This can be applied to decisions to resolve misalignment & conflicts and to make plans & strategies in general.
One of the points that he wrote in his shareholder letter was to disagree and commit.
I disagree with you, but, in spirit of teamwork and efficiency, I commit fully with your course of action.

It conveys a respect for the greater team and a collaborative attitude towards disagreement.
And there is no need for extended discussions to agree on most matters, saving a lot of time.

His key points in decision-making are

  1. Is the decision reversible or irreversible? If it's reversible, we can choose one course of action and course-correct along the way. Approach reversible decisions in a light-weight manner. For irreversible decisions, more thought and consideration would be required in the decision-making process.
  2. Acknowledge that no one knows what the best decision is. Make decisions with 70% information. Above 90%, you probably have spent too much time gathering information and discussing on a course of action.
  3. Disagree and commit. Are you full of conviction on a particular action, but there is disagreement? Jeff Bezos suggests

    “Look, I know we disagree on this but will you gamble with me on it? Disagree and commit?”

  4. Recognise and escalate true misalignment issues immediately. Do not wait for a conflict. Understand genuine conflicts of interest, points of view and objectives sometimes exist. Without escalation, the individual/team with more stamina carries the decision.This is a tricky point as Jeff Bezos has a position of power to escalate any issues. It would be much harder when you do not have the respect, buy-in or track record with upper management to escalate. Upper management will think that you are someone who causes lot of issues. Also highly dependent on the culture of the company. Amazon may have a unique culture, shaped by the founder & CEO.

Drawing From A Recent Experience

Today I had a challenging conversation with a more powerful person (project financer).
He would like to change the way things are done within the team.
There is a strong external factor which I partially understand.
He would like to introduce more formal mechanisms within the team.

These are perfectly normal in a business context, except that we agreed on a different way of working from the start.
From the start, we aimed to cut down on unnecessary bureaucracy to foster a more open-style of working.
It has been excellent with lots of great ideas bouncing around.

My plan is to communicate how our current style of working has facilitated brainstorming and execution to drive results with specific examples.

Assertion in the Corporate World

It is important to focus on gaining influence and power in the workplace through delivering results and navigating politics.
Then it is easier to tide over conflicts with an outcome skewed towards your interests while generally striving for win-win scenarios.

It is easier to assert yourself when you have the reputation and perception of delivering results.
If no one respects you in the office, there is no point asserting yourself whether you are a leader, manager or individual contributor.
Maybe you can use fear as a leader or manager, but it does not really work well in the long run.

Lucio Buffalmano has reacted to this post.
Lucio Buffalmano

Great point on the link between assertion and respect.

Everything's so much easier interpersonally when you got some status, power, respect, and track record.

The only downside: you might have very little training at social dynamics and generally dealing with assholes, since far fewer people will try any power moves on you :).

Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

The only downside: you might have very little training at social dynamics and generally dealing with assholes, since far fewer people will try any power moves on you :).

I have observed a few things around this point.

Some upper-class individuals were surrounded with less assholes in general.
If they were in the elite bubble, they may not be equipped to handle high aggression or manipulative, underhanded tactics.

The individuals where the fathers exposed them to business early-on seem to be better equipped with power dynamics.
And generally they come across as assertive in a more refined manner.

If you are starting out from the ground, focusing on status and track record may not sharpen your skills in power dynamics too much.
In that sense, not much opportunities for training on power dynamics in some early careers as an individual contributor.
But to climb to higher positions, you have to hone your political skills.

I guess this downside would apply if you have always been a big fish in the small pond, but you seldom interact with other ponds where you may not have the status, power, respect or track record.

This seems to happen occasionally with CEOs where they are unable to handle bad press in a socially-savvy manner.
Maybe they have lost touch on dealing with assholes and honing power dynamics.
Or it could be entitlement to power creeping in. They feel that they are above criticism.

Travelling and joining different ponds where you enter with different levels of power seems to be good training in power dynamics.

Lucio Buffalmano has reacted to this post.
Lucio Buffalmano

Great observation, Matthew!

I amended that big fish article and quoted and linked to this post.

(Matthew, 2020) feels very Bible-like :D, let met know if you prefer a different name.

Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

Isn't this website the power Bible? 😀

Appreciate the quote. I could not ask for more.

What do you think about (Whitewood, 2020)?
Gives a touch of academic flavour like the citations in research papers.

This thread on assertion gives me lots to think about.
I suppose the topic of this thread is more towards assertion in the context of drawing boundaries in close relationships.
Where genuine self-expression is emotionally healthy for both parties.

In business situations, assertion often feels like persuasion and negotiation.
Achieving outcomes with the interests of each party in mind.
I certainly would not express my true self in many business situations. Far too risky.

Solopreneurship seems to allow assertion closer towards genuine self-expession when your business and personal values are aligned.
This website/forum does promote genuine self-expession of our power struggles and learnings.

I recalled John Chambers, ex-CEO of Cisco, envisioned a future where small companies of fewer than 5 people will dominate the market.
These small companies can even reach up to a billion dollars in valuation.
These companies will build creative partnerships to create products & services offering huge value for their customers.

The bureaucratic approval process often stems from stakeholders' underlying desires to control the company.
This often comes at the expense of innovation.
I regard innovation as a sign of creative self-experssion and empowerment of individuals within an organisation.

Maybe this future society will encourage more individuals to express themselves assertively.
Idealistic, but I like it.

Lucio Buffalmano has reacted to this post.
Lucio Buffalmano

"Whitewood, 2020" bet it, then 🙂

Yes, absolutely.
The general, higher principles, apply.

Things like:

  • Aligning interests as the golden standard
  • You're better off with more allies than enemies
  • Increasing cooperation is generally better than increasing competition
  • Buy in (influence) is usually preferable over coercion and fear

But they are applied differently in business and corporations.
In business organizations, as it's also stated in the updated overview lesson in PU, the scope of cooperation diminishes and competition increases.

It couldn't be otherwise when money is limited, and promotions are limited.

Relationships with friends, spouses, and family are very different. Assertion can be about the "true" you.
And, as you say, the same is true for solopreneurship.

So albeit most of the general principles stand throughout socialization in general, how and when you apply them changes depending on the larger social context.

Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

Hi John,

I have stumbled across a recent great resource on assertion, review coming soon (will link it here), and it links how attachment styles influence assertiveness.

I am telling you because you also raised the issue of attachment style, and I uploaded a good overview of how the two interact here (second chart, must be logged in).

I see this now. Thanks a lot! It's very good and accurate. See my post in my journal concerning anxious attachment (my fear of losing the friendship) and how I dealt with it.

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