Assertive Communication: Keeps You Safer and Out of the Penalty Box of Life-Part 2

by Kathy Marlor

When we last left off in Part 1 of this blog post, I was explaining that the conflict I described at the skating rink could have been avoided with assertive communication.

After reading Part 1, you may be thinking that the hockey coach or the other guy was right, so what’s the problem? The problem is that it’s not always about who is right, it’s about staying safe, and not creating or making conflict worse.

When we escalate conflict whether it’s on purpose or unintentional everyone loses:-(.

In the least, we’re less productive at work, play, and don’t feel good about the situation. We may get into a physical fight, get hurt, have medical bills, miss work, get arrested, end up in a lawsuit or even die during the event.

These days you don’t know who you’re dealing with, what they’ve been through, if they’re armed or even have a weapon in their car.  You could be the “straw that broke the camel’s back” and get a huge reaction that you didn’t count on or don’t feel is appropriate.

Therefore it’s best to learn to use assertive communication to prevent most conflict in the first place or to at least learn how to deescalate it.

Remember these rules:

Rule #1- It’s not what you say it’s how you say it.

Rule #2- Give the other person an “honorable exit” or a way out that allows them to “save face.”

To prevent conflict, use a confident, non-accusing, non-aggressive tone of voice and assume that the offender didn’t mean to do whatever it is that they are doing or did.

Using our example from Part 1,  rather than saying in an accusing tone “Sir, did you not see that I’m teaching a class here?”

Try a more conversational tone and something like:  “Hi Sir.  The rink has asked me to teach class in this area and for everyone’s safety to block off the area around the class so no one gets hurt. Could you please skate in front of us instead of behind us? Thanks, I appreciate it.

In this scenario, the hockey coach is communicating in a friendly tone, providing information as to why he is where he is on the ice, and that his reason for asking the skater to not skate through his class, is that it’s a safety issue. 

When approached this way, most people will gladly comply without providing resistance and will not feel like they are being spoken to in a condescending fashion. Also, the person who was territorial about wanting to skate exactly where he was skating, has an out or an easy way to back down that doesn’t make him look weak or bad in front of others. (This is called an honorable exit.)

Does this tactful, asssertive communication style take time and practice? You betcha! It also keeps you out of most conflicts and the penalty box of life!

I teach this concept and others in several assertiveness, conflict resolution and self defense seminars I teach.

Participants role play and rehearse being assertive and tactful at the same time. I’ll admit we ham it up and have fun with it, but the practice during the seminar really helps people gain new communication skills that they can use right away to keep most conflicts from happening and to improve their communication and conflict resolution skills with others.

If you’d like to host a seminar for your group on assertive communication, conflict resolution or self-defense,  please feel free to contact me at:

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