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Passive vs Assertive vs Aggressive – top 6 tips to achieve a balance in the art of communication

As a recruiter, the goal is always to help your clients to achieve the best end result possible. To do this, it’s important to be able to communicate effectively to show that you’re an expert, and getting the balance between being passive, assertive, and aggressive is fundamental. So how can this be achieved?

What we can sometimes find in recruitment is that consultants may feel that, in order to appease clients and candidates, a passive and subservient approach is the right one to have. They may be scared of what will happen if they don’t agree with clients and they want to avoid conflict. However, there’s a real danger in being too passive in recruitment, and it’s important to strive to become more assertive.

One myth about the ability to be assertive though is that it involves being aggressive. However, as training and consultancy organisation, Innergy, points out, this isn’t true. Being assertive actually means that you’re not passive or aggressive. Instead, you’re able to logically communicate what you really think and stand up for yourself, while still respecting other individuals and without coming across too strong.

Innergy identifies that aggressive people seek a win-lose solution, whereby they always win and others lose. Passive people accept a win-lose solution where they’re the loser and others are winners, but assertive individuals try and find a win-win solution. So how can you become more assertive?

Dale Carnegie often spoke about the skill in winning people to your way of thinking and three of the most powerful elements of this are:

1. Talk in terms of the other person’s interests. Try honestly to see things from their point of view.

2. Begin in a friendly way.

3. Show respect for the other person’s opinion. Never say, “you’re wrong” or disagree for the sake of it. Instead, ask ‘why’ and then offer an alternative solution, providing sound reasoning.

As a former Dale Carnegie Sales Trainer, these really resonate with me and work well in the business world. Three further tips that have helped me over the years are:

4. Do your research in advance and if you have the opportunity, practice what you want to say and make sure you know all the details. It’s also important to try to anticipate other people’s responses to what you’re going to say so that you’re prepared.

5. Have a solution to the challenge rather than just the problem itself. This will enable you talk about potential outcomes which is the most important part of influencing others.

6. Body language – smile (it generally is never THAT bad), keep eye contact and interact. If your body language is wrong (either too aggressive or too passive) you won’t be able to get your message across in the right way.

In order to become the recruiter you want to be, it’s important that you make the change away from being too passive, without reaching the opposite end of the scale and becoming too aggressive. If you’re able to be assertive, colleagues will take you much more seriously, you’ll have greater confidence, and ultimately you’ll be much happier and more successful in your job.

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