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Last updated on 5/26/23

Find the Right Relationship Mindset: Empathy and Assertiveness

The right relationship mindset is a balance between empathy (understanding others, their motivations, tolerating their differences from you, making room for them) and assertiveness (nonviolent self-affirmation, asserting your own needs and desires).

Below are some pitfalls to avoid:


Not enough empathy

Too much empathy

Not enough assertiveness

You are isolated, you live in constant frustration. You feel people don’t understand you. Workplace human relationships are very complicated. Your level of performance is poor or limited. 😠

You are appreciated and you like human relationships. You have a good level of performance, yet you regularly become dissatisfied and intuitively feel that you’re not achieving your full potential. Sometimes, you note blatant examples of ingratitude towards you. 😣

Too much assertiveness

You are seen as cold and/or arrogant, ambitious and not very cooperative. You perform very well on solo missions. However, you are increasingly in open conflict, and you are held back or even demotivated when working with a team. 😤

Here, it's a question of dosing. Working in a team requires a form of discretion in the expression of oneself. If you moderate this and balance the levels of empathy and assertiveness, you have a healthy posture. 🤔

Develop Your Empathy

To develop empathy, you must improve your perception of the emotional states of your fellow team members and identify their value systems. Just as you need to know yourself to find your place, you need to know the other person in order to establish a respectful, genuine and high-performing relationship.

Develop Your Perception of the Emotional States of the People You Interact With

Notice the More Subtle Cues

The proportion of non-verbal communication is so great that we ought to be great emotional decoders. However, not all the people we interact with are necessarily demonstrative. Moreover, our filters (denial, rationalization, displacement) separate the verbal (what is said) and the non-verbal.

Spot When the Verbal and Non-Verbal Don’t Match

When verbal and non-verbal cues don’t match, this is called incongruence. For example, saying "I'm very happy to see you again" while avoiding eye contact or having your back turned to the person you're speaking to.

The difficulty is that the body can hide non-verbal signals when defensive attitudes have been entrenched for a long time. But only up to a certain point: emotions influence body language significantly.

Understand the Emotional Profile of the Person You’re Interacting With

If you completed the self-development bonus section, you identified your emotional profile out of eight archetypes. Remember, your fellow team members will be different. Learn to appreciate these differences and, if you are in the position of leading the team, optimize the roles of each person according to their profile.

Take Differences in Value Systems Into Account

In the first section, you identified your own value system. You are unique: Your values come from your upbringing, your character, your personal and work encounters and your life experience. Your fellow team members have followed a different path.

A production and/or sales team is not the best place for debates about values (unless it's the purpose of your project!).

Be Assertive: Boost Your Self-Confidence

This nonviolent self-affirmation requires you to:

  • know yourself properly and, in particular, be aware of your own needs and limits.

  • practice the techniques of active listening and positive communication.

  • have good self-esteem. Self-confidence varies according to the situation and can demand in-depth work. But sometimes it’s just dormant, so give it a boost!

Below, I suggest a very effective confidence-boosting strategy.

Get Rid of Three Illusions

These three illusions limit self-confidence and prevent you from developing a genuine, healthy relationship with yourself and with others.

  • Inferiority complex

Learn to see your qualities and achievements, accept your own limitations, not judge yourself or make yourself feel guilty and respect yourself.

  • Superiority complex

Learn to see people’s qualities and achievements, avoid hasty judgements, get to know them, accept their differences and limitations and respect them for who they are.

  • Believing in bad luck

Learn to create and see the opportunities that are presented to you every day. Be a player in your own life! 🙂

Identify and Affirm Your Strengths

  • List of 10 successes

Make a list of 10 personal and professional successes and 10 situations where you have fulfilled planned objectives. You have a number of achievements going for you. For each success, detail the two qualities you applied. Reread this list regularly.

  • Benevolent interviews

If it’s hard to list your successes, get someone to help you! Ask a well-intentioned fellow team member who knows you well enough to describe your qualities using adjectives. You will be able to do the same for them. Guaranteed positive vibes!

Learn From Your Failures/Mistakes

And lastly, successful people understand that you must:

  • Know how to fail in order to succeed, as the right to make mistakes and to fail is proof that you are doing something.

  • Never stop learning, especially from your mistakes.

Pick a recent failure. Identify the causes objectively, accept them, and define the skills needed in order to avoid making the same mistake again. Then, set a target date when you want to acquire the new skills and get busy.

Get Training!

Strengthen your mental confidence through exercises that combine emotional awareness and body movement. Practice one or both of the following exercises in the morning before leaving home.

Exercise 1: The Reed

As you know, the reed:

  • is vertical

  • is flexible, it bends in strong wind

  • but it never breaks: it stays rooted in the ground

Practising this exercise:

  • relaxes and reinforces you.

  • improves your posture and hence your state of mind.

  • immediately changes the perception other people have of you.

The steps:

  1. Straighten up: Standing, feet together, arms by your side, imagine there’s a wire at the top of your head pulling you upwards. You are looking straight ahead. Your neck is vertical, in line with your spine.

  2. Start breathing slowly and deeply. Become aware of the feelings in your body.

  3. Keep this feeling of stretching. Now imagine that you have some very heavy weights on your ankles and hands, while still being firmly held up by the wire at the top of your head. This lowers your center of gravity and anchors you down.

  4. Hold this position, and now put the weight of your body onto the right leg (which you will check by lifting your left foot slightly off the floor, without upsetting your balance).

  5. Transfer the weight of your body onto your left leg. Make sure you keep breathing slowly and deeply.

  6. Transfer back over to the right, then to the left, in a fluid, imperceptible manner.

  7. Now distribute the weight of your body over both legs, imagining sturdy roots beneath your feet. Check that you have kept your spine stretched.

  8. Relax.

Exercise 2: Visioning

For example, in track and field, a pole-vaulter closes their eyes and concentrates, imagining the perfect run-up, the weight of the pole, the number of strides to the plant, the strength of their arms, their rotation over the bar, which they clear without touching, then the victorious landing!

When applied to any action, even a very simple one that requires know-how and soft skills, visioning gets your brain and your whole being into a state of performance.

  • Sit comfortably at a table and close your eyes.

  • Define the parameters of the vision according to your needs: the perfect interview with the boss, a winning presentation or the ideal day.

  • High-performance visioning requires knowledge and a detailed action plan that you are able to visualize.

Let's Recap!

  • Effective teamwork includes having the right relationship posture, or a balance between empathy and assertiveness.

  • Empathy is understanding others, their motivations, tolerating their differences and making room for them.

  • Assertiveness is nonviolent self-affirmation and the expression of your own needs and desires. It can be developed through building your self-confidence (complete Part 1 of Learn to Work Autonomously to learn more about building self-confidence).

Now that you’re holding the keys to a balanced relationship mindset, learn to listen and communicate positively! 😊

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