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Last updated on 12/9/20

Find the right relationship posture: empathy and assertiveness

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

From which we see the pitfalls:

Posture

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 weaker signals

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 the offset between the verbal and non-verbal

When the verbal and non-verbal do not coincide, 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 with whom you're speaking.

The difficulty is that the body can hide the non-verbal signals when the defensive attitudes have been entrenched for a long time. But only up to a certain point: emotion is one of the things that drives the body.

Understand the emotional profile of the person you’re interacting with

If you did the SELF-DEVELOPMENT BONUS in chapter Develop your emotional maturity (first section), you identified your emotional profile out of 8 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 non-violent self-affirmation requires you to:

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

  • practise 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 too, it’s just dormant, so give it a boost!

Below, I suggest a very effective confidence-boosting programme:

Get rid of 3 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, to accept your own limitations, to not judge yourself nor make yourself guilty and to 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 to 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. Re-read 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. Practise one or all of the following three 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; and

  • 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 centre 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 you have kept your spine stretched.

  8. Relax

Exercise 2: The “Samurai preparation”

I’m borrowing this exercise from the techniques of acting, and here I’m suggesting a version adapted for your personal development. Samurai, those legendary Japanese warriors, were famous for overcoming their fear.

Both aspects of the fear, mental and physical, must be dealt with. The ritual below prepares you to face up to them, giving you new energy:

  1. Stand up straight with your arms by your sides. Breathe gently.

  2. Place your hands on your face, tap gently, massage your scalp.

  3. Continue massaging your neck.

  4. Rub your shoulders, arms, torso and legs vigorously.

  5. And lastly, brush your arms and legs with the flat of your hand, as if you were expelling tiredness, worries, and fears.

  6. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and knees slightly bent. Raise your arms above your head, as if you were holding a sword in both hands, and bring it down sharply (as if slicing something vertically) while crying “HA!” This is a projected, dynamic sound that requires a good intake of breath beforehand.

  7. Your hands holding the imaginary sword are now below your pelvis; raise them back up sharply crying ‘HO!”

  8. Your hands are now above your head again. Move them to the right and give one last swipe of the sword downwards and to the left, as if you were slicing something diagonally, crying “HEE!"

  9. Perform these three gestures (ha-ho-hee) at least twice.

  10. You are ready to face obstacles serenely and clearly.

Exercise 3: Visioning

For example, in athletics, 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 a knowledge and detailed action plan that you are able to visualize.

Summary

  • 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 non-violent self-affirmation and the expression of your own needs and desires; it can be developed through building your self-confidence (follow Part 1 of our course Learn to work autonomously to learn more about building self-confidence).

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

Example of certificate of achievement
Example of certificate of achievement