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Civil & Healthy Workplaces

Are you “overassertive?”

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According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, Columbia business professor Daniel Ames and doctoral candidate Abby Wazlawek wanted to determine if people could gauge their own assertiveness.

Negotiators in the study were asked at the end of a negotiating session whether they had been overassertive, underassertive or just right in their assertiveness. They were also asked to judge the assertiveness of others.

When it comes to being overassertive, only 36 percent of negotiators who were judged as overassertive by the group thought they were indeed overassertive. Similarly, 34 percent of negotiators judge as underassertive thought they were indeed underassertive. In other words, in both cases approximately 65 percent of people judged themselves differently than they were perceived by others.

Another unpublished study found that only 11 percent of those deemed overassertive heard about it from colleagues, compared to 39 percent of underassertive people who were told of the trait by colleagues.

What does this mean? In communication we call it “perception checking.” Perception checking means taking the time to determine if your perceptions are correct or not. In this instance, you might ask others how you do as a negotiator and let them tell you. However, if you’re overassertive they may not feel comfortable telling you. To that end, another option is to try doing some anonymous 360 degree feedback. If you do that, however, you have to be ready to make real change in your behavior.

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