A long time ago, when I was fresh out of college and working for a big company, I made a costly mistake.
Not billions of dollars costly, but it messed up a design schedule for a product.
I had to tell my boss’ boss, since she was the one in charge.
I was pretty nervous. I thought I might be fired, or killed, or worse.
So I went up into her HUGE office, and told her.
She didn’t blink. She just listened, nodded, and asked a simple question:
“OK. What are you going to do now?”
I had already figured out how to fix things, and I told her.
“OK. When will that be ready?” she asked, still not having put her pen down from what she was doing. I told her, and she thanked me and got back to whatever she was doing.
Just like that.
Interestingly, this is how most EVERY conversation goes, especially those we THINK are going to turn into horrible shout-fests.
So long as you calmly explain yourself, there’s really not much the other person can do.
If they jump up and down, throw a tantrum, and lob a few illogical insults, you can just calmly repeat yourself.
“I understand this makes up upset. And…” and repeat yourself.
You can even add on the magic words at the end, so they don’t feel like you’re slamming the door in their face.
“What do you want to do?”
The trick in being TRULY assertive (and not aggressive, which most people confuse with being assertive) is to calmly state your truth, and ALLOW the other person to respond however they want.
Then if you need to, simply restate your truth, and ask, “What do you want to do?”
Once they realize their temper tantrum won’t work, it will lose it’s effectiveness, and they’ll (usually) become more reasonable.
Of course, like any other linguistic technology, this is a LOT easier on paper than it is in real life.
This is pretty tough when you’re heart is jack-hammering in your chest.
Luckily, there are plenty of exercises you can do on your own, before lowering the “boom.”
And once you see how EASY it is to express your truth, whatever it is, you’ll realize the world is MUCH MORE receptive to your truth than you believe.