Are You Appropriately Assertive?


The scenario: Senior Pastor Michael must interrupt Associate Pastor Julie’s long-planned weekend away with family and ask her to work instead.

How would you handle that conversation if you were Michael? Would you fall to the passive side, fearing to ask, knowing that it will be upsetting for her? Perhaps you would fall to the aggressive side, thinking, “I’m the boss so she will just have to do what I say.”

Perhaps, however, you would use the emotional intelligence skill of assertiveness.

In The Emotional Intelligence of Jesus: Relational Smarts for Religious Leaders, authors Oswald and Jacobson illustrate the crucial differences between passivity, aggression and assertiveness in this sample conversation based on the scenario above.

How do you feel about their suggested approach?

Michael approaches Julie and says:

“Julie, I know your husband Jake and you had planned to take your kids to the ocean this weekend. You have looked forward to this for several weeks.

As you know, I will be tied up all day Saturday with a retreat with all our church officers. That retreat has been postponed twice already, and it’s now or never. I’ve just been informed that Norm Nelson, who is both a friend and pillar of this church, has unexpectedly died. The funeral has been set for 2:00 p.m. Saturday, as this is the only time his extended family in Michigan is able to attend.

Julie, I need you to postpone that weekend with your family. At this late date, you are the only one who can lead portions of that retreat. I can be there for part of the time but not for a major portion of the event. I know you have the skills that are needed at that workshop.

In appreciation, I will go to bat for you so that you can have the entire Labor Day weekend at the shore with your family. I will also see to it that you have some extra time with your family over Christmas. I will mention the sacrifice you are making here at your annual review that’s coming up this fall. May I count on you for that Saturday retreat?”

According to Oswald and Jacobson, Michael took four appropriately assertive steps:

  1. Michael managed his own emotions while informing Julie he was clearly aware of her situation.

  2. He informed Julie about his general situation – the reasons he needed to assert himself.

  3. Then Michael provided the specific details in regard to what he needed from Julie.

  4. Finally, he expressed appreciation, offered all the rewards he could and confirmed acceptance.

Could you more easily get what you need from people and yet keep them happy? Perhaps it’s possible through appropriate assertiveness!

Dr. JeannieComment