Assertiveness style, and matching assertiveness style to specific situations, can determine success as a leader and negotiator, according to Columbia University’s Daniel Ames and Abbie Wazlawek.
Earlier, Ames and Stanford’s Frank Flynn reported that moderate levels of assertiveness are associated with career advancement, and with effective negotiation and influence in conflict situations.
In addition, they found that most observers provided consistent ratings of managerial under-assertiveness and over-assertiveness.
However, most people do not accurately assess others’ evaluation of their assertiveness calibration and alignment to specific situations.
Over-assertive individuals tend to have less-accurate self-perception than less assertive people, and both groups experience “self-awareness blindness.”
These inaccurate self-perceptions may develop from polite yet inaccurate feedback from others, which provides faulty information.
A frequently-employed negotiation tactic is overly-dramatic emotional verbalizations during negotiations.
More than 80% of participants reported that they had expressed greater objections than they actually felt to influence the negotiation partner, and a different 80% of volunteers said they observed exaggerated objections by their negotiation partners.
Participants in Ames and Watzlawek’s studies reported whether they or their counterpart used these excessive emotional displays in negotiation role-plays.
In addition, they rated their own and their negotiation partner’s assertiveness styles.
Self-awareness resulted in most favorable negotiation results: More than 80% of negotiators rated by others and by themselves as “appropriately assertive in the situation” negotiated a deal that provided greatest value to both parties.
Strategic umbrage also appeared effective: People who received strategic umbrage displays by their negotiation partners were more likely to rate themselves as over-assertive in their negotiation position, even though the counterpart rated the assertiveness as appropriate to the situation.
Ames and Watzlawek called this misperception of others’ perceptions the line-crossing illusion.
Just 40% of negotiators rated as appropriately assertive but experienced the line-crossing illusion negotiated the best possible deal for themselves and their counterparts, suggesting that disingenuous emotional displays of strategic umbrage lead negotiators to seek the first acceptable deal, rather than pushing for an optimal deal.
To improve accuracy of meta-perception of other people’s perception of assertiveness style, Ames and Wazlawek suggested:
- Participate in 360 degree feedback
- Increase skill in listening for content and meaning
- Consider whether the positions discussed in negotiation are “reasonable” in the situation in light of comparable alternatives and options
- Request feedback on “strategic umbrage” reactions, to better understand additional factors that modify perceptions of “offer reasonableness”
- Evaluate costs and benefits of specific assertiveness styles
Over-assertiveness may provide the benefit of “claiming value” in a negotiation or achieving a goal, but the cost may be ruptured interpersonal relationships and a legacy of ill-will, according to Jeffrey M Kern of Texas A&M as well as SUNY’s Cecilia Falbe and Gary Yukl
- Consider cultural norms for assertiveness regulation In “low context” cultures like Israel, dramatic displays are frequent and expected in negotiations
In contrast, “high context” cultures like Japan require more nuanced assertiveness, with fewer direct disagreements and “strategic umbrage” displays, according to Edward T. Hall, then of the U.S. Department of State.
Likewise, under-assertiveness may benefit by minimizing interpersonal conflict, but may lead to poorer negotiation outcomes and undermined credibility when interacting with counterparts in future, according to Ames’ related research.
To augment a less assertiveness style:
- Set slightly higher goals
- Reconsider assumptions that greater assertion leads to conflict and interpersonal dislike, and consider that proactivity may lead to increased respect and improved outcomes
- Collaborate with more others to observe, evaluate the outcomes
To modulate a more assertiveness style:
- Make slight concessions to increase rapport and trust with others
- Collaborate with less assertive others to note, assess the impact
The line-crossing illusion is an example of a self-perception bias in which personal ratings of behavior may not match other people’s perceptions, and others’ behaviors can attenuate individual confidence and assertiveness.
*How do you reduce the risk of developing the line-crossing illusion in response to other people’s displays of “strategic umbrage”?
*How do you match your degree of assertiveness to negotiation situations?
- How Effective are Strategic Threats, Anger, and Unpredictability in Negotiations?
- Expressing Anger at Work: Power Tactic or Career-Limiting Strategy?
- Anxiety Undermines Negotiation Performance
- Power Tactics for Better Negotiation
- Do You Have Agreement Bias – The Impulse to Accept Bad Deals?
- Decision Maximizers, Satisficers and Potential Bias
- “Honest Confidence” Enables Performance, Perceived Power