Communication Quiz Results: Your Loved One Is an Assertor
What Is an Assertor?
Assertors are task-oriented people who value efficiency. They tend to come straight to the point in a conversation, without taking a lot of time for casual chit-chat. They don’t ease into difficult subjects. Instead, they like to state the problem clearly and look for a solution analytically.
In conversation, assertors tend to ask a lot of difficult questions in order to gather information. They’re used to being decision-makers, and they expect honesty and accuracy from their conversation partners. They take discussions seriously and don’t have time for whimsy. They have strong opinions, and are used to being respected and obeyed. Many people see assertors as “CEO-Types.”
As assertors age, the same traits that helped them excel as leaders in their careers may make it hard to adjust to retirement, decreased mobility, or health issues. Accepting help, delegating decisions, and admitting weakness can be difficult for an assertor. As a result, assertors may lash out verbally at caregivers and family members, in an attempt to maintain a sense of strength and leadership. To communicate effectively with this personality type, you must acknowledge their desire to be the main decision-maker in situations that affect them, and ensure that they take an active role in gathering and analyzing information about those decisions.
Communicating with an Assertor
The following are a few general tips to keep in mind in any conversation with your loved one.
- Be factual and accurate; don’t exaggerate. Assertors make decisions based on facts and information, not feelings. If you don’t give them an objective summary of the situation, they might easily accuse you of wasting their time.
- Be straightforward and ask challenging questions. Don’t tiptoe. Challenging questions can help the assertor focus and think through the situation. Talking around key points or trying to be gentle seems inefficient to them.
- Use simple language that educates them about the situation. Assertors respect straightforward language that addresses a specific concern. They want information, not reassurance.
- Have structured conversations with tasks and goals for making decisions and achieving objectives. Because assertors are ‘CEO-Types,” they enjoy the clarity that goals, benchmarks, and deadlines provide. Concrete steps are preferable to fuzzy aspirations.
- Use formulas. List behaviors and results. “If…then…” is a very useful formulation for assertors. It helps them see what choices they face and the consequences of those choices.
- Have conversations in a timely fashion. Don’t rush. Prepare before you have a conversation with an assertor. Gather your information. They want facts. When you’re ready to have the talk, leave time to answer questions and outline things clearly. Assertors like to be thorough when they’re making decisions.
- Stand your ground. Be strong and confident. Since assertors are used to being in charge, they have a talent for taking control of the decision-making process. Don’t be afraid to give voice to your own perspective. Confidence helps the assertor see you as an equal in the decision-making process rather than as a subordinate.
- Use non-debatable ‘I’ messages rather than judgmental ‘You’ messages. If you make the conversation about the assertor, they’ll take it as an invitation to argue. Using “I” statements gives you the space to be heard and understood.
- Remember that you don’t have to agree. Assertors are used to being the decision-makers in a relationship, which means that they’ll expect you to agree with their conclusions. However, in difficult conversations it’s alright to walk away without reaching a consensus.
- Keep them active in the decision-making. Give them guides that they can follow and manage on their own. Assertors need to play an active role in decision making, or they won’t be happy with the result. Act as a facilitator, tracking down facts and information so that the assertor can reach a rational conclusion.
While these tips and tricks apply to any conversation with any assertor, they’re especially helpful when you need to communicate with an aging relative or loved one about difficult topics. Aging can be hard for everyone, but it’s especially difficult for people who were used to being leaders and doers. Often, as their health and mobility deteriorate, they’re asked to let others lead and take care of them. That means that many conversations about health, finances, and personal needs can feel like an attack on the assertor’s identity. When you keep their basic personality and communication traits in mind, you can help them see that learning to accept assistance is not the same thing as losing their identity. Careful communication will allow your assertor to reply to these challenges with dignity and agency.
The links below explore how you can communicate effectively with your assertor about the following specific concerns:
Institute on Aging Blog
Karyn Skultety, PhD
Executive Director, Openhouse SF