The ABCs Of Clear Assertion


by Michael D. Hume, M.S.

There’s an old expression the would-be inspirational leader would do well to observe: If you don’t believe what you’re saying, why should I?

Whether you are the owner of a small business, a leader within another business, or simply a free-agent in such markets as advice or wealth-building investment, you are far more likely to be an inspiring leader if you are able to communicate clearly, and with confidence behind your message. Many of my clients over the years have been strong, confident leaders, but had developed bad communication habits that made them come across as though they did not fully believe in their own message (even when they did).

You can develop more underlying confidence in your own leadership; often, good coaching can make a great difference. If it’s a problem of true confidence, look for a coach who can help you (contact me to start your search for one, if you like). If you are reasonably confident in the robustness of your message, though, don’t present it as though you aren’t. Work on your skills to become a clear, assertive communicator… and to do that, think ABC (and D and E).

Be Accurate. It seems simple, but some weak communicators can’t even bring themselves to say exactly what they mean. Sometimes they’ve let their minds convince them that the message is just too complex to be done justice with a simple statement, or that the straightforward approach won’t be well received. You hear them say such things as “I don’t disagree with you” when it’s obvious they could simply say they agree. So check yourself: are you saying what you mean? If your message is “we need each salesperson to contact ten more prospects a day,” don’t say something like “some of you should maybe sort-of take a look at your productivity.”

Be Brief. One of the easiest ways to spot the weak communicator is by the simple volume of words she uses. You don’t need to keep repeating your point; if you aren’t sure the troops understand, ask them (individually, if possible – some people are unlikely to voice their confusion in front of their peers). When you catch yourself rambling on, regroup. Inject some silence into the discussion (it doesn’t make you look slow). And see if you can find a way to present your message with as few words as possible.

Be Clear. The weak communicator pollutes his message with all kinds of unnecessary fillers. Often the intent is to “soften the blow,” but when clarity is lacking, so is understanding. Being unclear also gives poor performers the chance to be passive-agressive, refusing to implement your instructions and blaming you for the lack of clarity. So be clear. Check your speech for overuse of “OK?” or “right?” or such infernal phrases as “sort of,” “kind of,” and “maybe.”:

If all you did was focus on the ABCs above, you’d be a much stronger communicator. But feel free to add “D” (Direct) and “E” (Empathetic) as well. Directly assert your viewpoint when necessary, even when you’d rather not, and don’t pull any punches. Make sure the last thing your troops can do is blame you for not being clear with them. Then, to soften the blow (you’re not an unfeeling jerk, are you?), show some empathy. Make your care for the person as clear as your care for the message, and even for the mission. If you suffer from EDS (Empathy Deficiency Disorder), call me. I specialize in coaching leaders to be empathetic without being “weak.”

You’re a strong leader, with clear ideas on how to improve your business, your team, and the world around you. Make sure your messages match your own convictions.


 Michael Hume is a speaker, writer, and consultant specializing in helping people maximize their potential and enjoy inspiring lives. As part of his inspirational leadership mission, he coaches executives and leaders in growing their personal sense of well-being through wealth creation and management, along with personal vitality.Those with an entrepreneurial spirit who want to make money “one less thing to worry about” can learn more about working with Michael at wanting to jump-start their vitality can browse through the best (and most travel-friendly) nutraceuticals on the market at and his wife, Kathryn, divide their time between homes in California and Colorado. They are very proud of their offspring, who grew up to include a homemaker, a rock star, a service talent, and a television expert. Two grandchildren also warm their hearts! Visit Michael’s web site at
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