Have you ever heard of an assertive diplomat? To be an assertive diplomat means to present what you believe in a way that others can hear and understand you, and hopefully, have your ideas be something with which they can agree. It’s crucial to communicating clearly in life and in work.

A friend of mine has recently been struggling with becoming an assertive diplomat in her life. She’d been having some challenges with her supervisor and was hoping to assert herself better in a new role – but she didn’t understand that she needed to do that before taking on a new role.

When I talked to her about this, I prodded her to question any potential supervisor during the interview about their work style, their preferred communication method, their biggest challenges, and how she could be helpful in beating those challenges. But my friend bristled – those were questions you ask after you get a job, right?

Wrong.

When we’re in a situation in which we want something (a job, a favor, etc.), we tend to think we need to put ourselves in the best light without questioning the person on the other end of the table. But here’s the thing, we should always act as assertive diplomats in our own lives. We can’t let the fear of not obtaining the result we want make us compromise who we are.

Going back to my friend, I explained to her that she needed to know the answers to these questions prior to taking a new job to ensure that the new job would be a successful endeavor. The last thing she’d want is to leave one unproductive situation for another! Before making any commitments, she needed to know that the communication style between her and her future supervisor would match up.

When we ask questions like this, when we act as assertive diplomats in our lives, we bring the humanity back into our conversations with other people. Regardless of the power dynamic, we’re all just people seeking to reach certain goals. And we can either be in a situation that’s optimal for both parties (in this case, a communication style that matches) or we can enter into a situation blind that ends up leaving both parties in the lurch.

In other words, as much as my friend wanted a new job, her future supervisor wanted someone great to fill the role. Both parties had equally important needs, so there was no reason for her to be fearful of a power dynamic. She and the potential supervisor were either a fit for one another, or they weren’t.

No matter who you’re engaging with or how far apart you may feel from them, remember that we’re all just people. You have a need, a desire. They have a need, a desire. If you can open up that empathy circuitry and understand their goals and challenges, you will be better able to understand if you can add value to achieving those goals and/or overcoming those challenges. And if you can understand your own goals and challenges, you’ll be able to align yourself with the right people and opportunities to help you, too.

At the end of the day, we’re all just people.

Want to learn more about the most important concept in communication? Read all about it here.

Image Credit: Danielle MacInness