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Graded assertiveness

Hint, preference, query, suggestion, statement, command

· team,communication

Graded assertiveness is a communication technique used in areas like aviation and healthcare for raising safety concerns, one step at a time.

The person who is raising the concern asks a series of questions that progressively become more direct.

An example of this is: 

  1. You might start with: a Hint.
  2. If you don’t get a response that satisfies your concern you might state: a Preference
  3. If the issue is still unresolved it might be the time for a more direct: Query
  4. You make: a Shared suggestion
  5. You make: a Statement
  6. You give: a Command.

This is an example of how it would be used in aviation.

  1. Hint
  2. : “Should things look like this?” 
  3. Preference
  4. : “I think it would be wise…”
  5. Query
  6. : “What do you think we should do?” 
  7. Shared suggestion

: “You and I should…”

  1. Statement

: “We need to do the following…” 

  1. Command

: “Do this now.”

Another technique used in aviation and healthcare is called PACE.

PACE is an acronym that stands for probe, alert, challenge, emergency.

This is an example of how someone in a clinical setting could phrase their statements. 

  1. Probe
  2. : “I’m not sure...”
  3. Alert
  4. : “Could we double check?”
  5. Challenge

: “Is there a reason for...?”

  1. Emergency

: “For the safety of the patient, we must...!”

An important thing to notice about graded assertiveness is that it does not require you to go through all of the steps.

You can stop as soon as you get the response that you require.

Also, in all of the steps, avoid speculating on what misfunctioning teammate's reasons or motivations are.

There are no assumptions or accusations to be made.

The focus is on establishing a mutual understanding of actions (or inactions) within the team and identifying the implications on team objectives and outcomes.

Effective teamwork depends upon all the members of the team being able to assert their ideas and opinions.

For this to occur, cooperation must exist within the team so that members feel safe to do this.

It is not the sole responsibility of the designated team leader to foster these qualities in the team.

Assertiveness and cooperation are the responsibility of all of the individual team members.