When one engages in assertive communication, they allow their needs, wants, opinions, and feelings to be expressed while also expressing respect and appreciation for those of the other party. Assertive communication helps us to form deeper, more meaningful relationships while the other forms impede it.
In the last post [INSERT HYPERLINK] we learned what communication is, the various parts of communication, the way these parts interact to aid how messages are sent and received, as well as, how to enhance our listening skills. The next step we take in learning how to enhance communication will focus on the speaker role. We will cover different types of communication we can present as the speaker before learning what it means to hold the speaker role and how to best utilize the time to talk.
Passiveness, aggressiveness, passive-aggressiveness, and assertiveness are types of communication we can engage in within interactions. Passive communication occurs when we avoid expressing our own needs, wants, opinions, and feelings in order to prioritize that of the other party. The opposite of this type is aggressive communication where one expresses that only their needs, wants, opinions, and feelings matter in the discussion to the point where the other party is completely disregarded. When these two types of communication combine, this leads to passive-aggressive communication. Passive-aggressiveness appears by one overtly expressing the aforementioned passiveness while subtly expressing aggressiveness. Lastly, and a more healthy way to communicate, is through assertiveness. When one engages in assertive communication, they allow their needs, wants, opinions, and feelings to be expressed while also expressing respect and appreciation for those of the other party. Assertive communication helps us to form deeper, more meaningful relationships while the other forms impede it.
Another easy misstep we can take when communicating with others, especially when confronting an issue, is by assuming we know what the other person thinks. There’s an old adage about assuming…kidding! In reality, when we keep the focus on our own person, experiences, and feelings, we avoid escalating the situation and applying incorrect attributes, thoughts, and feelings to the other person. One of the ways we can effectively circumvent our mind reading tendencies to keep the focus on ourselves is by utilizing I-Statements. These brief messages assist us in conveying what is needed in a succinct and straightforward way without triggering the defenses of the other person. I-Statements begin with how the speaker feels when a certain behavior took place by the listener, why this matters to the speaker in the way it impacted them, followed by what the speaker needs instead.
Again, it is important to be mindful of our choice of words (verbal message) and the tone (paraverbal message) we use. These are just as important to remember when using I-Statements because they can still be expressed in an accusatory way. For example, an expression may sound like: “I hate it when you don’t fill the car with gas after using it.” The speaker is trying to use feelings words, but it’s still a bit harsh in the presentation whereas a statement that sounds like: “I feel unappreciated when you don’t take the time to fill the car with gas after using it. This makes me run late for work when I have to stop for fuel. Next time, please top off the gas when you’re done using the car.” It can be a little odd getting used to I-Statements since we don’t phrase things like this normally. However, a little practice is all it takes to enhance your communication with clear and non-accusatory messages.
You are literally rewiring your brain so at first it might be strange when you apply these skills. Although that sounds like a feat, it’s not impossible. If you would like help or simply a safe place to explore how to enhance your communication skills, reach out to one of our therapists in your area. It doesn’t have to feel daunting - or even be a daunting task - and you absolutely don’t have to do it alone!