Positive assertive communication is based on mutual respect, an attitude which defends your rights without hurting those of others. Being assertive shows that you’re willing to stand up for your interests and express your thoughts and feelings. It also shows that you’re aware of the rights of others and are willing to work on resolving conflicts. As an example see Experience is a Great Teacher.
When using passive communication you may seem to be shy, overly easygoing, or avoiding conflict. Why is that a problem? Because the message you’re sending is that your thoughts and feelings aren’t as important as those of other people. When you’re passive, you give others the license to disregard your wants and needs, which can cause an internal conflict because your needs came second. The internal conflict can result in stress, resentment, anger, or feeling you’ve been victimized.
When using aggressive communication you may come across as a bully who disregards the needs, feelings and opinions of others. You may appear self-righteous or superior. Very aggressive people humiliate and intimidate others and may even be physically threatening. You may think being aggressive gets you what you want, however, it comes at a cost. Aggression undercuts trust and mutual respect. Others may come to resent you, leading them to avoid or oppose you.
By being assertive you gain self-confidence and self-esteem, which helps earn respect from others. It improves your communication and decision making skills. Recognizing and understanding your feelings and communicating them assertively creates honest relationships and win-win situations. It’s a behavior where a person neither attacks nor submits to another person’s will, but expresses beliefs. Assertive is half way between passive and aggressive and is the ideal method of communication. It also helps with stress management, especially if you tend to take on too many responsibilities because you have a hard time saying no. Some people seem to be naturally assertive, but if you’re not one of them, you can learn. Here are some tips I found from the Mayo Clinic website to help you become more assertive:
- Assess your style. Do you voice your opinions or remain silent? Do you say yes to additional work even when your plate is full? Are you quick to judge or blame? Do people seem to dread or fear talking to you? Understand your style before you begin making changes.
- Use ‘I’ statements. Using “I” statements lets others know what you’re thinking without sounding accusatory. For instance, say, “I disagree,” rather than, “You’re wrong.”
- Practice saying no. If you have a hard time turning down requests, try saying, “No, I can’t do that now.” Don’t hesitate — be direct. If an explanation is appropriate, keep it brief.
- Rehearse what you want to say. If it’s challenging to say what you want or think, practice typical scenarios you encounter. Say what you want to say out loud. It may help to write it out first, too, so you can practice from a script. Consider role-playing with a friend or colleague and ask for blunt feedback.
- Use body language. Communication isn’t just verbal. Act confident even if you aren’t feeling it. Keep an upright posture, but lean forward a bit. Make regular eye contact. Maintain a neutral or positive facial expression. Don’t wring your hands or use dramatic gestures. Practice assertive body language in front of a mirror or with a friend or colleague.
- Keep emotions in check. Conflict is hard for most people. Maybe you get angry or frustrated, or maybe you feel like crying. Although these feelings are normal, they can get in the way of resolving conflict. If you feel too emotional going into a situation, wait a bit if possible. Then work on remaining calm. Breathe slowly. Keep your voice even and firm.
Four more tips that I want to remember for assertive communication:
- Be respectful and kind.
- Use specific examples, don’t generalize.
- Provide objective and pertinent insights.
- Don’t judge or attack the others.
What tips do you have on assertive communication? What has been your experience with doing so?