Assertive communication is the best way to dialogue effectively. It is okay to have your needs met and speak about what is bothering you, however, you have to communicate your needs in a way that is going to be well-received and heard.
There are five different communication styles that can be called upon in conversation.
1) Assertive: The healthiest style of communication to be used. When you assert yourself, you know your boundaries and are able to communicate them in a way that is confident, without blaming or hurting the other party. Unfortunately, this is the least-utilized style.
2) Manipulative: The communicator uses unspoken tones and implications to influence or control others.
3) Passive-Submissive: This communicator wants to avoid conflict at all cost. Therefore, the speaker may not say anything in order to please others and keep the peace. A passive person interacts as if the needs of others are more important than their own.
4) Aggressive: These communicators are focused on winning, intimidation, and bullying. These individuals interact as if their needs are more important than others. Due to the use of scare tactics and the tendency to be explosive, it is not an effective communication strategy.
5) Passive-Aggressive: This style is used when there is a perceived lack of power and the speaker is unable to address this directly. The speaker intends to subtly undermine the person they resent. This person appears to be passive while showing their discontent in an indirect way.
1) Watch out for communication hang-up words: “Always”, “never”, “why”, and “you” when used in communicating can lead to walls being built against from the listener. When someone feels attacked in conversation, the automatic response tends to be to defend. These hang up words can breed defensiveness and escalate of the situation.
Solution: try to keep the conversation in the first person. By using “I statements” it is easier to take responsibility for your own feelings and lends itself to less blame.
2) Assert yourself by using the three communication F’s: facts, feelings, and fair requests. Start your sentence out with pointing out a fact. Let the listener know how the fact affects you emotionally, then finish with a fair request to resolve the issue.
For example, “I came home and the lights were on (Fact). I feel upset and disregarded (Feeling). I would like it if the lights could be turned off before leaving the house (Fair request).
3) Be in touch with your emotions: Find what is truly bothering you so you can communicate that effectively. It’s easier to communicate your needs when you understand the reason behind the pain.
It takes skill to be direct and use assertive communication in relationships. Being able to recognize your default communication style will help you to find ways to enhance your assertive communication skills. Many times you will interact with others using different communication styles that you were surrounded by in your family. It is never too late to learn to assert yourself in your relationships. Your self-esteem will increase when you find yourself able to be heard without being too passive or aggressive.
Which communication style do you default to? What ways can you begin to assert yourself?