The way in which we communicate determines the reaction and treatment we receive from others. Assertive communication is commonly misperceived as being harsh and aggressive. However, it is the most effective style of communication for any healthy relationship. Assertiveness allows us to gently execute our rights, and express our feelings, needs and ideas, with the intent to help others gain understanding. You may not always receive the outcome you want from asserting yourself, but you will gain respect from others; and also avoid the stress that comes along with aggressive and passive communication styles.
Here is a 3 step guide to help you practice assertion daily. These steps can be used when communicating with family, friends, and in personal and professional relationships.
1. Observe every situation objectively. Pay attention to what you hear and see so that you are able to introduce FACTS without passing judgment or making assumptions. This prevents you from attacking or insulting the person you are conveying a message to. Example: “I noticed that the trash from the weekend is still in the kitchen.”
2. Don’t mix feelings and facts. Be mindful of your feelings so that you reduce your chances of reacting negatively. When letting someone know that their behavior has impacted you, stay away from blame language that begins with “you make me feel,” instead use I-statements. Example: “When I wake up and notice that last night’s trash is still there, I feel upset.” Utilizing I-statements when communicating will prevent defensiveness for the person who is receiving the message, while also stopping you from expressing possible irritation with this person.
3. Make a practical request. This shows respect and fairness amongst you and the other party. Be precise and realistic in stating what you want, and leave out information about what you don’t want. Do not make requests based on emotions, beliefs or attitudes. Aim for behavioral modifications for all parties, instead. Example: “I would like if we could establish a schedule or an agreement concerning daily household chores.” Including yourself in the solution helps the receiver feel supported and results in a more positive response.
An easy way to practice and remember how to assertively communicate is to utilize this model:
FACT ==> FEELING ==> WANT
Circumstance: When Naomi awakened the morning after her boyfriend Kevin had friends over, she noticed that the trash was piled up and overflowing in the kitchen.
Assertive Response: I noticed that the trash from last night’s gathering was still in the kitchen when I woke up (FACT). I feel upset that it wasn’t taken out (FEELING). I would like if we could agree to clean up after ourselves and our guests when having gatherings (WANT).
Remember, assertive communication = effective communication
Written by Brianna Colbert, MA, LLPC.