Why assertive communication skills are important
Most of us want to be liked. Some of us want to be liked so much that we try to be ‘nice’ all the time. We become people pleasers. We try to please everyone, including members of our family. We give in when we really want to do something else. We say ‘yes’ when we’d rather say ’no’. If your people pleaser says ‘yes’ when the rest of you is saying ‘no’ then eventually you will end up feeling resentful and hard done by. When you get to this point, you are much more likely to lose your temper and explode in an aggressive way.
This passive/aggressive pattern can leave you feeling helpless and ineffective. It is as though you have two possible ways of behaving – passive or aggressive – and you have no access to all the other possible ways in between. It can also cause confusing and difficult relationships with members of your family
Being assertive means to be able to stand up for yourself, say what you want and express your opinions in a way that is neither aggressive nor passive. It means expressing yourself in a way that respects the feelings of others whilst also making your own desires and feelings clear.
Learning assertive communication skills enables you to deal more
effectively with relationships with other people. Whether you are in a
work, social or family situation, when a difficult circumstance arises,
you can use your assertiveness skills to handle it in a way that
generally makes everyone feel OK. And even if you get a grumpy response
from the person you’ve been assertive with, don’t worry. As long as you have been kind and reasonable in your communication, it is
not your responsibility how other people react. Everyone, even children, are responsible
for their own responses, however much they may try to blame other
people for them!
It’s not just about saying “NO”
It is easy to get the impression that being assertive is about learning to say ‘no’. In fact, assertive communication skills can help you to avoid saying ‘no’ very much. Do you like being told ‘no’, when you want something? Probably not. Nor do most people. Being assertive gives you alternatives to saying ‘no’. It teaches you to negotiate with people so that, more often than not, you both get what you want out of a situation.
This is especially important in dealing with children, where it
is very easy to be saying “no, no, no” all day. Young children tend to
do, or want to do, lots of things that we don’t want them to. Finding
ways to negotiate with them and give them alternative choices will
make a big difference in how you relate to your children.
Tips for becoming assertive
• Take a deep breath and speak calmly
• See the discussion as negotiation and not argument
• Make eye contact with the person you are talking to
• Use “I” statements rather than “you” statements – statements that express how you feel rather than about what the other person is doing. “I haven’t got time to do that right now. I’m making your tea. We’ll see if we can find time after tea.” Rather than “You always ask me to do stuff when you can see I’m busy.” OR “I feel sad when you keep on hitting the dog. I can see he doesn’t like it. Look his tail is between his legs.” Rather than “Will you stop hitting that dog!”
• Choose the right moment to talk about it when you are both calm and have time to talk.. If you are having a problem with a member of your family, talk about it in private, not in front of other members of the family or in front of their friends.
• Avoid apologizing. Apologizing makes it look as though you feel you are in the wrong.
• Stick to what you want to discuss. Don’t bring up lots of other things that suddenly occur to you during the conversation. This will only take the energy away from the point you really want to get across. And the other person will stop listening to you if they think you are about to go through a whole list of things you think they have done wrong.
• Be willing to let something go if you have talked about it a lot and nothing is changing. Sometimes we all have to be willing to accept people and situations as they are. It is not always possible for people to change their behavior, even when they want to. Think about times when you have found it difficult to change your own behaviour.
• Do your best to begin the conversation by appreciating something the person has done. Also find something positive thing to end the conversation with.
If you want to learn assertive communication skills, there are a
number of good courses. Ask at your local library about what is
available in your area. There are also resources online which can help
you. Click on the links below to find out more.
Here are links to two absolutely brilliant books which cover assertive communication skills: