Assertive communication means the ability to express your rights, your feelings, and opinions or to ask for something you want or need in a positive, honest, and loving way. Even in the case of tough-love, this description applies.
We mainly feel the need of assertive communication when faced with unpleasant situations, for example:
- when we are angry, upset, or disappointed;
- when we feel we have been mistreated;
- also when we want to get something or when something bothers us;
- when we are criticized;
- when we disagree with someone;
- and when we negotiate.
Assertive communication can also be used in pleasant situations, for example:
- when we praise someone;
- when we congratulate someone for something;
- and when we receive a compliment or praise.
Contemporary praise for Assertive Communication
Assertive communication has been a trend in recent years. It was created to meet the needs of the people around us, aligned with ours, in the time and space in which we live. Today’s environment encourages gender equality; individuals are expected to contribute to the development of society, that they know how to express their views and opinions, and even more do it in such a way the idea contradicts the idea of other people.
That skill is appreciated nowadays. If we know how to communicate assertively, we can ensure that our mental health and well-being remain in excellent condition, as there is less chance of unhealthy, unresolved, and therefore untapped conflict. So what does it look like? How does Assertive Communication Sound?
Assertive Communication example?
Imagine you are in the post office and you want to send a package. You stand in line, there are four people in front of you, and there is only one open counter. Another woman comes in and asks if she can cross the line because she’s in a hurry. What is your answer?
- Good. I’m not in such a hurry.
- You know, I’m in a hurry too.
- I know it’s not pleasant to wait. But I would also like to be done quickly.
Let’s take an example from work. You have not yet completed the report, just like one of your co-workers has not managed to finish his work on time. The boss is upset and attacks you in front of all your colleagues: “It doesn’t matter, Jake. I’m just interested in whether we agreed to have the report ready by Friday or not?” In this situation, you have several options:
- We agreed.
- Yes, but Jake didn’t send me the data. How could I finish the report on time?
- I can’t answer, yes or no. However, I can explain what happened.
By giving the first response made to look small and hide yourself. If we exaggerate, we can say that you have escaped. By giving the second answer you are using weapons that you had available at that moment. Now you are ready and waiting for a counter attack. The third answer allows for a dialogue, i.e. finding a solution that will be acceptable to both parties.
Withdrawal or attack? None! Assertive Communication isn’t passive, nor aggressive
If we compare the responses listed above, we can see that the first type of reaction is typical of passive communication. We prioritize the needs, desires, or interests of others while neglecting our own needs. It causes a sense of subordination in us or a lack of self-confidence and assertiveness in the perception of others.
The second answer is of the aggressive type: we only put ourselves first and forget about others. As passive communication is often caused by low self-esteem, the same can be said for assertive communication. Someone who continually attacks someone else shows his / her impotence.
By shouting, the teacher will not earn the respect of the students. The same goes for superiors. If the manager calls the team names or sees them as incompetent and lazy without justifying it, he/she will only cause deteriorating relationships and make the results worse.
Someone who continually attacks someone else basically shows his / her impotence.
The so-called iceberg effect is often caused by aggressive communication. Let me explain. What if the person who asked you to cross the line just got a call from the school to pick up the child who got sick? Or you just lost a business deal and then miss your flight? In such situations, we react aggressively; we only show the tip of the iceberg, not what is hidden under it. The iceberg effect reminds us that aggressiveness often expresses an inner problem. Remembering that makes it easier to stay in you’re the communication style of your preference.
When the instinct is too strong
Passive and aggressive forms of communication are generally intuitive. This means that we have acted based on emotions without thinking about our actions. Both ways are common when we get an unpleasant surprise from the environment. This leads to the release of cortisone, a stress hormone. Both passive and aggressive reactions only increase cortisone secretion, which prolongs the stressful situation.
The wisdom of assertive communication
Then, you have a third way of communicating – giving a confident answer or assertive communication based on objective criteria. Never give preference to anyone, not even to yourself. Communicate with respect, kindness, with love (even when it’s tough love), and self-confidence. This will allow you to continue this constructive dialogue. Only in this way will the interlocutor be ready to explain to you why he/she asked you to do something that will allow you to decide whether or not to do what the interlocutor asked you to do.
No way this means that we should use assertive communication only with people we know. We should use it whenever we talk to someone or a group of people who are important to us.
Never give preference to anyone, not even to yourself.
Neither does this mean that we should not express our emotions when using assertive communication. Assertive communication allows the emotions and experiences of all involved to be in the connection. Assertive communications therefor requires the ability to be present with whatever is happening and your are feeling. It is not a means to hide, nor a way to always win or get your way. It is a verbal manner of establishing and maintaining a verbal connection between parties so the issue – whatever it is – can be discussed and taken the next stage.
How to use your voice and body language
An important factor in assertive communication is to have a healthy, clear and robust use of voice. The adequate sound of properly chosen words makes the latter even more powerful.
You being assertive means expressing what you feel – in words, in body language, and in sound, the use of your voice. These elements together will make your communication strong. If you say something you don’t mean, or are not so friendly inside as you want to make it sound, or say something just to please the interlocutor for mere strategic reasons, then the balance between your words, your body language, and your voice will be shaken. This will make the interlocutor think that something is wrong and mistrust the situation; in this case, he/she will always rely on what he/she sees and feels, not on what he/she hears. Body language speaks the truth because it comes from the subconscious, which makes it much more convincing than words.