PsychologyAssertive Communication: It’s How You Say It -

Assertive communication is saying what you mean in a way that displays mutual respect for yourself and others.  This direct and healthy style of communication offers many benefits including: sharing your needs and wants, increased self esteem, ability to say “yes” or “no” to requests, reduced inner conflict, reduced arguing and outer conflict.  This style can promote efficiency and effectiveness in the workplace as conflicting ideas and viewpoints can be presented, shared, and understood by others. While it does not mean that you will always reach agreement, it can deliver a message that can be heard and portrays respect for all parties.  This style can improve personal relationships as your wants and needs are expressed and the other person is allowed insight into your genuine experience. Authentic friendships, intimate partnering, and respectful acquaintance interactions can benefit from an increase of positive interactions. Best of all, assertive communication can be learned.  

It may be best to work with a licensed psychotherapist to learn, practice, and explore your communication style to increase your effective communication.  Typically our communication style is influenced by our past experiences, ways of interacting with others, and how we have met our needs in the past. Here are some tips to consider:

Use “I” statements

By speaking from your own experience, you can express your thoughts or feelings without a mix of blame or judgment that can turn off listening by others, or evoke an argument.  Consider these two statements and how you might respond when hearing them from another person. Which statement encourages further dialogue? “I disagree,” versus “You are wrong.”  Try another example, “I feel hurt,” versus “You are mean.”

Use “No”
If you typically have difficulty saying no, prepare and practice saying no ahead of time.  Be direct, firm, and respectful. A few well prepared answers can assist you to set reasonable limits for your time and energy.  Consider whether it would be better to overwhelm yourself, take on too much commitment, or would stating, “No, I cannot at this time,” or “No, that doesn’t work” and then following up with an option that you can agree upon is a better.

Body Awareness
Much of communication is non-verbal and your message can be strengthened or undermined by what your body is doing.  Practice making statements in a mirror, or use a recording device to observe what your body is conveying. Things to be aware of include eye contact, crossing or folding arms, turning away or towards someone else.  Notice the use of hand gestures and facial expressions that contribute to effective communication.

Starting Steps
Identify one small item to improve upon and practice it in a safe environment.  Enlist a trusted friend or a psychotherapist to help coach, guide, and give feedback.  Make adjustments, experience what feels right, process experiences or emotions that seem to block progress.  Assertive communication is a skill that can be learned and practiced, like a driving a car. You don’t want to try out every skill all at once in th

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