How assertive are you? Most people think they are assertive when asked. Contrary to popular believe, assertiveness is actually very difficult to accomplish. Assertive communication is often confused with other forms of communication, such as confrontational or aggressive communication or even passive aggressive communication.
My hope is that through this article the reader can better understand the difference between less effective forms of communication and truly assertive communication. In general there are about 5 or 6 common styles of communication. These include, passive or avoident communication, criticism, passive-aggression, aggressive/hostile communication, contemptuous communication and assertive communication.
Passive communication is style that emotionally cuts oneself off from the other person. The communicator tends to change topic or ignores the other person, or simply starts doing something else instead of addressing the issue. Sound familiar?
Criticism involves making statements that encompass the totality of the other person. They make statements that use words like "never, always, must be, should" rather than being specific about a problem. Critical statements lead to defensiveness in the other person and often turn into arguments. Know anyone like this?
Passive-aggression comes in two flavors. Either the use of a lot of sarcasm or pretending like everything is OK, but then doing something that is not nice. An example of passive-aggression would be not calling when you running late simply because your mad at the other person and then denying it when they bring it up. Is this you?
Aggressive-Hostile communication is the use of foul language, physical force, slamming doors or throwing objects, or violating someones personal space, yelling, or using a negative tone. This style attempts to manipulate the other person into submitting to ones own viewpoint or idea. It can cause significant problems in relationships. Ever used this style?
Contempt. This is a style where you have lost all respect for the other person and end up calling them names, denying their feelings, insulting them to the point of emotional damage, humiliation, etc. This is often the final stage of a bad relationship. Is this you?
Assertive communication uses appropriate body language, tone, hand and arm movements and congruent facial expressions to what is being said. The assertive communicator uses "I" messages to express their feeling and needs. An example of this would be:
I feel hurt and disappointed, when you're running late and don't call because it makes me worry about you. I need you to call me if your going to be late, OK?
By learning to communicate more assertively, one can expect a more predictably favorable outcome of many conversations and feel much better.
These skills can be taught in a quality in person anger management class or a trusted online anger management class.