Many people fear conflicts, criticism and rejection. They have learned from childhood to believe that they must accept and live up to the standards that other people impose. Having opinions and wishes, saying no or expressing needs allows others to see their vulnerable side and this can lead to rejection.
The answer in this case is to be invisible, passive, and to go along with any request. People give control over their lives to others, even when they don’t want to do so. As a result other people don’t respect their needs and boundaries because they don’t know them.
Other people learn that aggression and attack is the only effective way to communicatie needs. They always get their own way, they impose their opinion, they shout, they don’t listen to others, they are bullies. This communication style might be effective in the short term as it gets people do what they want but it really damages relationships and others self-esteem.
Alternating between these two styles is also possible and normal to an extend. Being too passive leads to frustration which builds up until people cannot stand it anymore and explode.
Both of the above communication styles have negative effects on relationships. None is about open and honest communication in which both sides’ wishes and needs are respected.
Being open and respectful is the third style, the assertive style. Assertive communication is about standing up for yourself with respect for others. It’s about talking and listening, finding the balance between your needs and those of others. This style allows us to relate to others with less conflict, stress and fear. It increases self-confidence, and enhances relationships because people know where they stand.
Do you think your communication style needs some improvement?
Do a self-assessment: - With whom and in which situations do you feel more (or less) assertive? - When do you get most passive and when do you become aggressive? Start using “I-statements” Learn to talk about your feelings without blaming others. Be clear and direct. You can use this structured 3-step model to practice.
Practice the 3 Steps Steps: Step 1: I feel…. (name the emotion) Step 2: When you…. (describe the behavior, be specific) Step 3: I would like/Could you… (make a clear request, state your need) Examples: I feel scared when you raise your voice. I would like you to speak softly. I feel angry when you don’t keep your promises (not: you make me angry). Will you please keep your promise this time?
Take responsibility for your feelings but validate the other person’s feelings as well.
Keep repeating your point. Don’t get pulled into arguing or trying to explain yourself.
Use assertive body language (face the other person, stand or sit straight, keep your voice calm and soft).
Being assertive is a skill, the more you practice, the easier it gets