Samantha is everyone’s favorite. She is sweet, kind and painstakingly polite. She is ever ready to help anyone with anything even if it means that she must stay back two hours after every one to finish her work. She never turns down anyone’s request. Although she loves helping people, sometimes she wonders to herself whether people take her for granted and use her to their advantage.
What do you think is happening in this situation? Is Samantha right to overstrain her and fulfill the demands put forth by others? What kind of communication is she adopting? Most people would claim that Samantha is just too passive and not open and honest with her people. So what type of communication can Samantha practice in such a case?
What is Assertiveness?
Assertiveness is the ability to express opinions, ideas and emotions respectfully without harming the feelings of others. It is the skill to arrive at a middle ground where the needs of the self and others are fulfilled equitably.
In most cases, people are hardly ever assertive. They end up being too passive or they resort to full-blown aggression. Assertiveness is the art of striking a healthy balance between passiveness and aggression.
For example, any time someone makes a harmless joke about Bob, he instantly snaps back and fires cuss words at them. This is an example of someone displaying aggressive behavior.
What Are The Different Styles Of Communication?
1. Passive Communication:
Passive communication takes place when a person strives to fulfil the demands of others at the cost of one’s own needs and expectations. They use this type of communication because of their fear of confrontation, lack of self-esteem, the fear of punishment etc.
This type of communication creates a win-lose situation where one person constantly loses whereas the other person wins.
Samantha uses passive communication due to her fear of confronting people. So, she ends up doing things for others that she wouldn’t do otherwise.
2. Aggressive Communication:
When a person exercises force and coercion to achieve their demands, it can be termed aggressive communication. People usually take this method to hide their deep- held insecurities.
People who bully usually are very weak and insecure people who try to mask that layer with an aggressive façade. This communication creates a win-lose situation.
3. Passive-aggressive Communication:
In this type of communication, people usually express their aggression in indirect ways rather than doing so directly. It is a form of passive hostility. This can be done by sulking, slandering, procrastinating, using extensive sarcasm etc.
4. Assertive Communication:
Assertive communication is a mixture of both aggressive and passive communication. To be assertive is to say what you do not agree with in a manner which is considered polite and respectful without verbally harming or abusing in any means. It acts as a balancing body between an aggression-filled narrative and a submissive acceptance of opinions.
Assertive communication gently yet firmly draws a boundary which helps in clearly communicating the anticipated message. It embodies strongly expressing ideas but at the same time respecting and empathizing with the emotions and ideas of others.
This creates a win-win situation as this involves an open discussion about the demands of all the parties and reaching a common ground where every expectation is given substantial consideration. It establishes respect for the self and others, allows disclosure and promotes appreciation of self-worth.
What Does Assertiveness Comprise?
- Guilt-free expression: People who are passive generally feel guilty or intimidated when they turn down unreasonable requests or point out a statement which they do not agree with. To be assertive is to say ‘no’ without feeling guilty about it because one has to place themselves above the needs of others. They express their ideas and opinions freely without fearing the judgments of others. They even play the devil’s advocate if their situation asks for it.
- Confident requests: Being assertive also means being able to request something with confidence and courtesy. Aggressive people typically demand rather than request and passive people evade requesting altogether. However assertive people make appeals while being sensitive to the feelings of others.
- Open to criticisms: Assertive people avoid taking negative feedback and criticisms on a personal level. Rather they view it as a means through which they can strive for personal transformation. On giving criticisms to others, they maintain professionalism and state facts as they are rather than contorting to sound malicious.
What Does An Assertive Conversation Look Like?
Troy gets home late after a long day at college. He finds his mother cleaning the house and making preparations for the guests who are coming over the next day. He decides to help her with a bit of the household work.
Suddenly his friend Haden calls him and asks if he could pick him up from a game station. Now Troy is in a state of a dilemma because Haden has been a great friend to him ever since high school but at the same time, his mother needs his help as well.
Haden: Hey dude! I need a favour from you. Could you come to pick me up from Jack’s game station.
Troy: Hey Haden! Uh well, how far is it exactly?
Haden: I guess around 30 miles?
Troy: Well mate, I would’ve come to pick you up if not for my mother who needs of my help right now.
Haden: Bro could you please come? There isn’t any cab available either.
Troy: I am afraid I can’t make it. Dude how about I ask Gray to pick you up? He might be somewhere around the game station.
Haden: I am absolutely fine with that.
Troy: Perfect! I’ll let him know your whereabouts and give you the update in a jiffy.
Haden: Sure. Thanks mate!
In this example, Troy was conscious of his own needs and that of Haden. He was neither passive and agreed to the demands of Haden nor was he aggressive with him. He made sure both the demands are considered and came up with a solution feasible for both. This is what an assertive conversation would look like.
How To Practice Assertiveness In Day-To-Day Life?
- Be descriptive: When you discuss an unpleasant behavior in someone, make sure you’re describing the behavior alone instead of labelling the person or making judgments about them. This gives them a chance to view themselves separately from the behavior and perceive themselves and the behavior as two different entities.
For example, instead of saying something like “You are always late. You’re such a lazy person”, you can try framing the sentence like “I’ve been waiting for quite some time now. Could you make it earlier next time?”
- Use ‘I’ statements: In a fit of rage or anger, we usually tend to accuse someone by saying statements such as “You are this” and “You are that”. However, the right way to address a grievance is by using ‘I’ statements. This prevents the person from feeling attacked. Instead of framing a sentence like “you are extremely mean and rude”, it can be said like “I feel hurt when you say something like that”. This takes away the accusatory tone and makes it easier for the person to see where you’re coming from.
- Express your emotions: Giving insight into your emotions helps the other person understand the kind of impact their behavior has on you. So always make sure you let them know what you feel as that would sensitize them more about your reactions.
For example, “I feel so loved when you help wash the dishes. It shows how much you care.”
- Give a solution: After politely expressing your emotions, give them ideas about alternatives that they could adopt which would be better appreciated. Tell them what you would prefer them to do instead of having silent expectations.
For example “I would appreciate it if you could put back the book in the drawer next time”.
- Use the right body language: Remember to have body language that aligns with what you say. If you’re going to say “You’re funny” with a not-so-smiley face and a bored expression, you’re going to be assumed to being sarcastic.
- No is a no for an answer: When you have requested something which is beyond what you could afford now, learn to politely say no. even if you’re asked a million times, be firm with your answer and keep reiterating it till they receive your answer.
- Rehearse what you want to say: It can be quite intimidating to be assertive if you have never stood up for yourself before. The best way to initiate being assertive is by having that crucial conversation with yourself first. Imagine sitting across from the person with whom you’re planning to have the conversation and express your argument.
- Positive self-talk: The inability to be assertive stems from a negative sense of self and adopting negative self-talk. Changing the inner dialogue increases self-respect which would naturally reflect during their interactions.
- Little leaps first: As you start your journey towards assertiveness, take small steps initially before you leap. Learn to become assertive for small things first and then go for bigger issues.
Techniques To Enhance Assertiveness
There are some technical ways through which the skill of assertiveness can be enhanced. These activities are usually given in assertiveness training where basic social skills are taught which gives a hands-on experience in gaining this essential skill.
- Modeling: Humans have a tremendous capacity to learn from those around and this technique uses this competency. This involves observing a person who practices assertiveness and imitating their behavior. This can be done by watching visual scenes of people being assertive and making mental notes of the way it is done.
- Role play: Another efficient method to enhance assertiveness is through the technique of role play. Here, people learn assertiveness by enacting it in simulated situations. The participants can be given realistic situations and asked to turn down the requests made by others. This exercise is very practical and can be very beneficial in real-life settings.
- Negative assertion: Negative assertion is to agree with the critic about your behavior and comes to terms with it rather than aggressively lashing out. It is to genuinely accept a behavior as bad if you feel that you shouldn’t have committed it in the first place. For example:
Person 1: “How dare you punch me in the face last night?”
Person 2: “I shouldn’t have done that. It was wrong of me.”
- Self-control exercises: Self-control is one of the things which most people struggle a lot with and assertiveness places utmost importance on it. It is so because having a check over emotions is crucial when interacting assertively. In assertiveness training, participants are usually given self-control exercises which would train them to restrain their emotions.
- The stuck record technique: This is an interesting technique where a person repeats the assertive statement over and over again without raising the tone or losing calm. For example:
Person 1: could you finish the assignment for me?
Person 2: I’m sorry I have my assignment to finish.
Person 1: I am facing a lot of issues at my home.
Person 2: I understand it is important, but I have my assignment to finish.
- Building an assertive mindset: This technique tries to reach the core of the issue and make changes accordingly. This activity includes asking questions to understand the core issue and bring answers which would help in cultivating assertiveness.
- Developing boundaries: Another key reason why people lack assertiveness is due to poor boundaries. Setting clear boundaries gives an accurate idea about the things that are okay and things that are a big no-no.
- Handling criticisms (negative inquiry): It can be hard to maintain calm on receiving criticisms. During such a situation instead of being aggressive, one can ask probing questions about the criticism being made. For example:
Person 1: “Your dress looks awful.”
Person 2: “Yeah it isn’t the best one. What about the dress that you don’t like?”
Example Statements Of Assertive Communication
- “I don’t agree with your statement because I feel the level of demand could be crashing down because of the Covid situation.”
- “I understand that you want to stay a little longer with me. But I have an important appointment that I can’t afford to miss.”
- “Could you please wait for your turn? I have a few things to put across.”
- “I am unhappy with your performances for the month. What happened?”
- “I can see that you’re very angry right now. But I do not appreciate you raising your voice. Could you tone it down a bit?”
The 3 C’s Of Assertive Communication
Assertiveness can simply be clubbed into the 3 C’s and they are:
1. Confidence: Confidence is the belief in self and the ability to tackle any tricky and complicated situations.
2. Clear: Being clear and precise and sending easily comprehendible messages.
3. Controlled: Maintaining calm and composure while delivering information of any nature.
Advantages of Assertive Communication
- It satisfies the demands of all parties.
- It enables self-expression without guilt.
- It enhances interpersonal relationships.
- Makes room for effective conflict resolution.
- Increases confidence and decision-making skills.
- It helps prevent stress.
- It is timesaving and enhances productivity.
- It promotes mutual respect.
Disadvantages Of Assertive Communication
- This type of communication may not be welcomed well by others.
- It rationalizes every interaction not leaving room for genuine emotions.
- It may portray arrogance and over-confidence.
A Comparison Of The Three Different Types Of Communication
|1.||A passive person fears to expressing opinions.||An assertive person openly expresses opinions respectfully.||An aggressive person forces their opinions on to others.|
|2.||They don’t prioritize their needs over others.||They prioritize their needs but also consider the needs of others.||They only prioritize their needs and dismiss the needs of others.|
|3.||They avoid confrontations.||They confront people politely and respectfully.||They engage in full-blown aggression leaving no room for other’s views.|
|4.||They never give no for an answer.||They say no when their situation calls for it.||They say no aggressively.|
|5.||They come from the “I am not okay, you’re okay” life position.||They come from the “I am okay, you’re okay” life position.||They come from the “I am okay, you’re not okay” life position.|
|6.||They give ambiguous responses.||They give clear and simple responses.||They give violent ridden, aggressive responses.|
|7.||Lose-win situation||Win-win situation||Win-lose situation|