We live our lives in continuous connection with others. Internet gives us a lot of opportunities to avoid human contact, but it does not mean you do not need to communicate with others. Actually I think it became even more important to be able to express our thoughts and feelings effectively. We may need to prepare ourselves for public speaking for a job or explain something to our family. Communication is an essential part of our lives.
Basics of Communication
I do not want to go into details about the science of communication, you have already learnt it at school or you can check it on Wikipedia. It is important that during the process of communication you need a sender, a receiver and a message. If you know the basics, than it is worth to learn more about assertive communication. It is kind of a fancy word, everybody talks about it but it seems that only a few people do it actually.
According to Wikipedia’s article about assertiveness, “The term and concept was popularized to the general public by books such as Your Perfect Right: A Guide to Assertive Behavior (1970) by Robert E. Alberti and Michael L. Emmons and When I Say No, I Feel Guilty: How To Cope Using the Skills of Systematic Assertiveness Therapy (1975) by Manuel J. Smith.”
Communicating assertively basically means that you take into consideration the other person’s interest but you also express your own interests. It is crucial during conflict resolution but I believe it is important also in our everyday lives.
Aggressive, Assertive, Passive
Assertiveness is usually explained by the difference between aggressive, passive and aggressive. If you behave aggressively in a situation it means that you consider only your own interests and needs. If you behave passively, it means you consider only other’s needs. Being assertive is the common point, when you consider both your own and others’ interests as well. It’s like finding the right balance on a scale.
Don’t put people into boxes and say they are aggressive, passive or even assertive. We are talking about how we behave in different situations. Sometimes the best choice is to be passive. You can let your 7-year-old niece win in Monopoly. Sometimes the best choice is to be aggressive. If someone wants to rob you, probably you won’t start negotiating assertively. So assertive communication isn’t the magic key to answer all of your problems. However in many cases, it can be a solution. If you learn to communicate assertively, you won’t hurt other’s feelings.
If you have ever participated at an assertive communication or conflict resolution training you may have heard about the bill of assertive rights. These rights can help you to set limits for yourself and for others. Read them through and make sure to remember them when you interact with others.
The Bill of Assertive Rights in When I Say No, I Feel Guilty reads as follows:
- You have the right to judge your own behavior, thoughts, and emotions, and to take the responsibility for their initiation and consequences upon yourself.
- You have the right to offer no reasons or excuses for justifying your behavior.
- You have the right to judge if you are responsible for finding solutions to other people’s problems.
- You have the right to change your mind.
- You have the right to make mistakes – and be responsible for them.
- You have the right to say, ‘I don’t know’.
- You have the right to choose to accept or not accept “help”.
- You have the right to be illogical in making decisions.
- You have the right to say, ‘I don’t understand’.
- You have the right to say, ‘I don’t care’.
Other resources quote different, but still very similar assertive rights. The point is to keep in mind that we are all humans. If you find it difficult to respect some of the rights when it comes to you or to others, it is worth to sit down and think through how you behave. What are your difficulties? What comes naturally?
I believe that the key for our relationships is assertiveness whether they are professional or private. It means for me listening to each other openly, expressing ourselves honestly. Contact me if you want to learn more about how to put these into practice.
**Cover Photo: Photo by VisionPic.net from Pexels**