Assertive Communication

Assertive communication skills are learned in assertiveness training and can be effective in the treatment of bipolar and anxiety disorders.

We are not born effective communicators. Most of us as we have grown up, have learned to use partial messages when we communicate with others. This creates confusion and mistrust in our relationships.

This is because other people can sense when something is missing, but they don't know what.

They are turned off when they hear judgments, anger, or demands without your feelings and hopes. Most of the time other people need you to express your feelings and assumptions.

Assertive communication is not necessary in every situation.

Effective communication with the cashier at your local supermarket probably won't involve a lot of deep feelings or discussion about your emotional needs. Close personal and intimate relationships however, require the use of "whole" or four part messages and "I" statements.

Whole Messages

There are four parts to a whole message.

1. Feelings. This is probably the most difficult part of effective communication. Some people don't want to know how you feel and will shy away feeling frightened or threatened. Because of this, you may have learned to keep most of your feelings to yourself.

But sharing your feelings allows others to have a greater sense of empathy and understanding. Expressing the way you feel will give others the opportunity to behave in a way that meets your needs.

Some examples of feeling statements are:

"I feel hurt when you call me names."

"I am afraid that I may get fired during my meeting with my boss."

"I feel loved when I get a hug."

2. Observations.

This is simply reporting what your senses tell you. An observation should always be a FACT that cannot be argued.

Some examples of this are:

"I have joined a support group."

"I heard you say I was stupid."

"There is a scratch on my car."

3. Thoughts

It is important to express your beliefs, assumptions, and theories that are related to your feelings and observations. Other people need to know that you have attempted to make sense of the situation.

Some examples of this are:

"I think it is disrespectful to call me a moron."

"I think counseling will help me."

"I think my new job will challenge me."

4. Needs

No one knows what you want except you. One of the most common distorted assumptions is "If you love me, you'll know what I want." Many of us have been raised to believe that it is wrong to ask for anything. You may feel angry for having to ask. But it is important that you express your needs to other people. They can not read your mind.

Some examples of this are:

"I need to have time to think about this."

" I would appreciate it if you would not call me names."

"I need to be alone so I can concentrate on my homework."

"I" Messages

In assertive communication it is important to use "I messages."

This is a way of expressing your thoughts and feelings without blaming or judging others.

Rather than saying "You hurt my feelings." or "you are inconsiderate." Some examples of "I" messages are:

"I feel hurt."

"I think it is inconsiderate to come into my room without knocking on the door."

"I need you to stop calling me names."

The proper format for assertive communication is this:

"I feel ____________________ "(emotion)

"when______________________" (situation}

"Because___________________" (reason)

"I need___________________" (request)

Here is an example of this:

" I feel overwhelmed right now because there is too much noise in this room for me to concentrate on my homework. I need you to watch TV in the other room please."

This may seem very unnatural at first. Generally people are not raised in an environment where whole messages are used. Assertive communication takes practice, and won't work on everyone in every situation.

But the more you practice, the more natural it will become, and the you will begin to see an improvement in the amount of successful resolutions to your daily situations.

Body Language

Keep in mind that how you express yourself is just as important as what you say. If you were you yell while using the above example, you would be communicating aggressively rather than assertively.

Things to remember when practicing assertive communication:

1. maintain reasonable eye contact. Try not to keep looking down or away , or stare so intently that the person feels threatened.

2. Keep a reasonable posture and distance from the other person. Try to stand upright rather than slouching or hanging your head. Also try not to stand too close to them , as this might make them feel threatened. also try to stand still and not pace around, sway back and forth, or back up as this will make them feel that they are superior to you.

3. Use gestures. This gives other people a sense of warmth and openness. It also works to add emphasis to what you are saying.

4. Maintain a level tone of voice that can be easily heard. Yelling at a person will make them feel threatened, and whispering or whining will make you seem weak. So speak clearly and audibly.

5. maintain a facial expression that fits the message you are trying to get across. Saying one thing and behaving another way, will give the other person a mixed message.

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