The quality of our communication dictates the quality of our relationships. When we communicate in a healthy way, using assertive communication, our needs are met because we feel safe enough to express ourselves directly and honestly, which deepens our connection with others as well as with ourselves.
Our external expression is typically a reflection of our internal sate. For example, if we feel that we deserve to be heard and understood, it's fairly easy to make our wishes known. This is a result of being in an environment early on in life, where one learns that it's safe to communicate openly and honestly. An environment where one feels heard and understood.
However, if we didn't feel listened to or acknowledged in the way that we needed, or if assertive communication was not modeled for us, we generally tend towards communicating in passive, aggressive or passive aggressive ways.
We all have a primary style of communicating and there are various underlying reasons we may not effectively communicate our wants and needs. It is up to each of us to explore the root causes of why we are expressing, or not expressing, our needs in a particular manner.
Various research studies over the years have linked assertive communication to longer life spans, improved physical health, higher levels of self-esteem and academic success.
The four styles of communication are assertive, passive, aggressive and passive aggressive.
Passive communication is when one avoids expressing one's true thoughts and feelings. If you're a passive communicator, you may feel that you have no ability to influence others and that your opinion doesn't matter. You put others needs before your own and as a result, you may feel resentful that your perspective is not being considered.
Aggressive communication is when one feels superior and projects their fears and insecurities onto others in a dominating or intimidating way. If you're an aggressive communicator, you may use "you" statements and think others "owe" you. You may frequently interrupt and have a low frustration tolerance.
Passive aggressive communication superficially appears to be passive, but it is underhandedly aggressive. Passive aggressive communicators may use sarcasm or veiled joking and may undermine or sabotage others.
Assertive Communcation is a healthy way of expressing our wants and needs directly and honestly with respect and consideration for others.
Here are some ways you can practice communicating assertively so you can improve your relationships and be heard!
Use "I" statements. An "I" statement is when you talk about your feelings and wishes. It's three parts and includes how you feel, the undesired behavior of the other person and what you'd like them to do instead. For example, "I feel angry when you interrupt me, please let me finish what I was saying."
"I" statements are effective since you are taking about yourself. This differs from "you" statements, which come across as accusatory and harsh. "You" statements are also typically delivered when emotions are escalated, which is never a good time to have a discussion. It is essential to take a bit of time to cool down if needed so you can deliver your message when you're calm.
Refrain from using "why" always" and "never." These are trigger words that are accusatory in nature and will quickly put the receiver in a fight or flight response. As a result, the person goes into defensive mode and will want to protect their point of view and justify their position. When that happens it's not likely your message will be heard.
Keep a neutral posture. Our body language accounts for about 93% of communication. Hands on our hips or crossed arms are generally interpreted as aggressive or a sign that we're not willing to hear with the person has to say.
Speak calmly and in a respectful tone of voice. We know that tone of voice can either make us feel calm or evoke intense emotion. Again, it's important to do what you can to calm your body, for example, by taking some time and deep breaths, so you can say what you need to say in a calm and respectful way.
Listen. Listening may not automatically come to mind when thinking about communication, but healthy communication is a two-way street. Listening fosters a mutual reciprocity, which enables each person to share about themselves and receive what others have to say.
Say no. It's okay to say no. We can't be all things to all people all the time.
I wish you much success in the changes you wish to make!
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