Before you start reading, please give me permission - I am asking, "Can I make you uncomfortable for a minute with this information?" If not, please stop reading. This article is intended to provoke a bit, and might cause some unease. If you are up to the challenge of feeling uncomfortable to understand more, keep reading!
Human communication styles range from passive to aggressive. A passive communicator accommodates other people, gives in to others, and takes care of everyone else, which means they put themselves last. An aggressive communicator is a quick thinker and readily shares their thoughts and opinions easily, which means that (without intending) they often intimidate other people. In the United States, 70% of the population are primarily passive, and 30% are primarily aggressive. So, which are you? Sometimes, hearing the definitions, the response is, "I do a pretty good job of balancing." When you balance passive with aggressive, what do you get? Yes, passive / aggressive! What does this mean? First off, welcome to the human race. More importantly, it means that regardless of our intentions in the communication process, we often both miss taking care of our own needs and do not give others the opportunity to respond. For example, have you ever visited a restaurant or store where you were not happy with the quality or the service? Rather than say something, you simply left. After you left, did you tell your friends? Did you call to complain, or write a letter? This is passive-aggressive: you did not respect yourself enough to get the problem fixed, nor did you respect the business enough to give them the opportunity to fix the problem.
So the title of this article is Assertive Communication, and assertiveness is the ideal. Assertive communication is a learned skill requiring study and practice. It is about speaking with words that respect both the other person and yourself at the same time. In the United States, only 5% of the population have fully developed this skill.
Perhaps you have attended a workshop that included information on assertive communication. Some of this information reinforces what you already know. Are you applying what you know? Five starting points for Assertive Communication include:
1. Use I statements.
An I statement is formulated by saying, "I feel (state the feeling) when (describe the behavior without the word you) because (give the impact of the behavior without the word you).
When giving direction, say "I need this completed by..." rather than, "You need to do this by..." Caution: using the word we when it really is not a joint effort is often perceived as patronizing.
2. Listen effectively.
Actively listen with eye contact and open body language. The ideal is to blend your body language with theirs so that it is similar. Caution: if you mirror the other person, it might annoy.
Rephrase what they say. Caution: if you restate what they say exactly, this is parroting, and does not demonstrate that you actually understood.
Reflect their emotions behind their words. Caution: the tone of your voice and your facial expressions must demonstrate the desire to understand so that this is not an attack.
3. Quit telling, start asking.
Have you ever noticed that the more telling you do, the less listening they do?
Instead of telling others what you want and how to do it, ask them questions so that they determine what to do and how to move forward. When they figure it out and decide, they own the next steps.
4. Focus on the solution, not the problem.
Discussing who said what, who did what, and whose fault it is prevents resolution.
Ask: Where are we now? Where do we need to go? What are the action steps to get there? How can this problem be prevented in the future?
5. Use effective language.
Certain words create problems. For example, when asked why, the defense mechanisms kick in. The word but (or however) negates and erases everything that came before. Words that indicate a lack of certainty lessen follow-through: try, might, maybe, could, should. Absolutes promote argument: always, never. When told, "you need to," most people become defensive.
Other words promote motivation and cooperation: possibilities, create, how.
What are the benefits of enhancing your communication skills? Imagine creating better understanding at home, increasing your effectiveness in the work place, and proactively ensuring clear boundaries with friends.
When you implement new communication skills, consider the most important impact of all: how is the other person interpreting your message?