Do any of these sound familiar?
- You feel you don’t receive the recognition you deserve;
- You end up always losing the argument in heated discussions;
- You feel you get cut-off and don’t get the opportunity to say what’s bothering you;
- At times you feel empty, worthless, lacking in confidence;
- You fear speaking up; you’re not sure how to do it and feel afraid of how people might respond.
The great news is that there are techniques and skills you can learn to overcome feeling this way, have stronger confidence and be better able to state what concerns you and what you want, express how you feel and generally live a more fulfilling, satisfying and happier life in your career and relationships.
Whose responsibility is it to communicate clearly, effectively and assertively? Is it the deliverer of the message or the receiver of the message?
The answer is actually – both parties. We are in charge of our own behaviour, how we communicate and how we respond, but we are not able to control the same of the other person. Like the mechanics that work in back end of a clock or watch, turn the cog and the other cogs have to turn. So too can be the same for how you change the way you communicate – if you change, then you create the opportunity for the other person to respond, answer and behave differently.
Identify the Change you Want
Start by identifying the change you want – how it would make you feel – and then choose your words accordingly.
The aim is to communicate (speak, write or otherwise) in a way that looks to move toward a solution, and does not exacerbate the problem.
Example: Your partner comes home and routinely relaxes on the couch after work. You then come home to find the clothes are still hanging on the line, dishes are still in the sink and it appears no effort has been made to get dinner started. You are tired and frustrated yourself. You feel that your partner does not recognise you are also tired and to avoid another argument, you manage the laundry yourself, wash up, and end up starting dinner.
1. Firstly, we need to identify what it is that is upsetting, annoying, painful to us; be able to describe to ourselves the response or behaviour that is unfavourable.
- seeing your partner relaxing on the couch whilst there is laundry that needs to be managed, dishes that need washing and dinner that needs to be started.
2. Identify what behavioural change you want to see or experience instead.
- you want your partner to help and ease the burden;
- you would like for them to use initiative to help instead of you needing to ask.
3. Identify how you would feel differently with this behavioural change.
- you would feel grateful, loved;
- you would feel you also had the opportunity to relax;
- you would feel recognised and respected.
4. Choose the words that create a safe space for the other person to respond differently.
In the past, you might have said: “Why can’t you get off the couch and help? You are so lazy! Why do I always have to do everything!?”
These words communicate anger, frustration and the likely response you will receive is an unfavourable one … retreat, or a retaliation. The behaviour you receive may continue, even worsen and the opposite of what you wanted, eventuates. You damage the other person’s self-esteem, you continue to feel in a bad mood and you don’t receive the help you want.
Instead, use the following technique:
“[Name], when I come home and I see you relaxing on the couch whilst there is laundry that needs to be brought in, dishes that need cleaning and dinner to be started, I feel frustrated and annoyed. What would really help me is if you could check the laundry is done and wash the dishes in the sink when you come home. That would really help me out and I’d feel like I could also relax.”
What is different here?
- Using “I” words, relieves pressure on the other party. You minimise their resistance to change;
- You take responsibility and ownership for identifying the problem you are experiencing, and that you are responsible for the way you feel and not the other person;
- You identify a solution and tell the other person you have an idea to help resolve the problem – you show you are solution-focused and that you are committed to helping yourself feel better, with their help.
5. LISTEN for their response.
Be careful to avoid badgering the other person for a response. Remember that you have chosen to communicate and behave in a way that is not usual for you and the other person may not have been expecting this, hence their response might be delayed.
Give the other person time and space to respond. By doing this, you communicate assertively, respectfully and set a premise that you are willing to work toward a resolve.
Bear in mind the other person may not respond favourably. Remember their response is not within your control – but you have at least communicated in an assertive and respectful way that helps you build your confidence in speaking up for yourself and communicating your needs.
When you say … (description of words)/ … do (description of behaviour)
I feel …
What would help me is … (description of change you want)
I would feel … (description of the positive feelings)
While communicating face to face can be the most confronting, you have the chance to communicate more fully, the message you wish to convey and the importance of your message. The other person also has the greater chance of receiving that message.
You can also use your non-verbal communication skills to increase your assertiveness.
In the presence of other people, the message conveyed is done in three main ways:
1. Non-verbal Body Language
Facial expressions, hand movements and gestures, posture – the way you communicate without using words or your voice. This has the greatest impact (55%) in delivering a message and receiving a message.
2. Voice Tone – How you Say What you Say
How you say what you say has the second highest impact in communication: volume, emphasis, pitch, clarity and diction, elocution, pauses, silences. This has the second highest impact at 38%.
3. The Words
The actual words you use have the lowest degree of impact at 7%. In knowing this, choose your words wisely and recognise that how you choose to deliver these is highly important.
Dos & Don’ts for Assertive Communication
Have a look at the chart below for the DO’s and DON’TS to exercise assertive communication that increases the likelihood of positive responses and behaviour change.
Understanding the impact of how your body language, voice tone and the words you actually use, can have a great influence on the effectiveness of your message being received well and being responded to favourably.
Author: Helen D’Silva, B Sc (Hons), M Psych (Sport and Exercise).
Brisbane Psychologist Helen D’Silva has worked with many individuals lacking in self-esteem and confidence, to develop assertiveness skills in the workplace and in their personal relationships. Helen helps develop an awareness of where the individual’s current skill levels sit, before identifying and coaching them to use techniques that bring positive change in relationships across all areas of life.
Freecall 1800 877 924 or book Brisbane Psychologist Helen D’Silva online today!