How assertive are you?

Do you find it difficult to ask for what you need or to say no to people? If you find this difficult it may be that you need to look at the way you let other people know your needs and to learn to be more assertive. When I mention assertiveness to people I find often they worry about this and think that others will think they are being aggressive or difficult. So I want to talk today about the different ways you can communicate to others.

At one end of the scale you have a passive style of communication, if you often apologise even when you’re not at fault or you find yourself agreeing because it’s easier as you don’t want to rock the boat then you have probably been using this method and you probably don’t want to be seen as difficult. The advantages are that other people will like you and you don’t have to make decisions. However you have generally been putting other people’s needs before your own and perhaps now you are starting to resent this but don’t know what to do. There is another style at the passive end called passive aggression you don’t feel you can ask for your needs to be met directly but, you may for example use silence or perhaps sarcasm to let other people know that you are not happy and as a way of getting your needs met. The problem with this is that people don’t really know where they are with you.

At the other end of the scale is aggression, people know what you want as you are extremely direct and you might use questions in a threatening way such as ‘what on earth did you do that for?’ you also use blame and don’t consider others. You certainly get your own way but other people may be frightened of you or even resent you or you may find other people respond to you by being aggressive themselves.

Then there is the middle ground which is assertion this is a way of getting your needs met by asking directly for what you want it is about being open and honest in the way you communicate by stating what you want but not in a forceful way as the aggressive style uses. When you are being assertive you accept that the other person has a point of view. You also use the word ‘I’ in preference to the word ‘you’ so you are stating saying what you think or feel about something not using ‘you’ as in blaming the other person which tends to make them defensive or cross. Instead of saying to your teenage son or daughter ‘you always leave such a mess for me to clear up’ which is bound to raise the temperature and probably result in him or her stomping off. Try saying something like ‘I would like you to put any clothes you want washed in the clothes basket as I am putting a load of washing on in the morning’. That is clear and it doesn’t use blame. They know what they have to do if they want their clothes washed. It doesn’t guarantee that they put them in the first time but if you use the techniques we will discuss in later blogs then you should get the results you want!

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