I can't count the number individuals I have seen who have difficulty using assertivene communication. Many people tend to rely on either passive-aggressive or aggressive means in order to solve conflict and get their needs met. Yet when these tactics are used the relationships we are in tend to suffer and more conflict tends to arise.
Many use passive aggressive tactics in order to avoid direct confrontation. However, these tactics leave others in your life frustrated and unsure how to respond to you.
Examples of passive-aggressiveness:
- Making roundabout statements in order to push people to respond in a certain way. "I guess nobody cares since none of you said anything." "Looks like I'll be doing the laundry yet again."
- Silent treatment
- Behavior to express dislike, such as chronically arriving late to something you don't want to do or purposefully mispronouncing someone's name
Others use aggressiveness often because they are afraid they will not get what the want/need if they use less forceful tactics.
Examples of aggressiveness:
- Physical Force
Assertiveness, on the other hand, is when the person directly asks for what they need. It can be scary because it involves being honest about what is going on for you and because it allows for the other person to say no to what you are asking for. For instance, in the first example of passive aggressiveness the person would instead say to the others involved something like: "I felt hurt when you didn't say anything because it made me think that you don't care. I would like for you to ___________."
- The example just given is the basic form of an "I-statement." I-statements have three main components
- The person owns their own feelings by beginning with "I feel _______" This takes the blame off of the other party. More often a person might say, "You don't care." However, this sets the other person involved on the defensive with a need to defend their position. Using the "I feel" instead allows the person to hear what you have to say because you are speaking about yourself and not pointing fingers at them.
- The person explains their position with the because __________. This allows the others involved greater understanding into how they affect you and can often allow them to respond in a more caring fashion
- The person then asks for what they need from the other. The other involved can of course say no but at least you have clearly stated your needs and can then decide how to proceed within the relationship based on their response.
Another important part of assertiveness is the ability to set boundaries. This means being able to say no and to not overextend yourself.
Perhaps you use an I-statement and the person says no to your request. Perhaps your request is something you definitely need to have in a relationship to feel happy and satisfied. If this is the case, it may be time to set a boundary by ending or altering the relationship in a way that maintains your sense of health and safety. Or perhaps a friend simply asks you for a favor and you are already stretched thin, being able to say, "No I can't" is an important assertiveness skill.