An assertive communication style can enhance your relationships

Highlights of this information update:
00.00     Introduction
00.05     Communication in relationships
00.20     Three ways we communicate
01.17     The effects of Non-Assertive communication
01.50     Aggressive communication
02.50     Reaction to aggressive communication
03.27     Assertive communication
04.10     Examples of Assertive communication
05.42     Conclusion

One of the most important aspects of effective relationships is effective communication, so let’s look at a very simple model but a very effective model for having exactly that – good communication in any relationship.

There are basically three ways by which we communicate.  These are non-assertively, assertively or aggressively.

In non-assertive communication a person doesn’t state their mind when they feel they should.  They tend not to negotiate issues on which they feel they have a position that isn’t being respected.  They tend to put feelings and things that people have done to them in a space to bring out and use as ammunition in the future, or sometimes they just keep it welling up inside and don’t ever get it aired and resolved.

In the non-assertive communication style people don’t speak for themselves, they don’t assert what they want, and because they don’t assert that, other people cannot know what they want, and if people don’t know that their behaviour is affecting another person, they are unlikely to make a change in order to make the relationship more effective.

For the most part people who are non-assertive and passive in this way tend to build up and become resentful over a period of time and, when this precipitates,  it can be quite an energetic output shall we say.

This style of non-assertive communication is ineffective in relationships and ineffective in business and it generally comes from a lack of self-confidence or even self-esteem in that person.

We’ll look in future posts at building self-confidence to have a style that is other than non assertive.

At the other extreme from the non-assertive style of communication in relationships is the aggressive style. The aggressive style of person is always using ‘you’ talk – ‘you should do this’, ‘you ought to be this’, ‘you never do that’ etc..  They use sarcasm, they put people down, they deride people, and generally the strange thing is this aggressive style of person (and I guess everyone has an experience of one at some time in their life) is strangely driven by very much the same thing as the non-assertive person.

That is, they have a lack of self-esteem quite often, perhaps they’re fearful of something, and certainly they often have as lack of self-confidence, so they put on a mask of confidence and put other people down.

It seems they believe there’s two ways to feel good about yourself, that’s build yourself up with your achievements or put the other person down.  So relatively speaking, when you put another down, you feel bigger or better yourself.  This is a false logic, of course, but this is often the logic of the aggressive person.

Of course when one is aggressive the reaction tends to be to bring defensiveness out of the other, and that can sometimes be in an aggressive form.  Once we get two people in this aggressive mode, relationships go downhill very quickly.

Equally, of course, if you get two people in a relationship, two businesses in a relationship, or two countries in a relationship who are non-assertive and don’t put out there what they want, then it’s the same effect.  The relationship can’t progress because neither party knows what the other wants

So that’s two communication styles – non-assertive relationship communication, and aggressive.

What’s the in-between that works much better?

Well that’s called the assertive style, and the assertive style of communication begins with whoever’s involved with it asking the question: do I have the right to do what I’m about to do? Do I have the right to say what I’m about to say?  ( I think it’s also smart to follow on with the question, ‘do I really NEED to say or do what I am about to do or say’).

Whereas the non-assertive person doesn’t think of themselves – they put themself last – and the aggressive person puts themself first, the assertive person puts both people, both parties, or all parties in a relationship communication at equal level and of equal value, and when they do have something to say they say it, but they never do it in a blaming and justification manner.

It’s never ‘you made me feel that’ or ‘you made me feel this’.  It’s always ‘when this occurs I think in a certain way, I feel a certain feeling and I don’t like that and what I’d like you to do or what I need you to do is the following….’.

For example, you might be in a meeting and someone’s talking over the top of you, or maybe in a restaurant and your partner talks over the top of you, whatever the circumstance might be. Without embarrassing that other person, the assertive style would be to first ask yourself, ‘do I have the right to say what I intend to say about this matter?’

The answer might well be, ‘probably not in front of other people, so I’m going to do it in when we’re in a private space’.  When the time and place are appropriate and you can proceed, ‘I noticed in the meeting today, when I was speaking you actually talked over the top of me, and when that happens I actually felt quiet insulted; I also felt quiet annoyed.  What I’d like you to do in future is, if I’m speaking, please allow me to finish before you begin to say what you want to say and in return I’ll offer you the same respect and I won’t interrupt you.  Is that ok by you?’

The non-assertive person would have said nothing.  The aggressive person would have said ‘DON’T INTERRUPT ME LIKE THAT!’ or something similar, but not the assertive person. He or she simply tells the other person ‘when this occurred, this is what I thought’ or ‘this is what I felt’ or both, and ‘what I’d like is…..’.

That doesn’t mean you get change, but it is the best known communication style to achieve what you want to achieve in communication and to develop relationships that are built on an open, honest, and even handed basis.

I wish you luck in applying these tips in your business and personal relationships, and if you want more information on this please visit our website regularly: and or alternatively you can just add your name to the top or bottom of the page and we’ll be happy to send you a very brief email message when the next post on this topic is placed.

This is Alan Patching.   Thank you for watching or reading.

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