Improving Communication through Assertiveness

On average, a person spends 80% to 90% of their time daily communicating with others (Research Gate).  It is how we connect with others and build relationships.  Despite years of experience communicating with others, we can still struggle to find a way to feel heard, regret when we have used dominance to make a point or feel frustration that we didn’t speak up.  There is one skill that can help with these problems: assertiveness.

First, it is important to understand what assertiveness isn’t.  Assertiveness is not a guarantee that you will get what you want or that others will respect you.  Assertiveness is not about making others listen or agree with you.  Assertiveness is not being passive nor being aggressive.

Passive, Aggressive, and Assertive

These are three categories of communication styles to be aware of.  Passiveness is described as saying nothing or agreeing with others to avoid confrontation.  The problem with passiveness is it will lead to feeling frustrated, and often results in becoming aggressive.  Aggressiveness is described as being dominating and taking advantage of others.  Aggressiveness destroys relationships and leaves people feeling isolated. 

Assertiveness is described as standing up for your own rights, while respecting those same rights with others.  It is direct and honest communication that is self-enhancing and expressive.  Assertiveness fosters honest and respectful relationships, allows for all to speak and feel heard and is the standard of communication that is expected in all settings.

Rights to Assert

With the understanding that assertiveness is about the ability to stand up for your rights without violating those same rights for others, what are these rights?  Think of this list as a personal bill of rights that we all have.  We all have the right to decide our values and opinions, to not have to justify our actions or feelings to others, to say ‘no’ when you feel a request you cannot meet or you disagree with.  We all have the right to be in positive and happy relationships and to decide to end a relationship if it doesn’t meet our needs.  We all have the right to not be perfect and to make mistakes.   We also have the right to say ‘I don’t know’ if we really don’t know the answer.  We all have these rights and many more.  These rights are foundational to our happiness and the success of our relationships. 

Assertiveness in Action

What does assertiveness look like in the real world?  Assertiveness includes statements such as, “I have a different opinion on that, I believe…” or “This topic is important to me, I ask that you hear me out.”   Assertiveness involves confidence and the belief that standing up for your rights is the right thing to do.  Sometimes others will challenge our new-found assertiveness. 

Remain confident in your right to be assertive, knowing you are communicating in healthy ways to help you and others to feel respected and happy.  If your best efforts aren’t helping you reach your assertiveness goals, consider speaking with a therapist at Nugent Family Counseling.  Our therapists can help you develop your own unique style of assertiveness to help with any challenges you are facing.

By Jon Ray LMFT, Nevada License: 01147, Idaho License: 9791