We’ve all experienced difficulties when communicating with others. And it can be a challenge knowing how to best get your thoughts and opinions across. Is assertive communication the answer? Let’s find out.
This article will help you hack the skill of assertive communication.
3 Communication Styles (and Why Being Assertive Is the Answer)
There are three main types of communication: passive, aggressive, and assertive.
In every conversation, our communication style either makes it easier or harder for the other person to understand what we mean. And, unfortunately, we suffer the consequences if we don’t know which communication style to use. This can lead to accidentally offending people or not clearly conveying your point.
Aggressive communication can prevent you from having solid friendships. Why? Because no one enjoys the company of someone who constantly judges, argues, disagrees, and doesn’t allow others to share their opinions.
While passive communication may lead to feelings of being misunderstood and misheard. You may feel like no one truly listens to you or values your input.
So, what’s the answer?
Assertive communication is the balance between the other two communication styles.
What is an assertive communication style?
Assertive communication is what we should all aim for, as it’s the best of both worlds — you meet your needs and the needs of the other person; everyone ends up happy.
Of course, sometimes it can be hard to form this habit and stay away from the other two styles of communication. It takes a bit of self-control. Fortunately, there are some smart and easy ways to improve your assertive communication skills.
Before that, however, let’s examine why you should make it your priority to aim for a more assertive communication style.
4 Benefits of Being Assertive
1. Better communication
Your assertive behavior is great for both parties. If you communicate wisely, you can get what you want out of any interaction and leave the other person satisfied, too.
2. Less stress
Let’s face it, aggressive communication is stressful (as can be passive); one of the people involved generally ends up feeling humiliated or threatened. If you are on the “strong” side, you might end up regretting putting your need to be heard over the other person’s right to speak.
With assertive communication, however, you’re acknowledging the other person’s feelings and desires, while openly sharing yours and trying to find the best solution for the situation. This communication style equates to very little stress.
3. More trust
Trust is important in personal and business relationships, and being assertive helps you get there naturally. Passive communication often results in others not taking you seriously, while aggressive behavior tends to lead to feelings of resentment.
Being trustworthy in your communication greatly builds connection.
4. More confidence
When you hide your feelings or interact with others without caring about what they think or feel, you’re either lowering your self-esteem or building it on the wrong foundation.
But assertive behavior, on the other hand, shows that you’re both brave enough to stand up for your rights and you’re in control of what you’re saying (and more importantly, how you say it).
You find the balance between clearly stating your needs and giving the other person the chance to do the same and feel equal.
What Are the 3 C’s of Assertive Communication?
The 3 Cs of assertive communication are:
- Confidence – you believe in your ability to handle a situation.
- Clear – the message you have is clear and easy to understand.
- Controlled – you deliver information in a calm and controlled manner.
How Do You Practice Assertive Communication?
Let’s talk about some techniques you can use to develop a more assertive behavior:
1. Say “no” more often
First things first!
For assertive behavior, you’ll have to let go of the need to please everyone and do things according to their expectations. When you do this, you are often left dissatisfied and become weaker the next time you’re about to try asking for something you want.
Assertive communication means being okay with saying exactly what you want but doing it in such a way that it doesn’t hurt the other person’s feelings.
This might mean rejecting things you decide are not a good fit for you, but then explaining exactly why you rejected them. The word “because” is a powerful game-changer in communication. If you give strong reasons and say them with determination, no one will be upset that you gave them a negative answer.
2. Watch your tone
The self-control we mentioned earlier should be used here.
Your voice needs to be relaxed; you should sound (and feel) calm. This can take some time, just like any other new skill. Be patient and don’t get annoyed if you end up raising your voice without realizing it or rushing a conversation because you become irritated.
Assertive behavior also means not showing hesitation or harshness through your voice. Keep it friendly and calm. Speaking slowly and using a quieter voice is usually enough to bring balance back to the conversation.
3. Be willing to discuss further until you find a solution
When you don’t get the answer you want for some time, it’s easier to just agree and walk away; that’s passive.
Being assertive, on the other hand, means continuing— in a calm and respectful manner— until the issue is resolved. It might require asking more questions, listening more carefully, or getting creative and exploring more options. Whatever it is, it’s worth your time as in the end both parties feel good and no one ends up hurt.
4. Pay attention the nonverbal communication
By nonverbal, we mean body language, eye contact, posture, listening cues, and reactions. All of these should be done without any sense of aggression or passiveness. The former (aggression) will cause the other person to go into defense mode, while the latter (passiveness) will make them feel ignored.
Keeping eye contact helps you stay focused. Also, it’s an easy way to let the other person know you’re invested in and care about what they are saying. Experts say that how you direct your eyes and how long you keep contact can be even more important than what you say.
5. Be present
Last but not least, the secret to effective communication and forming better relationships is to be mindful of what exactly the other person is trying to say. Try not to bring up issues from the past or let your mind get distracted— these show disrespect and can cause you to lose focus (and thus, you won’t be able to give a proper answer or be assertive).
Mindfulness means being present and not thinking about anyone else who’s not currently around you. Forget about the rest of the world, look at the person you’re communicating with at that moment, and listen actively to everything they are saying.
This is the best way to respond meaningfully — the foundation of assertive communication.
Developing your assertive communication skills can take some practice. Accept it as a challenge. Practice it with loved ones and see the benefit of its application, such as fewer arguments, a more positive and peaceful atmosphere at home, less stress, an increase in self-esteem and confidence, etc. Then, start applying these tactics to everyone you meet.
By being assertive, you’re making the world a better place.