Learn to Express Yourself Confidently Using Assertive Communication

by on November 8th, 2010
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There are many ways to say the same thing — with the potential for the message to be heard differently by the listener depending on the style of communication used. Of the four basic communication styles, assertive communication is the most effective in delivering your intended message to the listener.

Ineffective Communication Styles

Passive, aggressive and passive-aggressive are the three ineffective communication styles. Ineffective communication exists where the intended message of the speaker is not received in whole by the listener due to a breakdown in the delivery of the message.

A passive communicator is someone who rarely expresses his ideas and emotions, particularly around others who he sees as authority figures. This person makes infrequent eye contact, may speak softly and may have a stoop-shouldered appearance. The passive communicator doesn’t believe what he has to say is important and that is conveyed in his messages — or lack of them.

An aggressive communicator freely expresses his ideas and thoughts, often regardless of who those statements may offend or hurt. This person makes frequent eye contact, may speak loudly and frequently uses “you” in statements, in a finger-pointing manner. The aggressive communicator firmly believes in his right to express himself, letting the chips fall where they may.

A passive-aggressive communicator hides his thoughts and feelings behind words. Even his facial expressions may not reveal his true thoughts. This person often uses subversion or manipulation to get what he wants. The aggressive portion of communication comes through in sarcasm or undermining others’ efforts. With the passive-aggressive communicator, the other person never quite knows where they stand.

Effective Communication Style

Assertive communication is the most effective style of communication because it is direct yet diplomatic. The assertive communicator has not only self-respect, but is also respectful of the listener. With assertive communication and corresponding body language, there exists the best chance that your message will be received as it was intended.

How to Develop an Assertive Communication Style

You may already be an assertive communicator; if not, you can learn how to become one.

Start by talking to and about yourself positively. You may not pay much attention to how you talk to yourself and it may seem unimportant, but the truth is the way you feel about yourself is projected to others through clues in body language and the way you talk with others.

Begin using statements that begin with “I”: I feel…I think…I believe. In interpersonal relationships, it is assertive to say, “I feel ignored when you…” You are taking ownership of your feelings and letting the listener know you feel there is a problem between the two of you that warrants a discussion.

Learn to say “no” to requests from others when you truly mean it. You don’t have to explain your reasoning, nor be discourteous. A firm “no” works.

Plainly ask for what you want or need; you don’t have to couch those desires in long explanations or try to get them met in another manner.

Picture yourself as a confident person. Sit and stand with back straight and shoulders upheld. Make eye contact when talking with others. Keep your hands away from your face. You’ll be surprised how differently you feel just by making these physical changes.

Active listening is an important component of assertive communication. Listen to what the other person is saying. Occasionally nod your head to let the speaker know you are engaged in the conversation. Don’t be planning what you’re going to say in response; you can’t listen and plan at the same time.

Put these tips to work for you and learn how much more effective you are at communicating.

MayoClinic.com; Being Assertive: Reduce Stress, Communicate Better; May 17, 2011.
Texas Women’s University; TWU Counseling Center; Assertive Communication.
California State University, Long Beach; Harmonious Assertive Communication — Methods to Create Understanding and Intimacy; Tom G. Stevens, Ph.D.; 2010.

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