Learning to be more assertive is crucial in the development and maintenance of healthy relationships. Too often people will aggressively blurt out their feelings, wants, and expections of others. Constructive assertiveness is not aggressive. It’s about speaking up for yourself, whereas aggressiveness is speaking out against another person. The difference between saying “I would like you to pay more attention to what I say,” and “You better show me more attention or else” is obvious in tone. Here is an assertiveness model that illustrates how to address issues of importance:
- State the facts regarding the event or issue
- State how you feel about the facts
- Make a request of the other person.
- Consequence (Optional depending on the situation)
Sometimes a request is made and the other person cannot or does not want meet it. There is an assertive not an aggressive way to decline the request. A simple, “No, I cannot do that” with a brief explanation, is an acceptable response. The goal of the assertive model is to limit judging and threatening. It is an exercise in staying out of control patterns that aim to force people to change. Rather, assertiveness is about influencing what you want to happen by using clear, civil communication.
This model is clear about the issue, how you feel about it, asks for something to happen that might help the conflict ( a request replaces a “complaint”) and suggests a consequence which expresses the importance of the issue .
Asserting boundaries and feelings is at the core of effective communication.
Rebecca Sperber, M.S., MFT