Communication styles

Assertiveness is associated with behavior that reflects our best interests, “including standing up for oneself without significant anxiety, expressing one’s feelings comfortably, or exercising one’s own rights without denying the rights of others” (Speed et al., 2018, p. 1).

When we lack assertiveness, we find it difficult to stand up for ourselves and assert what we want, need, and feel. And it can manifest in several ways, including excessive agreeableness as well as hostility (Speed et al., 2018).

Understanding that assertion is truly about ourselves and out self image is key! The passive individual isn’t honest with themselves and tends to blame others for their self denial, they are very apologetic and put others needs before themselves. At times they can get quite irritated and act aggressively because of the blaming. This is usually directed at people they do not perceive as a threat. I would like to devote some time to really looking at communication styles. Do not think for a second that your power will be diminished with assertion if you tend to lean to an aggressive style, while for the person that leans towards passive style they often fear becoming aggressive if they try to be more assertive. 

Think of it like this. Passive aggressive spans the spectrum because it encompasses both passive an aggressive components. We move up and down this scale depending on the situation! 

I purposely blurred this image to remind us that the style we are using is often blurred, we move up and down the Passive to Aggressive continuum all of the time. Think about it, at times you are aggressive others you are passive. As you will see in one of the videos it’s all about roles and power. Power is intimately linked to the style you take on. Your mood will effect your communication style. Anxiety will effect your communication style. Guess what! The list of internal, external and other factors that influence communication style is daunting. I doubt anyone has an exhaustive list because as you will see, we are still learning about it. Things we never expected like physiology impact communication. Being mindful or our communication style is so important, often people never give a thought about how they are communicating. Ask yourself how often do I think about what communication style you are using. Till I learned Assertiveness, it never even crossed my mind.  Later I would beat myself up about being passive or aggressive but in the moment it simply wasn’t in my skillset. 

Prior to starting Assertion training I believe we should do some foundational education focusing on listening skills. 

Active listening and why it is key to assertion

This video is a great short yet comprehensive discussion of active listening. I find it hard to listen to because I keep thinking all of the times I do not actively listen in session. I am distracted by the next appointment, paperwork we have to do or, issues I feel are more important. Please any time you feel I am not listening, be assertive and make a statement like: “I am not feeling listened to”. That will bring me right back around to reality. I believe that active listening is key to understanding others. Often called empathetic listening it’s the process of putting yourself into others shoes. Understanding where they are coming from and letting people know that you understand them 

Empathic Listening

Empathy is the art of putting yourself in another’s shoes and understanding why and how they are feeling. Often I will be empathetic because I have been in that persons shoes. The great thing about empathy, is you don’t really have to have been in the same situation as the person, you have to actively listen imagine what that situation must feel like and comment on that. “It sounds like you have been through a very rough time. Feeling as anxious as you are. ” Reflecting the other persons statements and emotions . 

Passive communication style - Respecting others needs and not your own.

I think about passivity as a function and result of low self worth, and esteem. The passive individual doesn’t respect themselves enough to be able to express their needs in clear and assertive terms.  As described in the image to the left, often speaking sarcastically , mumbling or speaking apologetically,  Body language is passive with poor eye contact and a slouched posture. Needs are rarely expressed and they put others wants an needs before their own. 

The consequences of passive communication include  frustration, blaming, berating self, guilt, lower self worth. Not getting your needs met, being bullied, bottling up of feelings and denial 

Assertive Communication style

Assertion is as much a mindset as a set of skills. Communication assertively with others, where we would usually be passive, or aggressive is hard, it takes us out of our comfort zone.  We tend to play roles with individuals and have a role for groups.  The roles we accept tend to have a specific communication style.

For example, most are passive with parents as a default.  WEll, at least until we become teens then we are pulling away from them and often become assertive, and even aggressive with them. The needs and roles have changed. I believe that contributes to the frustration many teens and parents have during adolescence 

Remember that our communication style changes depending on needs, roles, history, and internal states. Being assertive is a learned behavior, and it becomes a habit. The Assertive person is respectful, of their needs and the other’s needs.  Being respectful is about opening a dialogue through I statements. 

For example, “I feel, (the classic I statement) disrespected with you leaning  in and raising your voice like you are doing right now.” You are expressing your feelings and in this case, allowing the other to self-correct or continue in an aggressive manner.  If they should continue in an aggressive manner you can add to your I statement. “I feel disrespected by your nonverbal and verbal aggressiveness. I would appreciate it if you stop acting aggressively.”

 Non verbal behavior is 65% or more of our communication.  They are very important in your communication as you probably know. This discussion tells us that not only does non verbal behavior communicate, it is associated with physiologic changes in the body, which are associated with our thoughts, beliefs and therefore, mood and how one expresses their power. Faking it till you make it changes us on a fundamental level. Check out this awesome video.