Communication is not only how we send out a message, but also the way we receive them, as well as any interference or noise that blocks it. Sometimes we do not understand the true meaning of the message someone is sending out, or we aren’t able to articulate our own thoughts and feelings.
Assertive communication is about being honest with yourself and others about your thoughts and feelings. It doesn’t always mean you are ‘right’, but reinforces that you feel safe, secure and confident enough to use your voice.
There are 3 main types of communication – passive, assertive and aggressive. The main beliefs behind this communication are:
Passive – “You’re ok, I am not. What you say/want matters, mine does not”
Aggressive – “I’m ok, you are not. It is about what I want/need, not yours”
Assertive – “ You’re ok, I am ok. What we both say matters”
Assertiveness is not only about using your voice, but also your ears. Learning to be an effective listener, to validate and be validated in return. It illustrates that all are equals – it does not mean you will ‘win’ but that there is a compromise willing to be made. Often times, communication is greatly impacted when there is perceived criticism that may occur – we may withdraw or become defensive. Also, many people struggle to say no to others, ask for help, or express to others our own wants and needs.
Therapy can help you to learn and practice the skills for assertive communication. Role-playing, debunking the myths of assertiveness, as well as becoming more aware of our communication style and those around us can exponentially improve the quality of our relationships and improve our wellbeing.