Assertive communication is open, honest and direct like aggressive communication, but also respectful and civil like passive communication. Basically, assertive communication blends the best of the other two styles without the inherent drawbacks that come with them. Maintaining an assertive communication style will allow you to express your wants, needs and feelings and resolve conflict, while at the same time minimizing potential hurt feelings, resentment, and retaliation. Accordingly, here are some assertive communication skills to review, practice, and incorporate into your relationships:
*Keep a tone of voice that is firm enough to be taken seriously but soft, civil, and respectful enough to minimize offense. This is a balancing act and will probably require practice, patience, and self control.
*Maintain a civil, respectful, open, and non-threatening body language and facial expression, including good eye contact, upright posture, and open arms (crossed arms convey being tense or closed).
*When expressing feelings or making requests, start your sentences with "I" instead or "You" (or even "we"). Starting your sentences with "I feel_____", "I need_____", or "I would like_____" will go much better than "You make me_____" "You need to_____", "You better_____". With "I statements", you take ownership of your wants, needs, and feelings instead of blaming the other or acting threatening.
*Don't go on too long. Keep your statements and expressions long enough to make your point but not so long that the other person tunes out or gets irritated. Perhaps 20-30 seconds max before checking in with them. Diatribes that go on and on are tough to listen to for the other side. Allow the other to interject and show they are listening and tracking what you are saying along the way.
*Stick to the subject and minimize bringing up the past. Talking about one touchy and sensitive subject is tough enough. Switching by adding another subject up makes any resolution and mutual understanding much harder if not impossible to achieve.
*Listen well. When the other is opening up and talking, stay in the listeners role until they feel heard and understood (as long as they are talking to you fairly civilly). Look and act patient and interested (which, honestly, you may or may not actually feel inside). Give validation, empathy, and agreement when possible without "but" statements. No unsolicited advice. Eliminate distractions and give good eye contact.
*Seek to first to understand rather than to be understood. Talk and listen in a manner to really try to understand and get where the other person is coming from. Remember that arguing your point and having contention is counterproductive when the other isn't listening anyway. Decent rule of thumb: when the other can feel listened to first, it's amazing how their guard will come down and they now become more open to where you are coming from.
*When a conversation somehow becomes too tense to continue and still be productive, take a time out for a few hours or a day to allow tensions to diminish. Ask for a time out with an I-statement (versus blaming the other for it). Offer a later time to bring it up. Bring up the subject at the later time. Reschedule once more if needed and/or defer the subject for when it can be talked about with a 3rd party present, such as a trusted friend or family members, a counselor or other mediator.
A few scriptures in support of an assertive communication approach (versus acting aggressive or passive/closed):
Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.
A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.
For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another. Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away.
--3 Nephi 11:29-30
Only by pride cometh contention: but with the well advised is wisdom.
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
You can do this, and it's worth it. Because "…neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord" (1 Corinthians 11:11). Best wishes,
About the author
Hello, my name is Dr. Randy Gilchrist (aka "Dr. G"). I am a licensed clinical psychologist, a licensed marriage & family therapist, and a certified hypnotherapist in private practice in Roseville, CA (www.dr-rg.com), practicing since 1997. Also, I am happily married in the temple (Manti) since 1996 and have 4 sons. I am a volunteer writer and contributor to LDS Dimension. I use my training, education, and experience to share insights with LDS Dimension on all things of interest to the LDS dating community. Please read my articles and columns on this site to assist you in your online dating journey. Also, to be considered for an answer in a future Q and A column, please email me your dating/relationship oriented questions to email@example.com. Finally, I also offer a powerful, effective worldwide custom hypnosis recording service just for LDS Dimension members for weight loss, pornography, and many other issues of concern to those in the LDS dating community (please learn more now at www.dr-rg.com/lds; email me questions to firstname.lastname@example.org).