Learning to be more effectively assertive is crucial in the developing and maintaining of healthy relationships. Too often people will aggressively blurt out their feelings and what they want and expect from others. Many confuse assertiveness with aggression, believing that as long as you put out your thoughts and feelings you are being assertive. The simple way to tell the difference between the two is that assertiveness is merely “for” ourselves whereas aggressiveness is “against” the other person. The difference between saying “I would like you to pay more attention to what I say,” and “You better give me more attention or else” is obvious. 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)
This model is clear about the issue, clear about 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 to the person asserting and the boundaries that might have to occur if the request is not met. Sometimes a request is made that the other person cannot or does not want to do. There is an assertive not 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, exaggerating and threatening as patterns in trying to express yourself. It is also an exercise in staying out of trying to control or change someone, but rather influencing what you want to happen by clear, civil communication.
Rebecca Sperber, M.S., MFT