led by Dr. Lyle Becourtney, licensed psychologist: (917) 968-0965

Assertive Communication

Assertive Communication: Being True to Yourself
by Ron Huxley
Assertive behavior is self-enhancing. When you express your feelings honestly, you usually achieve your goal. You generally feel good about yourself when you choose to behave in an assertive manner, even if your goals are not achieved.

You must tailor your communication to circumstances of each new situation. Behavior that applies to some persons and circumstances does not apply to all persons or situations. Each situation is different. There are times when a passive response is most appropriate. Sometimes, an aggressive response is needed. Most of the time, assertiveness is the key.

Always be true to your own thoughts, feelings and beliefs. Avoid direct or implied criticism of the other person's thoughts, feelings or beliefs, and you are likely to retain the trust and goodwill of those around you. Think in terms of I-messages. An I-message expresses your feelings and experiences without making the other person responsible for them. An I-message is honest and genuine. It doesn't judge, blame or interrupt. It never tells the other person what he should think or feel.

Successful use of I-messages requires that you know exactly what you want and need, take personal responsibility for meeting your preferences, express yourself to the person whose cooperation you need, and be willing to listen if the other person becomes defensive.

If you develop a full understanding of assertive communication, you can choose appropriate and self-fulfilling responses for a variety of situations. All effective assertive communication, however, is characterized by a basic four-part message:

1. Non-judgmental description of the behavior to be changed.

2. Disclosure of the assertor's feelings.

3. Clarification of the concrete and tangible effect of the other person's behavior on the assertor.

4. Description of the behavior that would be more satisfactory.

You'll send more assertive messages when you use this formula: "When you (state the other person's behavior nonjudgmentally), I feel (disclose your feelings) because (explain the impact on your life). I prefer (describe what you want)." This way, the four parts of the assertion message are stated as clearly as possible and are contained in one sentence.

This style of communication requires conscientious practice. Others don't know what behavior you want modified. You must clearly communicate what the other person does that frustrates you. This can be difficult. People seldom describe behavior accurately enough for listeners to understand how their actions frustrate the speaker. These guidelines will help you develop effective behavior description skills:

1. Describe the behavior in specific rather than general terms.

2. Limit yourself to behavioral descriptions. Do not draw inferences about the other person's motive, attitudes, character, etc.

3. Be objective rather than judgmental.

4. Be as brief as possible.

5. Communicate the real issues to the right person.


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