Assertive communication means finding our own voice and speaking from our individual perspective. Which surprisingly is very difficult for many of us. We’re not used to speaking this way, expressing our own point of view with clarity and respect. Because of course, the times when it’s most critical is when we’re in a difficult situation, so our defenses may be up, our stress heightened, and our body is ready to fight, take flight or simply freeze.
We can thank Psychologist Thomas Gordon, who in the 60’s coined the term “I-message.”
And this is probably one of the most significant communication lessons we can learn in order to find our voice. Because it means we are taking complete ownership of our messages, to ourselves and to others. It’s about framing our language in a way that is clear, direct and respectful.
· I think…I feel…I need…I want…I expect…
Framing our messages in this manner helps to establish a level of clarity with the other individual and can lessen (important to say “can” because we don’t have control over other people’s choices) their defensiveness that can arise from being too aggressive, too passive, or somewhere in between.
Example: no response to our email communications
Aggressive: “You never respond to my messages.”
Passive Aggressive: “Thanks for getting back to me 2 months later.”
Passive: “No one ever responds to messages around here.”
Assertive: “I feel frustrated when I don’t receive a response to the emails I send you because I need the information to submit proposals to our clients. This makes me look unresponsive and our company appear unreliable. Can we discuss how we can communicate on a more timely basis?”
And what are the elements in asserting ourselves?
And yes, that is a formula. And you know what? A formula can be helpful. Does it sound like you? Perhaps not, because anything new feels weird and unlike us. This is a learned behavior and like the first time you got up to walk, well, you probably landed on the floor. But with a child determination, you got back up again. You tried again.
Boundaries can be in response to an immediate situation, in which you feel hurt, threatened or insulted (example, someone belittling you in a meeting) or in which a pattern has emerged (your boss over delegates to you versus others on the team).
1. I feel
2. When you
4. Are you/can you/will you (or depending on the situation, I need you to/want you to/expect you to)
And this is how we find our voice.