There are three general communication styles [PDF]: aggressive, passive and assertive. The most effective is the assertive style, in which you honestly communicate your thoughts and needs in a respectful manner. Some assertive communication strategies include:
Through "I" statements you speak about things from your perspective. For example:
- "I feel anxious that we are going to be late for dinner with friends."
- "What I want is for us to work together to get the house cleaned up."
"I" statements are helpful to let a person know how their behaviour makes you feel as well as to ask them to change their behaviour. A useful format is:
- "When (you) ... I feel ... What I need is ..."
For example, "When you interrupt me, I feel like my contribution doesn't matter. What I need is for you to listen to me until I finish speaking."
Adhere to the KISS principle: Keep It Short and Simple.
- Don't use 50 words when 10 will do.
- Speak only about what is important.
- Stay on topic.
- Don't give conflicting messages.
Communication includes what you say (verbal) and how you say it (non-verbal). To effectively communicate non-verbally:
- Maintain eye contact
- Smile, where appropriate
- Keep a relaxed, comfortable posture
- Speak in a clear, steady voice
- Use appropriate gestures
Learning to communicate assertively does not come naturally: it requires effort and practice. Think through what you will say and even practice it out loud before engaging in a conversation.
For detailed information, consult the Assert Yourself workbook from the Center for Clinical Interventions.