There are three general communication styles: aggressive, passive and assertive. The most effective is the assertive style. Here, you honestly communicate your thoughts and needs in a respectful manner. Some assertive communication strategies include:
Use "I" statements
Through "I" statements you speak about things from your perspective.
- "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."
Be clear and direct
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.
Use assertive non-verbal communication
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 workbook "Assert Yourself" from the Center for Clinical Interventions.