Are you confident enough to express your feelings and opinions whilst respecting those of others? Are you able to say ‘no’? Do you think your opinion matters? Can you recognise unhealthy communication styles?
There are three main types of communication, Passive, Aggressive and Assertive. My communication style changes depending on the situation but I know I’m not as assertive as I should be.
Passivity is when you bottle up your emotions and articulate them in an indirect way. You’ll want to tell someone something but will be afraid of their reaction, so instead you don’t mention it as you tend to believe that other people are more important than you. You’ll also give in a lot of the time; you won’t hold your ground as you’re not confident in defending your position and don’t want to upset anyone. Unfortunately, passivity can lead to anxiety, low self-esteem and guilt over sacrificing your own needs.
Anger is the justice emotion, it’s a natural emotion, but aggression is a negative way of expressing anger. You believe your needs are more important than others and therefore act in a demanding and intimidating manner. You are also unable to see that by standing up for yourself, you have belittled/dismissed/upset somebody else. Aggression releases tension but it can cause guilt, shame and make others resent you.
Being assertive is one of the hardest ways to communicate for me, and yet it should be the easiest. It basically means that you have the ability to voice your feelings in a direct and honest way.
So why is it so difficult? – Being chronically ill, it’s really hard to tell people that we’re unable to do a particular task – instead we’re passive and gloss over the fact that we need help. – I sometimes lack assertiveness to please someone else or to avoid conflict; I’ll clean the bathroom to contribute and avoid an argument but end up in a flare. The better solution is to explain that the bathroom will be cleaned over a couple of days so I can pace. – We often feel obligated; we say ‘no’ so often, we have to say ‘yes’ to help out family/friends/colleagues even if it’s detrimental to our health. It’s important to recognise that when we say ‘no’ we are refusing the request, not rejecting the person.
It takes a lot of practice to become more assertive and I’m no master but since I’ve been putting me and my health first, it gets easier.
Body language is key – a relaxed seated/standing position, on the same level with eye contact helps as it shows you are equals.
Listen – Nod to show interest and understand their side of things. Communicate – Speak clearly and be specific. If they have asked you to go somewhere, find out all the details before making a decision. Use ‘I’ and you can say ‘no’. If the other person isn’t understanding calmly repeat your point Make requests – ‘I feel useless that I can’t load the dishwasher, could you please help me?’
Being able to assert your needs is beneficial in so many ways. Just put yourself first.