Understanding Assertive Communication

| Ashley Davis LMFT

Assertive communication is a skill I inevitably end up building with the majority of my clients, whether they be experiencing depressive symptoms, anxiety, or relational problems.  Asking for your own needs seems simple enough, but oftentimes people are concerned that they may be over-stepping someone else’s boundaries by asking for what they need or that they may ask in the “wrong way.”

The key to assertive communication is first and foremost respect.  Not only respect for yourself, but also respect for the other person involved in the conversation.  Respecting yourself as it pertains to assertiveness means asking for what you need in the most authentic way possible.  Respect for the other person in this context means being mindful of the timing and tone of the message that you are trying to convey.

Always begin by seeking a compromise when trying to set a boundary assertively.  If a compromise is unable to be made, make sure to be mindful of setting the boundary from your experience of the situation, rather than trying to place blame on the other person.  Speaking from your experience allows for a higher chance of diffusing potential conflict which may arise from the need to set a boundary that the other person may not like.

There will be times that communicating in an assertive way may cause discomfort either for you or the person who you are communicating with, especially if you have struggled with asking for needs in the past.  In some cases, this discomfort is inevitable, but does not mean that you are wrong for communicating your experience and/or needs. Being able to express yourself and feel heard opens up higher connectedness with friends, family, coworkers, and romantic partners.  Assertive communication also paves the way for improved self care habits which greatly assists any mental health concerns.  

If you are new to building your assertive side The Assertiveness Workbook by Randy J Paterson and Assertiveness: How to Stand up for Yourself and Still Win the Respect of Others by Judy Murphy are both good resources for building this skill.  Like all good things, practice makes perfect when attempting to change your communication. Stick with it, and it will begin to feel more natural over time.

Today's the day to make a change.