Picture a timid woman who is afraid to ask for what she needs. Now picture a forceful woman who uses bullying tactics to meet her needs. Both women lack assertiveness. Assertive communication—the ability to stay grounded and on point—is to ask for what you want and say no to what you do not want or need, calmly and firmly. This type of communication makes you more likely to get what you want and need from another person and for yourself. Assertive communication should not be limited to the workplace; it is equally essential for healthy communication in relationships.
The key to assertive communication is to clearly express what you are asking for or gently refusing, and stick to the primary theme of the conversation throughout the communication. For example, if you say to your partner, “When I’ve worked a long day and then made dinner, it’s hard for me to see dishes sitting in the sink the next morning. It would be helpful if you washed and put the dishes away before we go to bed,” you do not place blame or mention other inconsiderate actions by your partner in the past week. Communicating with clarity and specificity increases your chances of being heard threefold, making it more likely he or she will comply with your request. Keep in mind that while it may be necessary to repeat the same information consistently, until the request is heard, it is difficult or impossible for your partner to respond to either silence or blame.
- Use “I” statements. Begin your sentences with the statements like, “I feel” or “I want” to refuse a request and/or ask for what you want or need.
- Stay in the present. Avoid the words “always” and “never” when asserting your feelings about your partner’s behavior. Nobody behaves the same way “always.” Blanket accusations are hurtful and not helpful in achieving your goal.
- Be clear. Keep your voice clear, not too loud or soft, and maintain eye contact with your partner to make sure you are connecting with them nonverbally, as well as verbally.