Improving Communication through Assertiveness

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Communication is one of the most important aspects in making relationships last. Whether it is a romantic relationship or one with a friend or parent, being able to express your needs and wants is critical to keeping everyone happy and healthy. Often though, relationships experience a communication breakdown. Arguments breed animosity, and nothing is resolved with a flared temper!  Standing up for yourself and voicing your feelings in a respectful yet assertive way may improve your relationships. Here are a few ways to improve communication by increasing assertiveness:

Make Eye Contact

First and foremost, make good eye contact with the person with whom you are speaking. Having little to no eye contact can give the impression that you just don't care, whether that is true or not. Remember to make a fair amount of eye contact during your conversation to let the person know you are listening and interested in what they are saying. Be careful though, holding eye contact for too long can seem aggressive so remember that it is ok to away at times.

Be Clear

Many problems that occur in relationships have to do with miscommunication or misunderstanding. Don't be afraid to say what you feel. Use "I" statements to describe your feelings, such as: "I feel angry right now."When expressing yourself be clear and concise; don't "drop hints," or expect your loved one to know when something is off. Be upfront with your needs or desires. For example, if you are running late for an important meeting, don't hint at having to run: "I really have to go. I'm going to be late."  Try using a strong, steady voice when asserting yourself.

Respond with Empathy

Being assertive means avoiding responding with anger, as well.  It's not likely a verbal fight is going to solve your problems. If a friend or loved one says something that upsets you, hear them out before responding.  Try taking a few deep breaths if their words or actions have really flustered you, and keep a steady voice. This will help you keep anger at bay and communication open. Even if it's difficult, try to respond with empathy and acknowledge their feelings before expressing your needs or wants. For example, "I can hear that you're angry, but..." Again, remember to be clear and concise when expressing your needs or asserting your rights.

Jennifer Silvershein