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Steps for Assertive Communication Published: Sunday, January 5, 2003 By: Dr. Manuel Ángel Morales

The distinguished researchers Seagrave andCovingtonhave highlighted the type of situation where assertive communication is appropriate. They have suggested a simple process for effective communication in situations where tension, conflict or even rejection is anticipated. (1) Use an empathy statement. (2) State what you want. (3) Suggest an outcome to the other person. (4) Seek an agreement.

Step one is a gentle way to open communication and reduce the probability of defensiveness on the part of the listener. With an empathy statement such as “I know you are very busy but I need to speak with you about something important,” you show the other person that you understand his position and that you are sensitive to his/her needs and feelings. An empathy expression is a signal that you are “safe” to talk to and that you are in control of yourself.

Step two is about properly stating your feelings, emotions or needs, but you do it after you have established a safe ground for clear and assertive communication. If you go directly to this step without practicing step number one it will be also impossible to insure success in this type of dynamic. Expressing your feelings without the complete package is rarely successful, and seldom leads to change. When you state your feelings, emotions and needs, be sure you use “I statements” rather than “you statements.” For example, you would say “I felt hurt when you said… rather than, “you hurt me when you said…” Another example would be, “I am disappointed in the way this product works, and I want to return it for a refund.”

Step three is frequently overlooked by people when they state their feelings. Without a clear idea about what as the outcome of the communication, you are unlikely to get it. It is always helpful to first ask yourself, “what do I want to happen as a result of this communication? Or what is the purpose of this communication?

Step four alert people about the fact that results are more likely to be favorable when asking for an agreement. By simply asking “Are you in agreement?” your interactive effectiveness will increase, because people are more likely to follow through if they make an agreement. An agreement is a commitment. If someone makes an agreement with you but fails to follow through with it, you then have a more solid basis for your next assertive communication. In that case, you can remind the person that an agreement was made, and communicate your feelings such as disappointment or frustration, about his/her lack of follow through.

A great deal of anxiety could be prevented if we learned that feelings are safe, that feelings and behaviors are two different things, that feelings are a form of energy that needs to be released, that feelings follow a natural and predictable course, and that it is healthy to properly communicate feelings…

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