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The Process of Assertive Communication Published: Sunday, August 5, 2007 By: Dr. Manuel Ángel Morales

In the extraordinary book of C. Stern, The Gates of Repentence, there is this beautiful statement that once the human being comes to terms with God, repents and receives forgiveness; a new heart I will receive, a new spirit will be placed within me. He will remove my heart of stone from my flesh, and give me a heart that feels… that loves. 

Thoughts and feelings sometimes do require action.  In some cases is necessary and healthy to discharge the energy and the creative tension associated with those thoughts and feelings.  Some release mechanisms that have proven to be effective are those of talking about your thoughts and feelings with someone you trust, writing your thoughts, feelings and ideas in a diary, or writing a letter even if you don’t mail it.

But the most difficult action is to communicate your thoughts and feelings to other people, especially to those who may have behaved in ways that aroused hurt, anger, or other negative dynamics.  These are people with whom you may have some unresolved issues.

This is all about the challenge of assertive communication and behaviors.  Assertiveness is the expression of thoughts, feelings, emotions, and beliefs, in an honest and adequate way, showing respect to yourself and to others, searching for win-win solutions in the face of conflict and tension, complying with the needs and requirements of the situation.  There are people who fear that if they communicate their thoughts and feelings they will experience rejection, and that will lead them to adopt political passiveness or to a burst of anger.  When they behave with extreme passiveness or aggressiveness that will not work in their best interest.

For any situation where conflict or tension is anticipated the steps for assertive communication are the following: 1) Use an empathy statement; 2) State what you want; 3) Suggest an outcome to the other person or party; 4) Seek an agreement.

The idea of an empathy statement is to open up communication and reduce the probability of defensiveness on the part of the listener.  The aim is to show the other person that you understand his/her position and that you are sensitive to his/her needs and feelings.  Empathy is a signal that you are “safe” to talk to, and that you are in control of yourself.

Before you state your thoughts and feelings you have to establish safe ground for assertive communication.  After this is done, you can go ahead and share your thoughts and feelings. 

Next, it is important to present what you want to achieve in a very clear manner.  In other words, the purpose it to establish what you want as the outcome of the communication or what do you want to achieve.

Finally, you should ask, seek and work for an agreement.  By just asking, Are we in agreement?, the presentation of your self in everyday life will be much more effective, because people are more likely to follow through if they make and agreement.  An agreement is commitment.  If someone makes an agreement with you, but fails to follow through with it, you then have more solid bases for your next assertive communication. 

By practicing the assertiveness behaviors you will find that there is no danger at all in presenting your self in everyday life in this manner, but a constructive shift in style, interaction and sensation.

Copyright 2007 QBS, Inc.


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