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Assertiveness Skills

Four Styles of Communication

1) Passive

Definition:
Involves violating your own rights by failing to express honest feelings, thoughts, and beliefs and consequently allowing others to also violate your rights: or expressing your thoughts and feelings in such an apologetic, timid manner that others can easily disregard them.

Purpose:
To be liked and accepted by others. To avoid unpleasant and risky situations. Avoid confrontation and conflict with others.

Characteristics:
Low self-esteem, dependent, submissive and overly compliant, pessimistic, depressed, feels anxious, helpless, and powerless; simmers with rage inside, tension headaches or psychosomatic complaints.

Attitude:
I’m not okay, everyone else is.

Interactions with others:
Puts oneself down. Allows others to choose for him/her to tell oneself what to do, but then resents them for it. Her/his ideas, opinions, or plans are easily influenced or changed by others. Gives in or withdraws when conflict arises. Waits to be noticed before he/she speaks up.

Feelings provoked in others:
Pity, irritation, guilt, disgust, anger, frustration, disrespect.

Consequences:
Doesn’t achieve desired goal or get needs and wants fulfilled.

Verbal language:
Apologetic words. Hedging, rambling, disconnected, failure to come to a point or say what they really mean. At a loss for words.

Body language:
A. Voice: Weak, hesitant, low, soft, sometimes wavering.
B. Eyes: Poor eye contact, eyes are averted, downcast, teary, pleading
C. Stance and posture: Stooped posture, nervous, distracting movements, excessive head nodding.
D. Hands: Fidgety, fluttery, clammy.

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2) Aggressive

Definition:
involves directly standing up for personal rights and expressing thoughts, feelings, and beliefs in a way, which is emotionally honest, but usually inappropriate, and in violation of the rights of others.

Purpose:
To dominate or win in every situation by humiliating, degrading, belittling or overpowering others. Express anger, bitterness, and resentment. Increase self-esteem by putting others down.

Characteristics:
Rude, obnoxious, loud, boisterous, domineering, and superior. Over-reacts to situations with an outright attack.

Attitude:
You’re not okay, Views oneself as superior.

Interactions with others:
Puts down whomever she/he is talking to. Chooses for others regardless of their feelings.

Feelings provoked in others:
Hurt, defensive, humiliated, angry, worthless, embarrassed, abused.

Consequences:
Achieve desired goal at the expense of others. Alienates others, lack of close relationships.

Verbal language:
Use of “you” statements. Accusations. Descriptive, subjective terms. Domineering and superior words.

Body language:
A. Voice: Loud, shrill, cold, “deadly quiet”, demanding, authoritative, abusive.
B. Eyes: Expressionless, narrowed, cold, stare, glaring.
C. Stance and posture: Body is tense and erect. Stiff and rigid. Hands on hips, feet apart, arms crossed, commanding.
D. Hands: Fists clenched, finger pointing, fist pounding, abrupt gestures.

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3) Passive-Aggressive

Definition:
Involves expressing your needs and feelings in an unclear and confusing manner

Purpose:
Express oneself without having to state one’s feelings openly. Get what one wants.

Characteristics:
Appears to be independent and in control of the situation.

Attitude:
You’re not okay, but I’ll let you think that I think you are.

Interactions with others:
Manipulates to get what he/she wants or show how she/he feels by pouting, playing the martyr, giving the silent treatment, withdrawing, procrastinating, making empty promises, playing helpless, etc.

Feelings provoked in others:
Confusion, frustration, distrust, feeling of “being had” or taken advantage of.

Consequences:
May achieve desired goal, but behavior reinforces feelings of low self-esteem. Unable to establish close relationships.

Verbal language:
Insinuations, sarcasm, teasing, ridiculing, false praise.

Body language:
A. Voice: Sarcastic tone, crying, whining, monotone, judgmental.
B. Eyes: Wandering, gaze, winking, mocking, inattentive.
C. Stance and posture: Impatient, fidgety, disapproving.
D. Hands: Limp, wavering, palms up in “who me” type gesture.

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4) Assertive

Definition:
Involves standing up for personal rights and expressing thoughts, feelings and beliefs in direct, honest, and appropriate ways which do not violate another person’s rights.

Purpose:
To communicate ideas, feelings, and needs clearly without dominating, degrading or humiliating the other person.

Characteristics:
Confident, independent, honest, open. Evaluates the situation before acting on it.

Attitude:
I’m okay and you’re ok.

Interactions with others:
Respects others with whom she/he is in contact with, not out to win every conversation, fair to one’s self and others, willing to make compromises.

Feelings provoked in others:
Respected, valued.

Consequences:
May achieve desired goal. Ability to establish good relationships with others. Continually gains in self-esteem and aids others to do likewise.

Verbal language:
Use of “I” statements. Objective words. Direct statements, honest statements of feelings.

Body language:
A. Voice: Conversational tone. Firm, relaxed, warm.
B. Eyes: Appropriate eye contact, open and attentive.
C. Stance and posture: Body is relaxed, straight stance, arms at sides.
D. Hands: Relaxed motions.

Assertiveness Formula
I feel...
when you...
because...
I want/need...

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Notes on Assertive Communication

From Assertiveness: Practical Skills for Positive Communication, by Sheila Hermes, M.Ed., L.A.C

  • We are learning assertive communication skills for our benefit and not to change others.
  • It’s our choice when and where to be assertive.
  • If someone resists our assertiveness, we can avoid conflict by restating our assertiveness.
  • We cannot control how others respond to what we have to say. What we can do is talk to others respectfully and with their feelings in mind.
  • The assertiveness formula is a learning tool. As we become more skilled, we’ll find more personalized ways to use the “I” messages
  • It’s common to feel like we’re being aggressive when learning assertiveness skills.
  • When we learn how to be assertive, part of our discomfort may be related to messages that we heard growing up about how we should or should not communicate.
  • We may use the last part of the assertiveness formula not only to identify our wants and needs but also to offer compromises and to set limits.

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North Dakota State University
Counseling Center
Phone: +1 (701) 231-7671
Campus address: Ceres Hall 212
Physical/delivery address: 212 Ceres Hall, Fargo, ND 58102
Mailing address: NDSU Dept. 5120 / PO Box 6050 / Fargo, ND 58108-6050
Published by NDSU Counseling Center

 

 

Last Updated: Tuesday, August 09, 2011 8:07:07 AM