Monday, 23 April 2012
There is a very big difference between being bossy and assertive. Being assertive is a very big part of healthy communication and healthy communication is necessarily for building strong relationships and keeping stress at bay. Life is stressful enough with things we cannot control so it is wise to learn to manage well those that we can. Communication is one of them.
There are three types of communicators – passive, aggressive and assertive. Passive communicators are the ones who let anybody and everybody walk all over them. They never communicate what is bothering them and as a result end up dealing with unhealthy levels of stress. The stress eventually becomes too much and they either burst into a rage or the stress makes them sick.
Passive communicators are often “people pleasers” too. Girls are more likely to become “people pleasers” than boys. It is very hard to teach your child a good balance between caring about other people’s feelings while also being able to say no when necessary. I have three daughters ages nine, seven, and five and all I tell them is that it is healthy and necessary to have empathy for people and realize how or what they may be feeling in certain situations, but it is also necessary to consider their own feelings. “People pleasers” do not have that balance and only think of others’ feelings. They will do anything to make the other person happy, and most often to their own demise. I tell my daughters to consider what a person’s feelings may be in response to a decision they might make, but not to make that their only deciding factor. Here is an example I gave them. If a friend asks you to come and play at her house after school but you are really tired and just want to go home, just tell her that. Answer honestly. Tell your friend, I love playing with you but I am really tired and just want to go home. I would love to play another day. Of course your friend is going to be disappointed but you made a decision based on what your body and mind needed at the time, which is the healthiest decision you can make. Your friend will understand and will appreciate your honesty. No one likes someone to play with them just because they feel sorry for them. And if you played with your friend every time she asked you just to prevent her from being disappointed, eventually you would resent her, even though she did nothing wrong.
Aggressive communicators are stressed too. They do not have a problem telling people what they think or what is bothering them, but they do so in a very confrontational manner, and usually end up in heated conversations, with nothing actually resolved and all parties involved becoming highly agitated.
Assertive communicators are the healthiest communicators of all. They always nip a problem in the bud. If something is bothering them, they do not hold it in and stress about it or build up resentment. They approach the person with whom they have the problem, but in a non-aggressive manner. The key here is that they do not “attack” the person. Instead of using “you” language, such as “you didn’t play with me at lunch like you promised”, they use “I feel” language and simply communicate to the person how their actions made them feel. An assertive communicator would say, “I felt disappointed we did not get to play together at lunch like we discussed”. The first way of communicating naturally makes the person feel that they have to defend their actions and feelings rarely get resolved in these situations. The second way of communicating deals with the actual issue – the person’s feelings - and more than likely will end up in an acknowledgement of how the person’s actions made the other feel. We all know that a little acknowledgment goes a long way. Being an assertive communicator will take your child a long way in everything s/he does!