Communication is a cornerstone of all relationships, either professional or personal. It has the ability to make or break those relationships and effective communication is therefore key.
But what exactly constitutes effective communication? Essentially there are three main styles: aggressive; passive and assertive.
Some people mistakenly believe that aggressive communication ensures favourable outcomes, however that is not actually the case. No one enjoys interacting with someone who is overbearing, domineering and focused solely on themselves. While it may seem that these aggressive communicators win arguments and get their own way, very often people will be acquiescing to them out of fear or to avoid confrontation, rather than a genuine belief that they are right.
Gaining the confidence and respect of others is definitely not as simple as “whoever shouts the loudest wins”!
On the other hand, passive communication can be just as ineffective. You may think you are doing yourself a favour by being easy-going and agreeing with everyone and everything, but you are in fact doing everyone a disservice – yourself included. By withholding your true feelings and thoughts, you are not only denying yourself the opportunity to be heard, but you are also not giving the other parties honest feedback on their ideas. Not only that, you will come across as weak and insincere to others and by constantly supressing yourself you will feel disgruntled and resentful in the long run.
Clearly this is not what you are aiming for!
So that leaves us with assertive communication. This lies somewhere between the other two styles and is the ideal balance you are looking for! When you communicate assertively, you put forward your thoughts and ideas, clearly and honestly; whilst acknowledging those of the other person and being considerate of their feelings. By engaging in calm, direct and respectful discussions, you are far more likely to achieve an outcome that everyone is content with, plus you will gain the respect of your friends and colleagues!
Here are three worthwhile reasons to practise your assertiveness:
Strike a pose — consider your non-verbal communication!
Not all communication is verbal! Body language plays a huge role in communication and speaks volumes about us, very often without us realising at all! Given a little thought and consideration, this can be used to great advantage and can reinforce your verbal assertiveness.
Assertive body language is all about appearing calm, confident and engaged – neither intimidating nor intimidated! Make sure your stance is strong but relaxed, your demeanour is composed and maintain appropriate eye contact – you will be taken seriously and your confidence will soar! Colleagues and friends alike will know where they stand and will thank you for your open and direct attitude.
Say “no” more often — yes, you are allowed!
Very often, as women, we find saying “no” difficult to do. Culturally, socially and historically, we have been conditioned to be passive and to put others before ourselves. Thankfully, that attitude does not stand up to any form of scrutiny today and it will do you no favours!
Many of us are people-pleasers to a greater or lesser extent and while it is important to be considerate of others, it should never be at the expense of ourselves. A firm but polite “no” is far better than reluctantly agreeing to something you do not believe in and will boost your self-belief and leave you feeling empowered. Even if it is not the answer they were looking for, your friends or colleagues will recognise and appreciate your honesty and will respect you more as a consequence.
Reduce stress levels and liberate your potential!
Ineffective communication causes unnecessary stress for all concerned. All parties need to be able to communicate on a level and equality is key. When there is an imbalance (e.g. one party is being aggressive and the other passive), everyone is put on edge and stress levels increase. When you communicate assertively, you begin from a position of fairness and respect. All parties’ thoughts and feelings are equally valid and that reduces stress and promotes openness, the ideal environment for freedom of expression and one which your friends and colleagues will certainly thank you for. This in turn leads to increased creativity and productivity — it’s a win-win situation!
Teaching yourself to communicate more assertively takes time and commitment and can often involve changing life-long habits. However, it doesn’t have to be difficult, because even by making small improvements, you will begin to notice increased confidence and self-belief. Gradually, being more assertive will become a way of life and you will feel empowered and respected as a result!
By Gemma Coldwell - Contributing editor
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