Updated: Oct 27, 2020
When my son was 13, he was responsible for cleaning his room, but wasn’t always good at getting the job done . Frustrated and angry, I was sometimes tempted to say things like “You never clean your room. You are so lazy. Why do I always have to remind you? Get it done now!”
How might a 13 year old boy react to these "you" statements? He might say “Leave me alone!” or “Your room’s messy too!” The receiver of such strong communication may feel attacked and want to defend themselves, or they may feel discouraged and somehow wrong. Instead of this aggressive and blaming communication, we can use “I” statements for assertive communication.
What is Assertive Communication?
Assertive communication is about expressing our point of view clearly and directly, and in a way that is respectful of the other person. We take responsibility for our feelings and actions and do not judge the other person. It can help us have our needs met and get along better with others.
How to Communicate Assertively
1. Express your feelings in an “I” statement. When you (behavior), then (results) and I feel (feeling). In the case of my 13 year old son, I could say “When you don’t clean your room on the weekend, dirty dishes and dirty clothes pile up in your room and I feel frustrated that I can’t get them cleaned.”
2. Be specific and concrete about what you want. “I would like you to clean your room by 8:00 this evening.”
3. State the positive outcomes of this action. “Then you can have clean clothes for the week and the family can have clean dishes.”
It’s important to consider the timing of the communication and your emotional state. You want your listener to be receptive and you want to be able to remain calm during the conversation.
Avoid using words like “you always” or “you never” which sound judgmental and are probably not true. Try and stick to the facts.
Use active listening skills to be open to what the person you are communicating with has to say (see my last blog).
Do you think an assertive approach would work better with a 13 year old? What about with your partner or your work colleague? Assertive communication takes practice, and there may be times when we get carried away by our emotions and say things that are not as respectful as we would like. We can always go back and apologize, and try again.
If you would like support managing your relationships at home, school, or work contact me at https://www.oceantidescounselling.ca/contact-page