Assertiveness

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This is a follow up to my blog on Setting Boundaries (https://robinslavinlmhc.org/2018/12/28/setting-boundaries/).

Learning assertiveness skills has so many benefits. Assertiveness means using skills to express your feelings, thoughts, and needs, while respecting the rights of others. There are other types of communication. If you engage in passive communication, you allow others the dominant role; you lose, they win. When you are acting in an aggressive way, you win, the other person loses. With assertiveness, the problem is attacked, not the person. By acting in an appropriate direct, open, and honest way, healthy relationships grow, interpersonal conflict becomes greatly reduced, and overall satisfaction in life greatly improves. You get your needs met!

Fair Fighting Rules

Fair-Dirty Fighting

I came across this article from TherapistAid.com on how to fight fairly: how to talk about conflict and move toward compromise, even when emotions run high and things seem nearly impossible to resolve. The key to healthy and long-lasting relationships is the willingness to keep trying to improve communication.

Before you begin, ask yourself why you feel upset.
Are you truly angry because your partner left the mustard on the counter? Or are you upset because you feel like you’re doing an uneven share of the housework, and this is just one more piece of evidence? Take time to think about your own feelings before starting an argument.

Discuss one issue at a time.
“You shouldn’t be spending so much money without talking to me” can quickly turn into “You don’t care about our family”. Now you need to resolve two problems instead of one. Plus, when an argument starts to get off topic, it can easily become about everything a person has ever done wrong. We’ve all done a lot wrong, so this can be especially cumbersome.

No degrading language.
Discuss the issue, not the person. No put-downs, swearing, or name-calling. Degrading language is an attempt to express negative feelings while making sure your partner feels just as bad. This will just lead to more character attacks while the original issue is forgotten.

Express your feelings with words and take responsibility for them.
“I feel angry.” “I feel hurt when you ignore my phone calls.” “I feel scared when you yell.” These are good ways to express how you feel. Starting with “I” is a good technique to help you take responsibility for your feelings (no, you can’t say whatever you want as long as it starts with “I”).

Take turns talking.
This can be tough, but be careful not to interrupt. If this rule is difficult to follow, try setting a timer allowing 1 minute for each person to speak without interruption. Don’t spend your partner’s minute thinking about what you want to say. Listen!

No stonewalling.
Sometimes, the easiest way to respond to an argument is to retreat into your shell and refuse to speak. This refusal to communicate is called stonewalling. You might feel better temporarily, but the original issue will remain unresolved and your partner will feel more upset. If you absolutely cannot go on, tell your partner you need to take a time-out. Agree to resume the discussion later.

No yelling.
Sometimes arguments are “won” by being the loudest, but the problem only gets worse.
Take a time-out if things get too heated. In a perfect world we would all follow these rules 100% of the time, but it just doesn’t work like that. If an argument starts to become personal or heated, take a time-out. Agree on a time to come back and discuss the problem after everyone has cooled down.

Attempt to come to a compromise or an understanding.
There isn’t always a perfect answer to an argument. Life is just too messy for that. Do your best to come to a compromise (this will mean some give and take from both sides). If you can’t come to a compromise, merely understanding can help soothe negative feelings.

TherapistAid.com © 2014

Learning new ways of communicating takes practice. If two people can make the commitment to fight fairly, what brought you together in the first place can be rediscovered, leading back to true connection, validation, and love which makes taking the risk worth it!

Setting Boundaries

Many people are confused about how to set boundaries. People commonly say they don’t like confrontation or they don’t want to hurt other people. It is a common experience that people are disrespectful when setting boundaries, get angry, start yelling, and people can feel scared, or embarrassed, and decide it’s just not worth it. The question to ask yourself is what happens for you when you don’t set limits with others? It usually means you don’t get your needs met.
 boundaries
Boundaries can be set in clear, calm, specific ways that make your limits clear and leave others responsible for choosing their response. 
 
♦ Take the time to vent your emotions after something happens that you don’t like. Talk to someone else. Be calm when you approach the person. You might want to make notes and rehearse what you will say so you can stick to it without getting derailed by emotion.
 
♦ Make a decision about what you will and will not tolerate.
 
♦ Describe the behavior of the other person clearly without judgment or interpretation, so that everyone on the planet can agree that is what happened
For example: Jane, when you raised your voice and said “you’re an idiot…” then add “and I felt (how you felt not what you thought) hurt/angry/sad/whatever.
 
♦ Avoid interpretation and judgment because that invites anger and will escalate arguing.
For example: do not say “because you’re just insecure!”
 
♦ Be clear about the consequences you set and be prepared to follow through! Keep it short. Do not justify, defend, or explain. If you do, you tell the other person your boundaries are negotiable, and they are not.
For example: I want you to stop raising your voice and calling me names when we talk. If you don’t stop, I am going to end conversations, and walk away, when you do those things.
 
Finally, allow yourself to make mistakes. Learning new skills takes time and practice. Believe that you are worth setting limits with others. Asking for your needs to be met is an emotionally healthy act and you deserve it!