What's your communication style - aggressive Anna, doormat Dawn or manipulative Mary?
When a client says "I need help with being more assertive", I'm always interested to find out about their current communication style. What I've found is that we generally fall into one of four different communication behaviours.
I've given each communication style a descriptive name - which one/s do you resonate with?
- She's highly competitive and needs to prove her superiority.
- She overreacts verbally and possibly physically.
- She doesn't realise how intimidating she is, as people resent her but don't usually speak up to her.
- She's very passive and, rather than speak up, she will opt out, avoid or run away when she's uncomfortable.
- She has a victim mindset blaming others and situations rather than taking responsibility for her choices and decisions.
- She puts herself down and can be draining to others.
- She doesn't speak up but is aggressive indirectly.
- She needs to control others and plays on their guilt to avoid rejection.
- She seems very nice but you can soon feel uncomfortable around her.
- She respects both herself and others.
- She accepts her strengths and weaknesses and takes responsibility for her actions.
- She's not reliant on others' approval so responds authentically.
Do you recognise yourself and others in these descriptions?
To demonstrate how each personality reacts in a situation, here is an example:
You come home late from a long day at work. Everyone's at home, your husband's on the sofa watching TV and your kids are absorbed in various devices. The kitchen's a mess and the tea hasn't been started yet. How would you react?
Aggressive Amy would blow her top shouting about how unfair it is and how lazy they are. She'd refuse to make tea and everyone would be upset and angry.
Doormat Dawn wouldn't say anything, but would mutter to herself about how they always take her for granted. Then she'd clear up and make the tea feeling like a martyr and swallowing her resentment.
Manipulative Mary also wouldn't speak up, but would show her anger indirectly through body language and slamming things. She'd clear up and make tea, either very simply or very late.
Assertive Amy would speak up calmly and firmly about how she felt and ask specifically for the help that she needed from them all.
Can you see how the first three caused conflict and resentment, but also didn't actually ask for any help?
Amy's assertive response, however, was to say how she felt, without blaming and to give specific details of what she'd like to happen.
It's quite normal to move from one style to another in different situations. However, the assertive Amy communication style is the most likely to avoid conflict and resentment and maintain a good relationship.
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