Today’s resumes are filled with people who have amazing communication skills, but how much of that is really true? Statistics say that only 20 or 30% of those people do actually know how to communicate. And I don’t mean to speak, they know how to talk. We have all been there and learned to speak, but it is how we say the words we say and how we transform that message we are sending so that the receiver of the message can actually understand us.
If I told you that only 7% of what you say matters, that 38% goes to how you said it and even 55% to your non-verbal communication, what would you say?
See there is a difference if you ask someone how they are doing and they say: ¨I’m okay.¨, and they have a dull face expression and if they say: ¨I’m okay! ¨ and smile after. There is a huge difference in that! Which one would you believe first? But see, it didn’t matter that they said they were doing okay. It was what the expression said that told you the truth.
So we can agree that communication is much more than what is said!
Let’s go back to basics!
Communication is a process of sending and receiving messages (whether they are verbal or non-verbal) via different ways (spoken, written, via telephone, email etc.).
It is a form of sharing ideas, information, feelings and more.
So what exactly is effective communication?
It is knowing how to send the message so that the receiver can understand it best. When I say this, I don’t mean, lie to make your story better, I actually mean: think about the words you need to say and how to say them, so that the receiver can understand and interpret what you wanted to say. Did you catch the part where I said that communication is a process?
Well, that part will be crucial to understanding because communication is always happening, even if both sides are being quiet. Also, because it isn’t just about you saying your part and boom! That’s it!
Your job as a sender is to make sure that the other side, understood and got the message as you intended it. It is similar to the Telephone Game we used to play as kids, where you send a message to the person next to you, he or she sends it to the other guy until the last person who has to say what was said. The reason that game was fun was because every time, somehow the message got lost in translation. But today, in order to have successful and well-developed communication skills, you have to make sure that never happens!
How sure are you that you have good communication skills?
This brings me to my next point. Assertive communication.
Being assertive means that you express yourself effectively and stand up for your point of view, while also respecting the rights and beliefs of others. That being said, with assertive communication you can say anything, and even communicate problems without making other people feel offended or hurt. This will also help you reduce your levels of stress and anxiety.
Again, let’s go back to basics.
We have three well-known styles of communication:
Of course, seeing these three lined up like so can make you think it is bad to be aggressive or passive, but this isn’t the point. So read through and find out more about them.
- Aggressive style of communication, of course, expresses dominance, superiority, getting in your face kinda talk, those are the people who don’t really know what personal space means (and let’s face it we have all met at least one person who is like that). They often have this sharp look when they talk to you or even when you talk with them, their voice gets loud, they are often sarcastic and kinda ¨parent¨ style.
- Passive form of communication is the complete opposite. These people avoid eye contact, they are indecisive, they often stutter if really insecure, they make a lot of pauses while talking, their voice is usually monotonous, they are anxious, defensive and more. And this form of communication usually is influenced by the first one. Aggressive people will automatically make you take an inferior position while they talk. So it really doesn’t seem like they are talking with you but at you. So, of course, you will be the one who stays quiet.
- Assertive communication is the great jewel. These people maintain eye contact without actually creeping you out or make you feel uncomfortable, their gestures and all the hand movement is followed by what they are talking about, their voice is dynamic but not manic or monotonous. They speak fluently, decisively, and they speak their mind clearly.
So if we are being honest, take some time to think about how you communicate and write in the comments below which one of these are you usually. There is no shame in being passive or aggressive, it is just a form of communication and you are obviously here because you are interested in finding out more about your assertiveness.
Why is assertiveness your key to success?
Because assertiveness is based on respect. Respect for yourself, for others and towards your work. It’s an effective and diplomatic communication style that helps others and yourself stand up for yourself and show the world you are willing to fight for what you want, your interests, and that you won’t suppress your feelings down. Now this might not sound like a lot but, let me ask you one thing. Have you ever kept a sentence, a feeling or a desire to do something just for yourself?
Of course, you have! It is what we all do and it is what is called passive communication. And at times, of course, it is better to be like so and read the social situation or an interpersonal communication and decide it is better to keep it to yourself. But after a while, let’s face it, it becomes hard and heavy for you to deal with.
Imagine being in love with someone and wanting the whole world to know about it, yet he or she is already with the person they love, so you just have to keep it all to yourself. Hurts. So this is why assertive communication also demonstrates that you’re aware of the rights of others, and even your own, and it gives you a perfect way to communicate something.
So why should we turn passive into assertive communication?
Simply because, when you’re passive and you take an inferior part in interpersonal communication, you give others the license to disregard your wants and needs. Now I know you know that is not okay! You deserve more!
Now on the other side, you may think aggressive communication gets stuff done and gets you what you want, but let me tell you a story first.
When I started my university, after just a few weeks in, professors wanted us to find a way to intercommunicate with each other and asked us to make a group of some sort. As no one would volunteer to do so, I raised my hand as in my head that was something silly to do and I didn’t want to lose any more time on this matter. Nerd alert. Now you might think that is not aggressive, that was assertive, but in reality, other people saw me as aggressive as I went towards what I wanted and they didn’t. That to them meant that they couldn’t or wouldn’t do the same.
With that being said – here is what assertive communication ISN’T
- It isn’t putting out a demand and expecting to get it since you asked nicely!
- It isn’t sharing your mind on everything. Some things are better left unsaid.
- Sticking to your wishes no matter what. Sometimes you have to have others in mind.
What do you get from being assertive?
- Assertive people reach their goals more often than others
- They have more self-confidence and self-esteem
- They know how to deal with stress and stressful situations
- They know how to deal with conflicts at work and with other people
- They are not afraid of saying how they feel
- They have more respect from other people
- They are more open to solutions and new ways of reaching their goals
So if you want to change your communication style, you can learn to communicate in healthier and more effective ways.
Types of assertive communication
Basic assertive communication is short, clear and direct and it has the goal of sending a clear message to your recipient.
Example: I don’t want gum, I want my change.
Empathic assertive communication is full of compassion and yet has influence from the basic assertiveness (short, clear and direct) and has the goal of expressing feelings or showing respect when other people do the same.
Example: I understand…I see…I am aware…, but…
Escalating assertiveness has a firm attitude in which you are trying to defend your own rights.
Example: Please, do not insist anymore,…
Within the contract, assertive communication gives your recipient an option to not do as planned but makes him aware there will be consequences. A lot of people mix this with aggressive forms of communication but it is all about HOW we communicate the demands.
Example: If you don’t fulfil the report on time, (another person) will get the chance to do it next time.
This type of assertiveness speaks for itself. It gives you the opportunity to show your disagreement about certain topics in a respectful manner by simply stating that you don’t agree and expressing your wishes.
Example: You can do this like so…I will do it my way.
- Me – speech
This way of communicating is mostly used by people who want to put an emphasis on themselves, how they feel, think, behave and want. It is also a form therapists use in counselling sessions to help married couples express their true feelings. It is an opportunity to speak your mind in a healthy way and to concentrate more on the acts rather than the personality and what someone is doing wrong.
Example: I believe… I think… I want….
If you want more help with this, I would suggest you to write on a piece of paper some situations in which you think someone was using aggressive or passive type of communication and you can practice how to deal with them in an assertive way, without stepping on your autonomy and self-respect. If you want you can write that also in the comments. We will be sure to read them all.
Now, one more crucial topic you need to understand is LISTENING!
People today have the idea that everyone is listening to them talk or explain. But the reality is very different. Listening has become more selective than ever with all the new gadgets and technology. Now I am not complaining I tend to be the same way, so I can’t really preach innocence, but I can tell you that listening is a big part of being assertive since it will give you the means and the angles you need to communicate yourself.
Listening is a communication skill a lot of people lack. It involves people having the skill to pay attention, interpret and remember and acknowledge what they heard. As we all know there is a great amount of difference between hearing and listening.
Hearing is something people do. You can receive an external stimuli and hear a noise. But listening includes paying attention and putting in the effort to listen to someone and what they are saying – active listening skill.
By learning this skill, you will become a better listener and actually hear what the other person is saying, not just what you think they are saying or what you want to hear. While psychologists and therapists are often mock for engaging in active listening and repeating the words a client has said, it is a proven psychological technique that helps people talk. It also helps a person feel free to continue talking even if the person they are talking to doesn’t engage as much.
By restating, summarizing, giving minimal encouragers, reflecting and giving feedback and validation you are showing you are being a part of that conversation and actively being engaged in the storyline.
- ¨Let’s see if I understood you, ….¨;
- ¨So it sounds to me as if . . .¨;
- “I understand!”
- “Then what happened?”
- “I appreciate your willingness to talk about such a difficult issue. . .”
Learning this can be extremely helpful to your assertive communication as you can learn to be a better listener as well and learn how to speak your mind according to the person you are communicating with.
Also remember, learning to be assertive takes time and practice. If you’ve spent years telling yourself you aren’t supposed to talk or to be quiet, becoming more assertive will definitely bring you a whole another perspective and opportunity to be more relaxed and comfortable. Or if you are the person who is led by anger, you may need to learn some anger management techniques. But all in all, by becoming more assertive, you can begin to express your true feelings and needs more easily. You may even find that you get more of what you want as a result.