When it comes to communication, we have three ways of showing up. We can be passive, we can be aggressive, or we can be assertive. Of course, when you’re in a situation, it’s not always easy to just think, “Hmm. How should I communicate here?” Taking some time to think about situations in advance, however, can give you the opportunity to imagine what it would be like to communicate the way you want to.
Let’s take a look at passive communication. Darren and Rachel are heading into Algebra class. Over the weekend, Rachel’s mom told Rachel and her sister that she and her father were getting a divorce. A lot happened over the weekend and Rachel wasn't able to concentrate on school. Instead, she tried to process the changes that were taking place and the emotions she was feeling.
It is now Monday morning, and Rachel suddenly remembers that there is a quiz. Her friend, Darren looks over at her and asks if anything is wrong. Rachel shakes her head no and slides into her seat, hoping that the quiz has been canceled and that the teacher will be absent for the day. The teacher shows up, passes out the quizzes and Rachel fails. By being passive and hoping that the quiz would be canceled, Rachel was unable to advocate for what she needed. As a result, neither Darren nor her teacher knew what was going on and were unable to offer her the support she needed.
If Rachel had used aggressive communication, she would have responded to her friend, “No! I’m not okay. My parents are getting divorced and I didn’t study for this stupid quiz.” When the teacher walked in and started handing out the quizzes, Rachel would have gone straight up to him and said, “There’s no way I can do this. I can’t even begin to tell you what I went through this weekend. I’m not taking this quiz. There’s no way I’m taking it!” The teacher would then have the opportunity to respond but might be thrown off by Rachel’s aggressive tone. Rachel’s teacher might not have had much empathy for her situation and may have had her take the quiz. In addition, Darren might have been put off my Rachel’s attitude and in the end Rachel would not have gotten the support that she needed.
If Rachel had used assertive communication, she would have answered Darren by stating that she didn’t feel well and had had a rough weekend. When the teacher came into the classroom, Rachel would have walked up to him and calmly explained the situation. She would then ask the teacher if she could take the quiz on Thursday so that she could have some time to study. Rachel’s assertive communication style would have likely gotten her what she needed; understanding, support and accommodation.
When it comes to communication, assertive communication is always your best bet. By standing up for what you need and expressing yourself in a calm and even tone, the person you are speaking with is able to hear what you have to say without feeling attacked. As a result, they are able to understand your needs. While they may not always be able to meet your needs, you can rest assured that they will be able to hear you out and support you as best they can.
As a Life Coach and Mindfulness Coach for teens and young adults, Maggie specializes in supporting young adults cope with stress and increase self-esteem while accomplishing their goals. Maggie is also the author of How I Got My S!*t Together: An Introspective Workbook to Help You Find Your Passion and Purpose in Life. You can learn more about coaching by visiting her site: www.thelifecoachforteens.com!