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4 Assertive Communication Statements

Learn four statements that can be used for assertive communication from anger management expert Dr. J. Ryan Fuller in this Howcast video.

Transcript

I'm Ryan Fuller. I'm a clinical psychologist and I have a private practice in New York City. I'm going to speak to you a little bit about some statements that can be used for assertive communication.

There are lots of varieties of ways to approach a sort of communication and there are plenty of other guidelines that are important, but there are some simple techniques you can use, and I'm gonna give you one, which are four simple communication statements that you can use that allow you to assertively, respectfully and effectively communicate to another person what your thoughts and feelings might be, why they are that way and what you'd like to be done about it.

So the first thing is you definitely want to make sure that you pick the right time and that means you might want to speak to that person about, for instance, "I have something to talk to you about and I want to see when a good time would be for us to sit down and talk about it," because the last thing you want is to engage in assertive communication when that person isn't really ready to hear you. They might come off as defensive and you end up causing more problems than you had before you started. So, first, ask for a good time.

The second is, as much as possible, we want to use the first person. So that means I want to be using I statements and want to refrain from using the word "you did this", using the word "you", the second person, because typically when someone hears someone else say, "You did this wrong," they really stop listening and they start thinking about how they're going to defend themselves. What we're really looking to do is to help that person open up and understand what it is that is upsetting to you without laying a blame, because in terms of anger management, what we know is while other people tend to do things before we become angry, it's the combination of what they have done and our belief or interpretation that leads to the anger. So instead of saying, "You caused my anger," I can say something along the lines of, "I felt angry after this occurred."

There's a temporal relationship meaning there's a time relationship, but I'm not actually saying what exactly was the cause and so the four statements take that into consideration. So here are the statements. First, we specify the situation and in general with assertiveness, we want to be as concise as possible. Especially in this day and age, people do not have the bandwidth to keep their attention on your for a very long especially when it's a charged situation and you're possibly asking them for time. So short and sweet.

"When I saw the towels all over the floor..." I have now described the situation, I've used the first person and I haven't said you did it, because I don't know who did it. "When I saw the towels all over the floor," second statement, "I felt angry. I felt annoyed. I felt anxious." I've stated my feeling in the first person. Again I haven't blamed you for it. I've simply described, "This is what occurred and here's the feeling afterwards." The third statements is somewhat optional, and that's where I say, "I felt annoyed because..." and there's a temptation here to lay blame but this is really where I, in fact, want to take some responsibility if I choose to use this statement and maybe talk about how this is a belief that I had that might be a little extreme or rigid showing that to some extent I do have some responsibility or at least filters in place that also influence my feeling state. So I might say, "Because I have this crazy idea, a messy bathroom means I'm a bad person or a lazy person or something like that," and I put myself down.

So we have when the situation, I feel the emotion because and a belief that I have that might be making it worse. Again that one is optional.

Finally what I would like and what I would appreciate is if it could be explained to me how that happened or if we could agree to maybe share the responsibility of going about maintaining the bathroom. So we have when in the situation, I feel and the emotion because and a belief that I have that might be intensifying that emotion, and then finally a very specific concrete request. What I would like or appreciate is specifically this.

So those are four easy statements when practiced can in fact help people become more direct and more active in communicating what's really going on.

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