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Saturday, January 10, 2009

A List of the Qualities of an Effective Assertive Statement

The January 2009 issue of Real Simple is devoted to lists. I imagine they chose this as a nod to the many life-changing types of lists people make in January - New Year's Resolutions, to-do lists, etc.

I feel compelled to join in the theme with my list of the qualities of an effective assertive statement. If you think you've said something assertively, it should have these aspects:

  • The statement should convey respect for yourself as well as respect for the person to whom you are speaking.
  • The statement should be simple:

    Example: "I want this to happen...." or "I don't want to do ......" If you add too many details, you lose impact.
  • The statement should not be blaming.

    "You made me feel XXX," is not an effective assertive statement because it blames the other person. "When XXXX behavior happened, I felt upset," is effectively assertive because it describes problematic behavior paired with your own personal feelings and therefore does not point fingers.

  • An effective assertive statement invites the other person to connect with you to work on the issue. An assertive statement is not designed to push the other person away.
  • An effective assertive statement is fact-based. This by definition usually precludes the use of absolutes in an assertive statement such as "You always...." or "You never...."

    "You always leave your coffee cup on the desk for me to pick up," is both blaming and absolute. A fact-based statement is: "When you leave your coffee cup on the desk, I feel angry."
Happy New Year!


Anonymous said...

Do assertive people explain why?
When you leave your room dirty , I feel uncomfortable because...

Linda T said...

That's a question without an absolute answer. Assertiveness is about respect. If I simply say, Clean up your room, then I am commanding, but if I say, "When you leave your room dirty, I feel frustrated because our agreement is that you will clean it every morning," I am respecting both myself and the other person. So if the situation would be enhanced by an explanation, give it. If an explanation is really defending how you feel (a defensive statement), then defensiveness hampers communication rather than enhancing it.