! When life is challenging and we are struggling it is often our nearest and dearest that feel the brunt of our frustrations. Talking to those we love about the stress we are under is often very helpful – but in order to do this we need good communication skills. Communication provides a link between the internal and external worlds!
Relationship experts divide communication styles in to four categories: Passive, Aggressive, Passive-aggressive and Assertive.
Those who use a Passive style tend to defer to everyone else and never make any decisions or have any strong preferences. At some level they end up communicating an often unconscious message; you matter and I don’t.
Those who use an Aggressive style tend to enforce their opinions or desires and leave no room for negotiation or difference. They can unwittingly leave you feeling that they matter and you don’t.
A Passive- aggressive style is a confusing mixture of the two – the message communicated is that you sort of mater but you sort of don’t. This is difficult to understand.
An Assertive style of communication enables individuals to express their own wishes, desires, feelings, and needs but also to leave room for you to communicate and own yours. They leave you feeling you matter and so do they.
Did you recognise these different styles in yourself, and others, over the festive season? Under stress we often resort to one of the less helpful options because stress activates our ‘fight or flight’ response and we don’t think – we just react.
We often think of communication in terms of the words we speak but some studies have suggested that only about 7% of communication is through our words. They say that 38% is through other vocal elements such as tone and 55% through non-verbal elements such as gestures, posture and expressions. Whatever the exact percentages I think it is helpful to remember to think of how and what we are communicating through these different elements.
I expect that we would all like to be Assertive in our communication but it can feel quite hard. Strong emotions and unconscious, or unacknowledged, baggage can get in the way.
Learning the art of Assertive communication takes time and practise and a willingness to be objective and observant of ourselves. Some days we may find it easier than others but self-awareness combined with compassion and a willingness to challenge ourselves can reap great rewards when it comes to communication. Good communication is vital for good relationships because we all need to know we matter.