Tired Of Your Words Falling On Deaf Ears?

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How to Talk So You’re Heard: 8 Skills For Assertive Communication

BY LISA HARRISON

We talk to be heard, but at times it can feel like what we are saying just isn’t getting through. This can happen for a variety of reasons – sometimes, it can be due to external factors or factors associated with the other person involved – for example, they might be tired, their mind may be elsewhere, or they may have had a stressful day – but sometimes we’re not heard because of the way we’re attempting to communicate.

Fed up with people not listening?

Assertive communication is the most effective form of communication – your best shot at being heard – so what exactly is it?

Assertive communication is generally in the middle of a spectrum of communication styles ranging from passive communication to aggressive communication. Assertive communication involves getting your point across effectively whilst still being respectful towards the other person. It involves communicating your beliefs and standing up for your rights whilst being respectful of both the other person and their beliefs.

Assertive Communication: The Ins and Outs

Assertive communication is a skill and like all skills, it takes practice. There are a few key verbal and non-verbal skills that will help you on your way – and these are outlined for you below.

Skill #1: ‘I’ Statements

Someone is much more likely to be open to a conversation about a difficult topic if they don’t feel defensive. By beginning a conversation with ‘you’, the other person may feel like you’re accusing them of something and therefore feel the need to defend themselves. Try replacing ‘you’ statements with ‘I’ statements instead.

Skill #2: Be Direct

When your having a difficult conversation, it’s important not to fluff around. This will help to avoid miscommunications and guessing games – the person you’re talking to should be clear on exactly what it is you’re trying to say.

Skill #3: Be Respectful

Regardless of what you’re trying to say, ensure you say it respectfully. Use kind language, don’t call the other person names, be reasonable in your demands, and being willing to negotiate to find an appropriate outcome.

Skill #4: Be Ready To Take A Break If Things Go Pear Shaped

If the conversation starts to escalate, be ready to change your approach. If you or the person you’re talking to starts to become agitated, suggest a time out. Say something like: ‘this conversation is really important to me, but I can feel things are starting to escalate and I don’t want to say anything that might upset you or that I will regret later. Can we pause things for 10minutes so I can gather my thoughts and then we’ll finish our conversation?’

Skill #5: Voice Volume

This one may seem obvious, but it’s important to maintain awareness of the volume of your voice as a conversation progresses. As situations becoming increasingly stressful or we become more and more frustrated, your voice volume can increase without you the noticing, and this will limit how effective you can be in your conversation. If you notice you’re wanting to speak loudly to be heard, try to maintain a steady volume.

Skill #6: Body Posture

Body posture is something that we can often overlook. The key is looking confident without appearing passive or aggressive. This means not standing passively with your shoulders slumped forward with your hands in your pockets, or aggressively, towering over someone with your hands on your hips. Stand tall with your shoulders pulled back and your hands by your side or slightly separated in front of you.

Skill #7: Eye-Contact

It’s important to maintain appropriate eye-contact when your having difficult conversations. Minimal eye-contact may make you look passive, and at the opposite end of the spectrum, intense eye contact can make you seem aggressive.

Skill #8: Body Positioning

Like with body posture, body positioning is also important. When you start a difficult situation, make sure your body position is equal to that of the person you’re speaking to. If they’re sitting down, sit down with them. If they’re standing, make sure you stand too. Otherwise one person will already be in a more dominant position before the conversations already started.

The above verbal and non-verbal skills for assertive communication can help you to be heard in difficult discussion, but it’s important to remember you’re only one part of the conversation. You can do everything right and the person you’re talking to might still be unwilling to hear what you’re saying. If this happens, it’s not a reflection on your ability to communicate assertively, but a remind that in any given situation, only your own behaviour is under your control.

Keep trying, start small, and know that changing anything, let alone your communication style, is a difficult task and one which you won’t get right all of the time – and that’s ok.

Lisa is a warm, friendly, and compassionate clinical psychologist registrar. She is dedicated to working collaboratively with kids, teens, and adults experiencing a range of mental health difficulties, including: depression, anxiety, emotion regulation difficulties and self-harm, personality vulnerabilities, and substance dependence. Lisa is passionate about working with her clients to help them through difficulties and help them to live the life they want. Her experience using various treatment modalities means that she is able to tailor treatment to best suit her client’s individual needs.


 

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