By now you've been introduced to one of the central DBT interpersonal effectiveness concept - assertiveness, and its six skills that you can use to communicate your thoughts, feelings and needs better. To help you internalize this concept and try it in your everyday life, we'll give you some assertiveness scripts, i.e. templates that you can easily think of when communicating something.
In the second part of this article, we will go over another exercise about the rights that we all have in interpersonal communication and relationships.
You already know that assertiveness is the middle ground between being aggressive or passive in the communication you have with other people. Instead of ending up feeling controlled or having somebody else feeling that way, this concept will help you develop healthy way to grow and enrich your relationships more.
In this exercise, we are going to look at four scripts you can use when expressing yourself. They are short, so you will be able to memorize them quickly and use them. After each of them, think about a situation in which you want to effectively communicate something to somebody (your spouse, your children, your colleagues or boss, your friends, etc.). Then practice it by writing down what you would say in the worksheet.
In this part, you are simply expressing the facts of the situation and your perception of them. Refrain from attacking or judging the other person, or making assumptions about their opinions and emotions. Below are some examples.
I think that we can start eating more healthy meals, we've been having a lot of takeout food lately.
- I think that we should visit our parents more often, we last saw them two months ago and we live in the same city.
- I think that we only go out to the places you prefer, we've been to the movies twice last week.
The second assertiveness statement you can use is about expressing the emotions you are feeling. Try not to attack the other person because that often results in them feeling and acting in a defensive way - this is not going to solve the situation. Try to express the feelings that you experience. For example:
I feel lonely and irrelevant.
- I feel anxious about the future.
- I feel angry and irritable.
- I feel like I'm being rejected and like I don't matter.
- I feel scared that I'll get abandoned.
The third script you can use is the one that conveys the actual need you are trying to communicate. There are several things to keep in mind when it comes to expressing your needs. Don't ask the other person to change what they are thinking or feeling. Instead, you can ask for a behavioral change that is specific and timely. Also, if you requests several things, that may feel like too much for the other person. So keep it singular and therefore doable. For example:
- I want us to spend this evening together so that we'll have some quality time for ourselves.
- I want to get out with my friends because I'm not having any social fun lately.
- I want you to spend 2 hours every day doing your homework and studying.
- I want to talk about getting a raise because everything has become much more expensive the past two years.
Exercice Two : Interpersonal Rights
In this exercise, we will shortly go over some of the interpersonal rights we all have. Sometimes through our past experiences we might have formed certain beliefs that are incongruent with some universal truths that make us feel safe and healthy in the relationships we have. Remember that being assertive and communicating effectively isn't only about our needs but also about validating the experiences of the person we are communicating with.
In the interpersonal relationships that we have, we all have the right to:
- say what we feel,
- express our opinions even if we disagree with somebody,
- say no to a request and not feel guilty about it,
- set boundaries with other people,
- taking the time to think about a request somebody is asking for,
- taking the time to make a decision about something,
- be treated with respect.
Think about the way you are usually connecting with people. Perhaps it will be helpful to go back to the result that you got from the quiz about identifying your communication style (exercise one). Which one of these beliefs do you think that you'll benefit from internalizing more?
Think of a current relationship situation and how it would be different if you acted more according to the interpersonal right you feel is lacking in the way you are communicating. Take your time and then write your answers in the worksheet.
Current relationship situation : I want to ask my boyfriend to behave in a more calm way and to talk more quietly when we have discussions about something.
Interpersonal right : I feel like I should be able to set a more clear boundary about what types of behaviors are acceptable to me. At the same time, I feel like this will prevent me from getting angry and attacking him back when we talk about something we disagree on.
Potential result : Undoubtedly we'll have more productive, calm and civil discussions which will greatly improve the quality of our relationship.
What if instead of using the form "I feel....", I state how the other person makes me feel?
Remember that the idea is to convey your feelings and thoughts in a way that will protect the relationship. If you state your opinions by using the from "You make me feel...", or "I feel like you are...." then there is a high probability that the other person will feel attacked or will become defensive about what you are trying to communicate which will not solve the situation.
In some situations I feel like I can't reach a mutual understanding and resolution. What should I do if I tried all three templates and the other person still won't validate what I am saying?
In that case think about how you can take care of yourself first and what you can do to objectively solve the problematic situation. If there isn't any progress in the conversation you are having then you can temporarily remove yourself from the discussion or inform the other person what you plan on doing in order to move towards some type of a solution. For example "If you don't plan on starting to do your homework, I will turn off the wifi for several hours a day.", "Even if you don't agree that I should take at least 15-20 minutes breaks while I'm working, I will do it anyway because I have to eat and rest for a little bit."
Do the assertiveness scripts always work?
There is no guarantee that you will get the result you most want in 100% of the situations but practicing and internalizing the assertive way of communication will help you make progress in your relationships and it will improve its quality. This is a tool that is learned and practiced gradually which is why you should try to be patient with yourself and with the person you are talking to. Be persistent with your practice.