In the previous part, we looked at the first three assertiveness skills that you can use to improve the clarity and effectiveness of your communication: knowing your priorities, asking for what you want in a way that will protect your relationship and negotiation. In this part, we will finish with the last three key assertiveness skills - getting information, saying no in a way that doesn't damage the relationship, and acting according to your values. After we present these, at your disposal you will have six skills that you can use to effectively communicate your needs - thus improving your relationships and the mutual connection with the people around you.
n the previous part, the last skill we worked on was negotiating - letting the other person understand that we recognize the fact they have their own opinions, emotions and needs that are validated by us. In this step, we will continue on this path and focus on getting information from the other person. This is one of the most important steps in this 6-step method of assertiveness.
Try to find out what the person opinions are, what they think, what their needs and fears are. Interpersonal effectiveness is about treating both yourself and the other person in a fair and respectful way. Note that we are often fast to make assumptions about the other people or be cognitively preoccupied with some of the fears we have ourselves. Try to be mindful and present at the moment. Be honestly curious towards the other person.
Think about a need that you want to communicate in an important relationship of yours and try to imagine how you would phrase this step. What would you say to find out where the other person stands? How would you get the information about their thoughts, emotions and needs?
Write this down in the worksheet.
Ben tries to communicate to his boss that he almost never has enough time to take a break while at work. He already know what he wants and he tried to convey that respectfully to his boss. Now, he is trying to find out how to phrase the getting information step. He plans on asking his boss the following questions:
What do you think about my request?
I am curious to find out what your thoughts are on this.
Saying No (In a way that doesn't Damage the Relationship)
Assertively saying no to some of the requests that other people have is a useful tool to set healthy boundaries and to take care of your needs in the situation. Although it is very common for us to feel guilty about setting a boundary because we might be afraid that the others will get angry at us - this skill can be invaluable in protecting the relationship and maintaining a long-term quality.
Keep in mind that saying no in a way that is passive or aggressive will not convey the right tone and can prove to be damaging to the relationship. Think about the relationship from the previous step and try practicing saying no to some of the requests that the other person may have. Then write your answers in the worksheet.
After Ben found out that the reason why his boss is reluctant to give him enough time for a proper pause from his working assignments, he proceeded to saying no and setting a healthy boundary:
"I understand that our company is in a competitive environment and that we are trying to get as much work as possible done fast. But, if I constantly feel overworked and tired, there is a real possibility for me to get a burnout and overtime I will become less productive. I would love for us to work something out, so that I will be able to continue doing quality work."
Acting According to Your Values
There are two ways in which we can think about our values and morals when we are trying to communicate our needs:
1) our values in terms of what the honest motivation and reason behind our request is, and
2) our values in terms of what types of relationship we want to foster.
First, think about what values lie underneath the request you are trying to make. In order for you to be truthful and honest about the way you are communicating with the other person, it is useful to be mindful of this. Sometimes it can be something as simple as "Let's not have our lunch in the park because I have terrible allergies." Other times it might be something more complex than this. E.g. “Talking about my friend Sarah, behind her back, makes me feel uncomfortable.” What are your values in the situation you are working on? What is important to you ?
Also, try to think about what type of relationship you want to foster. Relationships with dishonest intents and motivations usually do not result with fruitful connection.
Ben is trying to become mindful of what is important to him in the request he is making. Thinking about his values he discovers that his mental health is of great importance to him. He doesn't want to become resentful at work or to have a lower job performance. It is also important to him to not be aggressive or passive in the way he is communicating his request.
Should I use the six assertiveness skills in the order they are presented ?
Yes, you can use the six steps of assertive communication in the order they are presented. This way they make a coherent union. You may notice that, for example, the last skill Acting according to your values, is more about describing the nature of the whole conversation that you want to have, so that one is more about the quality of the way you are expressing yourself (you can also state with words what and why something is important to you). Also, knowing the six steps well can make you prepared in case when the person you are talking to wants to first negotiate or wants to first know your motivation.
When it comes to the fourth skill Getting information, I feel stuck and like I can't openly ask the other person for what they want.
Many of us need practice in order to get in the mindset of not making assumptions about what the other person think, how they feel or what they need. If we are not used to assertive communication, this may seem a little unnatural to us at first. Also, it often happens that we project our fears onto the other person - fear of what they might say, fear that we will hear something that we really think is unacceptable. Just be mindful of the way in which you are inhibiting yourself of asking them about what they need and want, and be curious about what they have to say.
Regarding the last skill Acting according to your values - do I always have to explain the reason for my needs and wants even if it is unnecessary?
You can feel out the situation first, and check your gut feeling about whether or not it would be useful and suitable for you to express your motivations, values and morals regarding your request. Sometimes it is not always necessary to be completely honest about things that are unimportant and that might hurt somebody. For example, if you don't feel like cooking dinner for everybody when your friends come over, you can simply invite them over for drinks or coffee instead of risking that they'll feel unwelcome if you explain your motivation. Just don't get into the habit of telling white lies too often, or when the situation requires a more honest approach.