Saturday, March 6th, 2021

R Shopper Columns


Assertive communicator

We are finishing our series on how to deal with difficult people. In the previous articles, we highlighted couples who get into power struggles and the various ways they deal with these power struggles.

We examined the passive and aggressive communicators.

With this article we are focusing on being an assertive communicator by trying to meet our needs without being ugly or stuffing it. An illustration of assertive behavior is when we are at a restaurant and our food is not what we wanted. Instead of attacking the server or saying nothing but vowing never to come back, we politely and firmly tell the server that the food is not what we ordered and we have them bring us another plate.

When we want to confront someone and are nervous about what we are going to say, it may be helpful to write out what we are going to say and then practice in front of a mirror or with some trusted friend. It also may be helpful to consider the following:

Choose the best time and place to speak to the other person.

Make good eye contact.

Speak for ourselves in the first person by using 'I' rather than 'you.' Do not analyze or accuse.

Show respect for the other person and what he or she wants.

Accept responsibility for our feelings and interpretation of the incident rather than blaming others.

Be specific about what we want without attacking the person we are addressing.

Use a pleasant and firm voice

Call the other person by name

Use a confident-looking posture by standing or sitting straight.

Give the other person a chance to respond.

The other person does have the right to say 'no' to whatever we are asking. But we have started a conversation that will help us understand each other better. We are often surprised how often clear and reasonable requests are met once other people know what we need.

Those of us who are old enough to remember having 45 and 78 records can recall times when the record would get struck. We would hear the same part of the song over and over again. There is an assertive communication style that is called the 'Broken Record.'

The broken record method is first deciding what we want and then putting it into a sentence. Then we present it. Often when we present what we want, the other person will either try to divert us or give us excuses as to why it cannot be done. When this happens we do not get caught up in trying to argue with what they have said but we go back to what we want. We keep doing this until we get what we want, just like a broken record.

Dr. William E. Austin is a licensed psychotherapist and holds a Doctor of Divinity degree. He is a therapist with Tidewater Pastoral Counseling Services . He is well known for his warmth and sense of humor. His book, Creating Our Safe Place - Articles on Healthy Relationships, can be purchased through

Tidewater Pastoral Counseling: 623-2700