When doing a job around the home, it is wise to use the right tools. Can you imagine putting up a picture hook and nail with a sledge hammer?! It is overkill and there would be a huge hole in the wall. Using the right tools in a relationship is equally important. Some of us use a sledge hammer to deal with a problem that is a tack. Using a sledge hammer can leave a huge wound in our relationship and in our partner.
An example are people whose first reaction is to reach for the sledge hammer by calling the police or threatening to sue because they feel they have been treated unfairly. Instead of talking to the other person they "bring in Big Brother." Maybe it is a feeling of powerlessness that compels them to reach for the sledge hammer to drive a tack.
In this article we are focusing on the aggressive communicator who uses a sledge hammer when things do not go his way, such as the waiter getting the order wrong or not being served quickly enough, or he has to wait in a long line at the grocery store, or things are not done around the home the way he thinks it should. He takes mistakes personally as though they were done with the intention of upsetting him.
While is it important to stand up for ourselves, the problem is in how our needs are met. The Aggressive Communicator may express himself at the expense of other people by using sarcasm, threats, negative labels, profanity, intimidation, humiliation and "you-messages" with absolutes. He attacks the person to get what he wants by "verbally jumping on someone with both feet" rather than addressing the behavior that is causing the problem.
Perhaps we use aggressive communication because we believe we are being treated unfairly by being left out or when we feel powerless. The intensity of our anger is in direct proportion to how malicious and intentional we interpret the incident to be. I recently experienced this when I was waiting to have a blood test. The nurse called out a name and suddenly an angry lady stood up and loudly complained that she was next. The nurse calmly and politely told her that she is calling patients according to appointment times. In no uncertain terms, the angry woman told the nurse that she was lying. Finally, she sat down and continued to complain to her husband so everyone could hear her.
She felt she was being treated unfairly by being intentionally left out. If she had gone directly to the nurse, quietly, she would have discovered that they were trying to treat each patient fairly. Ironically, her name was called next!
Next month we will present a good relationship tool: being assertive.
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 www.amazon.com.
Tidewater Pastoral Counseling: 623-2700