On the afternoon of Monday, Feb. 6, young women gathered in the Women’s Center to participate in a program entitled “Speaking up for Yourself.” Women’s Center Director Robin Garrett offered skills and tactics on becoming a more assertive communicator.The program began with an explanation of the three main communication styles: aggressive, passive and assertive.
Aggressive communication is simply when someone communicates in a forceful fashion. They may get what they desire, but do so in a way that is insensitive to others. Passive communication occurs when the communicator does not communicate what they want and easily agrees with who they are speaking: Assertive communication allows the communicator to express themselves in an effective way enabling them to get what they want.
Garrett emphasized that in many situations with family members, friends, romantic partners and co-workers, assertive communication is necessary. “What you are doing in assertive communication is you are trying to communicate your point without pushing the person’s buttons, so they that they get defensive or shut you down or dig their feet in. Keep the communication flowing,” Garrett explained.
Garrett described a way of expressing oneself in an assertive manner through four different approaches: First, the use of “I statements” rather than “You statements.” This allows the speaker to communicate in a non-offensive way and take responsibility for their words. By using language skills that start with “I” rather than “you,” followed by a description of what is going on, what the problem is, and what the speaker wants, one is able to communicate in an assertive productive manner.
The second approach called “fogging” can be used in difficult communication situations. Fogging is done through letting statements roll off your back while still listening to the other person but not allowing the other person’s words to penetrate. By imagining a kind of cloud around oneself, which fogs out the other person’s words, one can better manage the communication situation.
The third approach to assertive communication that Garrett described is the “broken record” technique, used if there is a situation where one is trying to communicate their viewpoint or need and they are not getting through to the other person. Garrett encouraged the communicator to continue to use the same words and tone of voice with an attitude of understanding and the same standpoint. She emphasized that one never has to explain themselves when they are in this position and are entitled to their private information.
As a final way of asserting oneself, Garrett described the “sandwich method.” The first piece of “bread” is used to say something nice to the person you are communicating with, followed by the “filling” which is the problem or difference being discussed and ending with the second piece of “bread” which is simply another nice comment to finish the conversation.
The program came to a close as Garrett expressed to everyone that there is “no one right way” to assertively communicate. Often a combination of letting go of one’s own high ground, communicating about “differences” rather than “problems” and using the different techniques leads to assertive communication. Garrett ended the program by stating, “What you want in assertive communication is to get what you need out of the situation.” Garrett also pointed out that anyone who is unable to attend a program in the Women’s Center is always able to schedule a time one on one.