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Different scenarios in which a person may choose to speak assertively and techniques as to how one should carry out his or her actions were offered in a workshop by Robin Garrett, Director of WCU’s Women’s Center, on Monday, Feb. 5. Assertive speaking usually comes about in times of conflict where there is a need for resolution. Whether it be with a parent, a friend or a coworker, conflict is inevitable during one’s lifetime. In most situations, there is an aggressive person, or conflict seeker, and a passive person, or conflict avoider. The aggressive person usually “wins” at the cost of the passive person who simply gives into the needs of the aggressor.

However, choosing to be assertive, rather than aggressive or passive, allows for a win-win situation. The goal of assertive speaking is for people “to get what they need but not at the expense of others.All parties get balance.” There are three techniques to speaking assertively: using “I” statements, the broken record method, and fogging.

Use “I” statements when sending someone a message, avoid directing the blame to the person, or pointing the finger by using the word “you.” Replacing “you” with “I” is more beneficial. For example, say “I get annoyed when you continually arrive late for our dates,” as oppose to saying “You are really annoying when you continually arrive late for our dates.” Describing the problem as objectively as possible, making the point of view clear, while still maintaining a calm demeanor is an alternative. One can simply just state the problem, or one can also talk about a joint effort that both parties can make to improve the situation. Either way, using the word “I” takes the pressure off of the message receiver and avoids any chances of escalating the conflict. “You don’t want the person to be so on the defense that they don’t participate,” Garrett said.

Sometimes the receiver of the message refuses to accept the given statement and defends his or herself. Allowing the person to speak his or her mind is suggested. Then, proceed to say, “Nevertheless.” or “I hear what you’re saying,” followed by the original statement, “I get annoyed when you continually arrive late for our dates.” Do not change the tone or wording of the message. The person may continue to argue and this scenario may go on and on, like a broken record, until the message receiver stops and decides to accept the situation as it is.

The ‘fogging’ technique involves being the message receiver, and is particularly useful when the message sender is being verbally aggressive.

“Look like you’re paying attention, and then put yourself in a circle of fog where you can’t hear or see them,” Garrett said. This particular technique is often used with parents when a child has heard the same lecture many times before, and knowing the outcome, decides to block out the parents. This particular method allows the reciever to protect him or herself, and come out of the situation without getting in an active conflict.

The message receiver also does not accommodate the message sender by saying such phrases as, “You’re right.”

Garrett recognizes that becoming an assertive speaker and using the aforementioned techniques will not come easy to all. She suggests practicing the techniques, evaluating relationships and reviewing various situations that occur throughout the day. Keeping a daily log or journal identifying the various places where issues exist will enforce the above. Before speaking to another person, planning out the whole scenario and practice with an empty chair is suggested. This helps to be prepared for what the other person might say and to relieve any stress.

Assertive speaking is about sending a not so positive message in a positive manner. It is as important for the interests of the sender to be recognized, as it is for the interests of the receiver to be recognized. If anyone needs help improving upon his or her communication skills in relationships, the Women’s Center is available for any student.

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