Relationship

Empower your relationship: 10 key steps to boost assertiveness and strengthen communication

Being straightforward, honest, and polite in communication with others is the definition of assertiveness; it does not entail being pushy or confrontational. In relationships, being assertive can promote constructive dialogue. Being assertive is a critical quality that is necessary for both relationship and life success. Fortunately, you can learn how to be aggressive in relationships at any age. This is a talent that can be taught. The want to see your mate pleased is a normal one. But assertiveness in a relationship also involves making sure you receive what you need. As much as we want to see our partner happy, we also need to take care of ourselves. (Also read: Are you parenting your partner? Therapist drops truth bombs that we should be aware of )

Take charge of your relationship dynamics with these 10 essential steps to boost assertiveness. (Unsplash)

Ways to become more assertive in your relationship

Clinton Power, Relationship counsellor and marriage therapist shared in his recent Instagram post some important steps to become more assertive in your relationship.

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Step 1: Keep your eye on the prize (what’s your intention?)

You know the discussions where you just start talking without a plan, or worse still, you blurt out the issue you have been sitting on only when your partner raises a separate issue (also known as piggy-backing). The outcome will almost always be better for both parties when you ‘keep your eye on the prize.’ Don’t lose sight of what you want to express or have known. Consider your intention before you begin and hold onto that, especially when the going gets tough. And if your intention is about you expressing something about yourself, (I feel, I thought, I imagined…), then your prospects for a good outcome are significantly higher.

Step 2: Lose battles to win wars

This reminds me of my favourite saying ‘You can be right, or you can be in a relationship.’ It’s human nature to want to be right. We get a sense of righteous pleasure or feel superior and better than others. But when it comes to relationships and communication, if you’re fixed on being right, you are guaranteed a lose-lose outcome. Losing battles to win wars means considering letting go of your need to be right in favour of your bigger picture. Your big picture may include wanting a harmonious relationship, supporting your partner’s desires or creating a compassionate, warm and loving relationship.

Step 3: Ground your communication in empathy, compassion and love

Assertiveness is communicating in a way where you treat the other as an equal, not less than or better than yourself. Empathy, compassion and love bring a whole new dimension to your relationships when you hold these intentions in the background of your communication. They help you ‘tune in’ to the other, feel the person behind the eyes and relate with an openness that’s an outcome of feeling love for the other.

Step 4: Practise unilateral virtue

Living with virtue is about being congruent with your own moral code and living your code in your day-to-day interactions. When it comes to relationships, consider the code or values that you believe in or feel strongly about. Practising unilateral virtue is then about the simplicity of living that code, even in the face of provocation. It’s unilateral because you alone take responsibility for living by the values that you find meaningful and virtuous.

Step 5: Communicate for yourself, not to change your partner

Many couples get stuck in their relationships by communicating with the goal of having their partner change. The problem with this style of communication is that before you even begin to discuss an issue, you are setting up a pattern where the listener will have to defend themself. This often leads to escalating and competing messages where no one gets heard and everyone loses. Change your mindset to enter a conversation with the goal of discovering something new about yourself and allowing yourself to be known.

Step 6: Communicate with dignity and gravity

The essence of this step is about truly being for yourself. This means that you support, value and encourage yourself, even when you are being deeply triggered by another. When you enter into communication while being an advocate for your wants, needs, thoughts, feelings and desires, the likelihood of being heard is much greater. What’s more, your message is given the value and respect that it deserves.

Step 7: Listen for the deepest wants and desires

When you communicate with assertiveness, it’s a two-way process. Your partner receiving the message will respond, and this gives you an opportunity to listen in a different way. As you listen to the response, go beyond the content you are hearing and listen for the deepest wants and desires that are embedded in the message.

Don’t get caught up in the details, but go deeper into the message and pick up what’s not being said. Not only will this help you step out of your own reactivity, but it’s likely you’ll pick up on important information that is not being spoken. You can then address these wants and desires together, which promotes a greater sense of connection.

Step 8: Focus on ‘from now on’

Another common pitfall couples fall into is constantly bringing up the past and rehashing it in the present. When something is unresolved, it will continue to resurface between you. It’s nature’s way of saying that there is unfinished business requiring attention. However, if you constantly draw on material from the past, you are unwittingly injuring each other by causing distress and hurt to your partner. Your focus on the past is getting in the way of staying in the present and moving into your future.

Step 9: Make clear plans and agreements

This might seem like a no-brainer, but many couples forget to make clear plans and agreements once they have expressed themselves. Once you have communicated with assertiveness and incorporated the steps above, it’s important that you each agree on what outcomes you would like and what you both agree to. This is an important step because it consolidates all the other steps and gives a concrete resolution to your communication. Without this step, it’s easy to leave the conversation and not be sure of what was achieved.

Step 10: If appropriate, negotiate solutions

Not every assertive conversation needs or should have a solution. If your communication opens up the possibility of a solution make sure there is space to discuss one. However, many couples fall into the trap of moving to solutions too quickly and negate the important steps of listening, understanding and validating. Make sure you engage in these practices before negotiating possible solutions, to facilitate the resolution of the issue.

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