When you feel uncomfortable, what do you do? Do you blurt out what you’re thinking and lash out aggressively? Or maybe you go silent, and hope that other people will pick up your subtle body language or tone and change their behaviour.
Disagreements are inevitable, but how we manage them impacts our relationships. When conflict comes up, we will respond aggressively, passive aggressively or assertively. We all naturally lean towards a style based on our personality and past experiences. So which style are you?
Aggressive: You are outspoken, to the point, and blunt, without considering other people’s feelings or how you will be perceived. While you may believe that you deal with conflict by addressing it head on, the people around you perceive you as volatile and loud. They may try to avoid you or be afraid of confronting you with issues due to your perceived outbursts.
Passive Aggressive: Instead of addressing an issue directly, you assert your annoyance or unhappiness through other means: social media, speaking to a third party and ‘triangulating,’ gossiping, giving someone the cold shoulder, or hiding your pain by ‘joking’ about another person and discrediting them directly or indirectly.
An aggressive response, and a passive aggressive response, are both unhealthy. They come from a sense of feeling undervalued or unsafe, and are often a learned behaviour. If we have seen other people in our life respond in unhealth, we will naturally replicate the cycle. And while some people may (unhealthily) thrive off the drama they create through their responses, other people have never been taught that there is a third way to respond – assertively.
Assertive: The healthiest form of relationship occurs when we are self-aware and assertive. That means addressing conflict directly, but with an open stance so the other person doesn’t feel judged and become defensive. To be assertive is to communicate and exercise your boundaries and needs– not allowing others to encroach on your power or situation without your permission. And whether we are communicating with a spouse or a co-worker, we need to clearly communicate your expectations.
So how can we practice assertiveness? Here is a common situation we see at home, and the three ways you can respond to it – passive aggressive, aggressive, and assertive. Which style do you lean towards, and how can you take a step towards being assertive today?
Your partner comes home from work and barely says a word to you. He sits down for dinner, but notices it is not ready yet. In fact, it is not even made because it is his turn to do the cooking! He simply says, “It was a big day. Where’s dinner?” What do you do?
AGGRESSIVE: You raise your voice and tell your partner to stop complaining and make dinner like a grown man. He snaps back, and you begin to argue about unrealistic expectations and feeling under appreciated. After a solid ten minutes of yelling at increased volume, you snap and declare, “Well I guess we are stuck eating rubbish again. You order takeaway and at least we won’t go hungry!” Insisting that your partner picks it up from the shop, when they return you complain about the meal to them and express how you could have had a nice family evening in if not for his incompetence. You sleep in separate beds that night.
PASSIVE AGGRESSIVE: You bite your tongue and make dinner, fuming while your partner lounges around and complains about being hungry. When it is ready, you slap it on his plate and stare daggers at him for the whole meal. You assume giving him the cold shoulder will communicate how annoyed you are that he hasn’t pulled his weight. Meanwhile, you make sarcastic remarks under your breath while you do the dishes, or get the kid’s ready for bed, ensuring everyone knows how disappointed you are in your partner for not doing what was expected of him.
ASSERTIVE: You take a deep breath, and express that you have also had a big day. You then say openly, “It looks like you were scheduled to make dinner tonight. Did you have anything planned?” Your tone is everything here – avoid sounding judgmental. You can then choose if, and how, you want to move forward. You might say, “How can I help you make dinner tonight?” or “I see you are tired, how about I make dinner tonight and you take care of it tomorrow?”. If this is ongoing, you might say, “I understand you are tired, but we decided together that we would split who made dinner through the week. It makes me feel undervalued when you assume I will do your house work or you don’t plan ahead for dinner. In the future, can we agree to make dinner on our allocated nights?” Once you have both decided on a course of action, you move forward without holding onto resentment or unsaid expectations.
Do you want to become more assertive? Contact Colleen on 0434 337 245 or Duncan on 0434 331 243 for a FREE 10 minute consultation. If you are ready to book an appointment with Colleen or Duncan click BOOK ONLINE NOW.