The 3 C’s in Assertive Communication
Based on our own personalities, and our upbringing, we may fall onto one side of the spectrum or another when it comes to communicating our needs. Although there is a time and a place for different communication styles, there is one style in particular that is the most balanced. Finding the balance between being aggressive in how we communicate with people to being taking advantage and “walked all over” can be challenging in certain situations.
Assertive communication is a style of communication that conveys respect towards yourself, AND respect towards the person you are speaking with. This may sound daunting to some, but fortunately, there is a formula we can use to help you practice this style!
There are “3 C’s” that we keep in mind when we are engaging in assertive communication:
Here is a breakdown of what these 3 C’s mean, as well as some examples of how to incorporate them in your communication.
Control: Keeping control does not mean we are controlling the situation or coercing the person we are speaking with. Keeping control DOES mean that we are able to regulate ourselves emotionally, and we are therefore able to control our own tone of voice, anger level, and thought process. In order to maintain composure, we need to be self-aware of our own triggers, and of our limitations. The better you know yourself, the more composure and self-control you can have, which will let the receiver of your communication feel more secure as well.
Example: “I understand you are doing as much as you can in your position. I believe it may be time to speak to a supervisor because I do need to get this resolved. Could you please redirect me to someone who can help with this? You have been very helpful and kind, thank you for your time.”
Clarity: Using clarity means that we are trying our best to inform others with reduced room for confusion. This can sometimes be difficult. In these cases, we want to consider how to change the words we are using, how to use visual tools or other resources, and how to be self-aware. Not everyone receives input the same way, so it is our responsibility to adapt to what the receiver of our communication needs. It is important to remain in control and not lose patience. This can go a long way in helping someone better understand the message you are trying to convey.
Example: “I’ve added a visual chore list to the fridge, and I also sent the list to you via text so you can keep it at hand on your phone. If you ever need a reminder of the list, feel free to ask me at anytime.”
Confidence: Having confidence DOES NOT mean you are 100% right. And it certainly does not mean that you expect the person you are talking with to give in to what you are saying. Having confidence means that after analyzing a situation, you have assessed what you want to convey, and you have assessed what you may choose to do, depending on how the conversation goes. It means you are aware of your boundaries, and you are also willing to understand other perspectives, without losing integrity. Confidence is about knowing yourself and loving yourself well enough, that you are open to some flexibility in conversation, while still expressing yourself.
Example: This country song is better than I expected! I guess you can always learn to appreciate new things. I think I might still stick to classical music for my daily routine.
Learning to communicate assertively requires using the 3 C’s while being self-refective, self-aware, and remaining regulated even when triggered. If you experience difficulty with these essential regulation skills, working with a therapist or a trusted person can help you better understand what causes dysregulation for you. Learning to be assertive is a wonderful tool for workplaces, friendships, couples, and families. It may take some time to get used to a new communication style, but with practice, it may open up many more channels of communication with others.