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Assertive Communication Exercise

A person’s a person, No matter how small.

- Horton Hears A Who. Dr. Seuss


This very simple exercise is part of a series of lessons offered by Hazelden/Betty Ford Clinic.


Assertive communication is as much about you learning to speak your truth as it is about others hearing you. There is a difference.


We have no control over other peoples' thoughts, feelings, or behaviors. If the person you are talking to has no inclination to listen to you, there is no way to force them to listen.


We do have control over how we speak and act. We can learn ways to speak our truth in a way that may be better received by the other person. If we yell, scream, throw things, or behave in a threatening or out-of-control way, others will become defensive and physically, mentally, or emotionally step away from / leave you. It is a form of self-preservation.


We can learn to manage our emotions through a variety of methods, and we can learn to be assertive. There are four styles of communication typically discussed: Passive, Aggressive, Passive Aggressive, and Assertive.


Here is a link to a short and simple video on the four styles of communication. https://youtu.be/hPZbJkju30E





I would like to offer a simple exercise on how to communicate assertively.


I feel…

When you…

Because…

I need…


This set up can help you clearly identify and state your experience, and state what you need going forward.


Let’s use the example of a wife frustrated with her husband.


I feel angry and overwhelmed

When you won’t help with the housework like you promised.

Because you are not taking our agreement seriously and I’m exhausted working full time, and doing all the chores.

I need you, starting today, to do the chores you agreed to do.



Will the husband automatically do this? Maybe, maybe not. You have expressed your feelings and needs clearly. If he does start doing the chores, great! If not, then you can trust that you were clear, concise, and calm, when expressing yourself. If the other person criticizes you or finds fault in what you said, then they never intended to hear you. Consider this a practice as you learn to be more assertive.


At work, you can change the wording a bit.


I’m frustrated

when these meetings go overtime.

Because I would rather use this time to focus on my work and these meetings cut into that time.

I would like it if you, as the supervisor, would keep the group on task and not let folks talk for so long or go on tangents.


I’ve taught this to many of my clients and they find it a very easy form to follow, especially if they are uncomfortable with asking for things.


Give it a try.

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