Effective Communication Through Assertiveness
Social anxiety is often associated with low self-confidence in relationships. While treating the anxiety ultimately leads to increased self-confidence, the development effective social skills can also facilitate this process. Effective communication is one of the most importance social skills that contribute to developing and maintaining healthy relationships. Whether you are talking about your day or working through a disagreement, communication is the key to expressing your thoughts, your feelings and your needs. Depending on the nature of the relationship and the topic being discussed, effective communication can be challenging. For anxious individuals, this is especially true when the conversation requires confrontation around difficult subjects. Assertive communication is an effective way of expressing yourself that allows for consideration of the thoughts, feelings and needs of both you and the person with whom you are communicating. Learning how to communicate assertively can turn this challenging confrontations into productive conversations and lead to increased self-confidence in relationships.
Aggression and Passivity: Ineffective Forms of Communication
Have you ever had a conversation with someone in which you felt completely disrespected, unheard or under-appreciated? The person you were speaking to took total control of the conversation, focusing solely on their needs while seeming care very little about your own? On the other hand, have you ever tried to communicate your needs to someone only to end up giving in completely to their needs with no consideration of your own? These two forms of communication, referred to as aggressive and passive respectively, are used often in daily conversation. Despite the frequency of their use, these forms of communication are typically not effective. Communication is a two (or more) person experience. In order for effective communication to occur the opinions and needs of both individuals must be considered. When they are not, it is likely that one or both participants will leave the conversation feeling poorly. While the “aggressor” may be satisfied, the recipient of the aggression will likely feel put down, dismissed or invalidated. Alternatively, when the passive individual neglects their own needs in a conversation, they are like to feel unsatisfied and unheard.
What is Assertive Communication?
In order for effective communication to occur, assertiveness is required. Assertiveness is defined as, “communication in which one expresses oneself in a direct and honest manner in interpersonal situations, while simultaneously respecting the rights and dignity of others.”
While it may seem that such a communication style would be easy, it is much more challenging than it appears. There are many factors that interfere with our ability to communicate assertively. Self-confidence, power-differentials, previously-learned communication styles, and anxiety are just some of the many challenges that can interfere with our ability to communicate assertively.
Overcoming Challenges in Communication: Assertiveness Training
While assertive communication may be challenging, it is possible to learn this new skill and improve your communication style. Assertiveness training, integrating cognitive and behavioral techniques, can help you to identify, challenge and modify the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that may be interfering with your ability to communicate effectively. Through active practice, assertiveness training will teach you how to communicate your thoughts, feelings and needs while simultaneously considering the opinions and needs of others. It can also teach you other useful communication skills including how to say “no,” how to give and receive constructive criticism, and how to manage and de-escalate conflict. Developing these communication skills can help you to decrease anxiety in social situations, lead to improved effectiveness in conversations and ultimately improve your overall self-confidence.
How to Get Help for Social Anxiety
The National Social Anxiety Center is a national association of regional clinics with certified cognitive therapists specializing in social anxiety and anxiety-related problems. Currently, we have regional clinics in San Francisco, District of Columbia, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, New York City, Chicago, Newport Beach / Orange County, Houston / Sugar Land, and St. Louis. Contact our national headquarters at (202) 656-8566 or visit our Regional Clinics contact page to find help in your local area or if your clinic is interested in applying for membership.