I would like to invite you right now to ask yourself, ‘Is this how I want to be thinking, feeling and acting?’ in this moment. If the answer is yes then great continue on. But imagine asking yourself that question when you feel angry. Notice how your feelings are leading your mind to pull you one way or the other, telling you how to act or be, and with it a familiar result.
In this moment to moment awareness you are now inviting time to consider your how you are thinking, feeling, and acting on a moment-to-moment basis or as Victor Frankl writes in mans search for meaning “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
This is a compassionate act with which we are much more likely to make choices about our thoughts, emotions, and behaviours that are congruent with the life we want to create.
On the other hand, when we are unaware of how we are feeling, thinking, and acting, there will be a greater tendency to have our experience of life created more by chance than choice.
Now the question becomes how I can act on this choice now that I am aware of it.
Good communication has at its heart understanding both of ourselves and what we need and value as well as the desire to be understood. Once our bodies and our minds are calmer we may choose to communicate.
Some good skills for communicating assertively include “I-messages” and the “assertive message format.”
I-messages typically include a description of how we feel, explaining the reasons for this emotional response, and clearly describing what you want.
I felt angry when you said that I never listen to you, I’d like to talk about this.
I felt concerned when you raised your voice earlier, I’d appreciate if you could avoid doing that in the future.
I felt sad and surprised when you said my family is crazy, I’d like to understand where that comment came from.
The assertive message format includes: a description of behaviour, an interpretation, describing your emotions, consequences, and your intention/position. These components can be combined in any order.
You were running behind yesterday and (behavioural description), as a result we were late to meet up with everyone (Consequence), I’m sure you didn’t mean to be late but (interpretation), and honestly, I was feeling a little annoyed and frustrated (feelings), next time, I would appreciate it if you could text if you’re running behind (intention/position).
“We can say what we need to say. We can gently, but assertively, speak our mind. We do not need to be judgmental, tactless, blaming or cruel when we speak our truths”
― Melody Beattie
Both I-messages and the assertive message format are designed to open a dialogue with the other person, while reducing the probability they will respond defensively. When using these skills it is important to avoid blaming (you are responsible for your own emotional reactions), generalising (“You’re always late”), or name calling.
As a summary to this three part series what we have covered includes;
Anger is a surface emotion, usually with more vulnerable emotions underneath. Anger can be used to communicate more vulnerable emotions as well as punish other people to behave in ways that we want. We can reduce the likelihood of becoming extremely angry by identifying our triggers and times when we are more likely to become triggered. When we do become angry, we can manage our anger by reducing the risk, calming our bodies, calming our minds, and communicating effectively in a respectful and compassionate way.
Frankl, V., Boyne, J. and Winslade, W. (n.d.). Man’s search for meaning.