I’m going to be assertive with you in this week’s email by asking a question that might be a tough one to answer honestly: Are you assertive enough?
 
Being assertive is necessary for effective communication, whether you’re expressing your own needs, delivering important information to others or providing care to your loved one. The key is to be direct, specific, forceful – whatever it takes – in your communications, while also being respectful of others’ needs and feelings. People who are assertive are able to clearly and respectfully communicate wants, needs, positions and boundaries.  
 
A thesaurus gives a number of synonyms for assertiveness – confidence, forcefulness, insistence, decisiveness, boldness, firmness – all of which are positive traits for a caregiver. 
 
Assertive people tend to:

  • Experience fewer anxious thoughts when stressed.

  • Have an ability to be firm but not rude.

  • React to emotions without becoming passive or aggressive.

  • Defend their points of view without resorting to personal attacks.

  • Be open to compliments and constructive criticism.

And here’s what the Mayo Clinic says about how assertive communication can help reduce stress.
 
Unfortunately, our thoughts and feelings often get in the way. We may be concerned about how others perceive us or our message. But when we communicate with confidence, our self-esteem naturally improves.  
 
This also helps us participate in fair fighting. When we are able to directly and calmly state a position or share a point of view, it creates an atmosphere of discussion instead of confrontation. Rules for fair fighting include:

  • Identifying exactly why you feel upset.

  • Discussing one issue at a time.

  • Avoiding degrading language.

  • Using “I” language to express your feelings and take responsibility for them.

  • Taking turns talking.

  • No yelling.

  • Not walking away until you work through the problem.

As caregivers, we know that avoiding problems never solves anything. Conflict might feel uncomfortable, but through assertiveness and fair fighting, we can turn conflict into successful problem resolution.