Build relationship skills: assertion

We find too many times in situations where there is friction and a deep sense of frustration of basic emotional needs. In life, we deal with other people sometimes as short in skills as we are to be able to talk and express needs and negotiate positive solutions. Haven’t you found yourself in a deep shock, thinking: “If only this person had told me what he/she really wanted…it was so easy to satisfy that request! But I never knew!”

Assertion is the art of saying what you need or believe in a way that other people can hear you clearly.

This ability is essential for effective problem-solving. The alternatives to assertion are

1.- submission, like in letting other people’s needs come always before yours, even being just or unjust. This will happen if you accept disrespectful treatment from a loved one for some time, while you grow a deep resentment;

2.- aggression – forcing your needs on another person without their agreement.

Both are lose-lose options, meaning that both sides, even the “winning one” will get less from the relationship. They are building anger, hurt and resentment instead of respect and love.

This is the way to assert yourself:

a) Get a clear idea of exactly the behavior irritating you. If he/she is not speaking to you in front of your friends, that is clearly a hostile behavior that needs addressing. What is the behavior that you want, instead of this? Acceptance, care, attention? Be clear on what you want.

b) Be clear and firm on your personal rights as a dignified person; and firmly believe that your rights, needs, and dignity are just as valid and important as anyone else’s, regardless of age, power, role, or gender.

c) You need to define the behavioral change that you need from this person or to set limits with someone whose behavior is unacceptable or hurtful to you.


1.- Begin describing the negative behavior in clear words:

“When you make jokes about my cooking in front of my friends, as you did last night at Alice’s party…

2.- State the impact on you:

“I feel ignored and rejected.”

3.- Declare that you want a change:
“and I need you to (agree to make a specific behavior change):

“Remember that we are each other’s support system and we don’t criticize the other in public”

Your purpose is not to blame, but to deliver information about the impact of their behavior to the offending party. Messages centered on the “I” pro noun, delivered calmly, with steady, non-apologetic eye contact – have a better chance of being received as information, and not criticism.

The passive aggressive behavior needs someone to provide the offending person with a steady feedback on the impact of their behaviors…..which should extinguish them, if there is a willingness to change.

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