What is assertive communication and how do you use it to improve your relationship?
Photo by Dzmitry Dzemidovich
By Linda & Doug
If you’re like most couples, your relationship has been strained since the affair. Heck, it can be hard to even know where to start when it comes to communicating with your partner again.
You no longer trust each other implicitly, and there’s usually a layer of hurt feelings blocking any attempts at starting a real conversation.
But here’s the thing: communication is essential if you want any chance of reconciling after an affair — so learning how to communicate assertively is key in helping rebuild the connection between you and your partner.
In this blog post, we’ll introduce the principles of assertive communication while also offering insights on how to practice them in order to jumpstart meaningful conversations once more.
Imagine a person who has been unfaithful and their husband or wife is struggling with whether or not to forgive that person. The hurt partner may feel like yelling and expressing anger towards the cheater, while the unfaithful partner may feel ashamed and defensive. However, neither of these communication styles will lead to positive resolution.
Instead, it’s important for the couple to communicate assertively and honestly. The hurt partner should express their emotions and feelings of betrayal without attacking the other person. The unfaithful partner should take responsibility for their actions and express remorse.
Assertive communication has been defined as “the ability to speak and interact in a manner that considers and respects the rights and opinions of others while also standing up for your rights, needs, and personal boundaries.”
It includes the following characteristics:
- Direct eye contact: communicates that the person is not intimidated
- Assertive posture: balance between looking too aggressive and too weak
- Tone of voice: should be strong, but not aggressive
- Facial expression: important to not express anger or anxiety
- Timing: the person must be socially aware to assertively communicate at the right time (e.g., asking for a raise in the middle of a business meeting is not great timing)
- Clarity: using specific words that clearly communicate needs
- Non-threatening: the person should not blame or threaten the other person
- Positive: framing a request in a positive way is most effective
- No criticism: although it might be tempting, it’s important to not criticize yourself when trying to be assertive
Additionally, assertive communication is different from aggressive or passive communication. With passive communication, the person is usually scared about offending the other person. Conversely, with aggressive communication, the person is overly loud, angry, or judgmental. Assertive communication is clear and confident, yet polite.
Assertive communication has several benefits including greater self-confidence, improved social skills, and a greater sense of control. According to researchers, assertiveness can also be a “tool [used to make] your relationships more equal.”
Ways to Communicate More Assertively
- Make direct and clear requests
- Speak up at the right time (instead of waiting and becoming frustrated)
- Speak privately with others when wanting to be assertive
- Refrain from apologizing when requesting something
- Practice role-playing to build assertive communication skills
Ways to Communicate More Assertively in Relationships
- Reflect on your position in the relationship: take back your power and reflect on what you deserve in the relationship.
- Identify your wants and needs: think about the changes you would like for a positive and successful relationship that will fulfill your needs.
- Respectfully communicate this to the other person: use a calm, clear approach to share your needs.
- Use nonverbal communication: Nonverbal communication like making eye contact, nodding, and using open body language can help communicate your emotions and intentions.
In the end, communication is key to dealing with infidelity issues in a relationship. By approaching the situation with an assertive communication style, both partners can work together to move past the infidelity and rebuild the trust and love in their relationship.
It’s not an easy process, but with time, patience, and effort, a couple can come out stronger on the other side. It can be well worth taking the steps to practice because it may result in better self-esteem, enhanced relationships, and fewer conflicts.
- Bishop, S. (2013). Develop your assertiveness. London, UK: Kogan Page Limited.
- Grey, M., & Berry, D. (2004). Coping skills training and problem solving in diabetes. Current Diabetes Reports, 4, 126–131.
- Kesten, K. S. (2011). Role-play using the SBAR technique to improve observed communication skills in senior nursing students. Journal of Nursing Education, 502, 79–87.
- Pipaş, M., & Jaradat, M. (2010). Assertive communication skills. Annales Universitatis Apulensis Series Oeconomica, 12, 649–656.
- Silverman, M. (2011). Effects of a single-session assertiveness music therapy role-playing protocol for psychiatric inpatients. Journal of Music Therapy, 483, 370–394.