- learn to communicate effectively
Learn from experience
By Peter K.
Member NSRC Experts Council
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To get the most from reading this, print this
intro to assertion and this practice outline, and
give copies to a partner who shares your interest in building communication
effectiveness. Reserve at least 30" of undistracted time to do this
materials for note-taking. If your partner isn't familiar with the
brief them on these.
Option: invite your partner to take this communication
quiz, and then study this
article summarizing communication basics.
Here are some ideas on how to
practice effective assertion with a partner. Read this whole
practice-outline first, and then improvise what follows to suit your
Each of you pick something you want a real communication partner to
understand or change - something that significantly hurts, angers,
energizes, and/or frustrates you. Don't pick a major issue that enrages you or
usually starts a huge argument. If you can't define a real issue to
practice asserting on, use one of the examples below or make one up.
assertion is saying what
you need, feel, or think to someone in a way they can hear
you clearly. Clarify your definition of effective assertion
- e.g. (a) each person
gets their current needs met well enough (in their judgment), (b) in a way
that preserves or improves (c) their self and mutual respects and (d)
Are you an effective asserter? What would
your friends say?
Define what you need from
the other person, and draft
your assertive statement.
need you to...
Caution - beware
of asserting a self-defeating "Be spontaneous!" paradox - i.e.
expecting, requesting, or demanding something which by it's nature can
only be given spontaneously - like love, trust, respect, interest,
caring, awareness, empathy, or tolerance. If you're unclear on whether
your need may be one of these, see how to
uncover current your primary (vs. surface) needs.
2) Briefly and clearly, identify your
real communication-partner's probable response/s to your assertion. Examples: changing the subject /
attacking you / becoming silent /
withdrawing emotionally or physically / bringing up the past / excusing or explaining why
s/he can't or won't comply / arguing / discounting your need or opinion
If you aren't sure
of their response,
review these common blocks for inspiration,
or make up some resistances you'd like to practice
responding assertively to.
3) Write an
response you'd use to acknowledge each of their main resistances to your
assertion ("So you think / feel / want /
- Partner’s first resistance to your
- Partner’s second resistance:
- Partner’s third resistance:
Use your assertion statement and
these resistances and responses to guide you in the following two-way
Decide with your partner who will assert
first. Help each other assume the objective, curious "mind of a student,” and recall that
“mistakes” help to grow your awareness and communication skills.
give a “resistance” with some appropriate energy!
Do a Self check: sense whether
your true Self
now. If not, sense who is controlling you. If you're
practiced at working with your subselves, try the
"step-aside" or unblending
Brief your partner on your communication
situation, and the specific "resistances" (above) that you'd
like them to role-play in the practice, or ask them to improvise.
Your partner’s job is to help you assert by resisting realistically,
not to “beat” you.
Focus on your specific
needs with your
real-life partner, and get some internal "steam" up...
Do a respect-check: Do I feel my real-life partner's needs
and dignity are equal to mine now? If
not – why? How do I expect him or her to react to my attitude?
Hold comfortable eye contact with your
practice partner, assert briefly and clearly what you need - and
give the asserter brief feedback on…
Using empathic listening,
(practice) partner's response without judgment. Be quiet
and attentive - watch for a nod / "uh-huh" /
"yes" etc. Listen empathically again if needed, until you get
that. Then re-assert, briefly and clearly, and expect more resistance.
Repeat this cycle through two or three
resistances, and then stop.
you got from them (=/=,
1-up, or 1-down);
Whether you felt genuinely heard
(not agreed with) by
the asserter after your “resistances,"
What emotions you felt during the
Anything you specifically liked about the
asserter's approach, and...
Anything you feel might help them assert
Switch roles and repeat these steps.
Take your time!
and describe what you each noticed as your practice unfolded. Allow
for the fact that you were role-playing, so some artificiality is inevitable.
Possible discussion points:
Who was leading the asserter's personality – their (true)
R(espect) messages did each of you experience – 1-up, 1-down, or =/= (mutual
What did you notice about each person's
E(motion) levels - below or above the ears)?
Did it go up or down during the practice? If so - why?
What was the asserter's
self talk (thought streams) as
(a) asserted, and (b) experienced "resistance." These are
How did you each feel about the empathic
listening responses - were they respectful? Effective? (Did the
"resistor's" E-level come down a little?)
How did this process compare with the
real-life sequence of assertion and resistances?
What was the
outcome of the assertion
- did both people get their main primary needs met?
_ assertion successful
// _ negotiation
begun // _ something else.
"I need you to hang up your
(clothes / towel / robe), instead of dropping them on the floor, where
they get in my way." (Resistances: "It's too much
trouble" / "I just forget" / "Well,
you're no neatnik yourself!" / "I'm always in such a
"When you commit to meet me at
a certain time, I need you to be on time or to let me know if
you'll be late." (Resistances: "I forget" /
"I have a different standard" / "You're always so
uptight" / "Well, you're always late paying the
"I need you to not smoke when:
(we're in the car with the windows up / I'm eating / we're about to go
to bed...). It really distracts me." (Resistances: "This
never bothered you before" / I'll do that if you stop
snoring" / "You're always trying to control me" /
Other high-energy topics: worship / time together / parenting /
relatives / special events / money / wills / sex /
jobs / chores / home maintenance / socializing / health / trips /
politics / trust / respect / reliability / hygiene / ...
Repeat this practice periodically with different partners and problems.
Note your option to practice with the real person you want to assert to
- including kids!
Thoughts / Learnings…
More Communication-skill Practices
Note this unique Lesson-2 guidebook on effective communication skills:
It integrates the key resources in online Lesson 2.
Pause, breathe, and reflect - why did you read this article? Did you get
what you needed? If not, what
you need? Who's
these questions - your
intro / course
definitions / chat