Communication With Others
Communication is the task of helping another person see in their mind what we see in ours. What we need to communicate includes requests, instructions or information about ourself and our experiences. We obviously use words to communicate, but also body movements, facial expressions, and various pitches and tones in our voice. By these means, others create pictures, feel feelings and understand our thought process.
There are also times when no action is communication. No words, no sounds, no gestures. In situations where the message is mute, the communication may be "I need to withdraw" or "I am not ready". At least, it could be interpreted this way.
So, here is the crux of so many communication errors: Interpretation! We interpret other people's verbal, non-verbal and even muted messages based upon our own experiences. They, on-the-other-hand, are usually relating to their own. Needless to say, ineffective communication can and does result. Miscommunication is often a barrier to understanding between people. When this happens, opportunity for support can be missed.
One important skill in support building is communication style. There are four styles people use. While we use each of these style at various times, most of us have one style of communication that is more comfortable and commonly used. However, of the four, the assertive style achieves the best results for building true support. This style respects both you and the one to whom you are speaking. It is an easy style to hear, and accept. It builds empathy and understanding, without compromising either party.
For passive individuals, developing assertiveness skills can be uncomfortable. It may help to remember that assertiveness is not aggressiveness. By speaking up and making reasonable requests of others, you do not imply that you are more valuable. You assert that you are "as valuable". It is also important to know that being assertive does not guarantee that you will get all that you want, or think that you need. It does insure that your cards, your needs, are at least on the table. Without that, you are unlikely to get find the support you need or help you desire.
For those who are aggressive, changing to a more assertive style can also be difficult. It is seductive to move through life with a sense of power or control. If we make demands, we usually get what we want. The problem with aggressiveness is that personal isolation often results. If others feel disrespected and unheard as a result of aggressive communication, they will eventually pull away. Others become resentful or angry, leading to open conflict. In the end, aggressiveness usually leads to loneliness, a lack of connection to others and no support.
Passive Agressive communicators may be confused themselves by their difficulty in gaining support from friends and family. The problem is that initially, during a passive phase, true requests or expectations are not fully stated. As a result, a potential supportive ally may make false assumptions about the situation, and be unable to choose or change behavior based upon reality. A common pattern for passive-aggressive communicators is to let resentment build during a passive phase. Once they have "had enough", they switch to aggression or "blow up". This is a confusing communication pattern. It can lead to frustration and missed opportunities for support.
Poor communication can fuel stress, anger and depression. Frustration with self and others, as well as a lack of meaningful connections, are often the result of weak communication skills. To foster healthy relationships and create more positive emotional experiences for one's self, assertive communication skills are worth the effort they take to develop. One tool that can help guide the process of framing assertive statements is the DESC method. Don't expect change to come quickly, but practice with the techniques will improve your skill.
Developing skills in assertive communication is worth the effort if your goal is to build support. The DESC method is a tool which guides you through the process of assertively making requests, saying "no" or talking about your thoughts and ideas to another. It is a system of formulating an assertive statement based on the prompts of the accronym: D for describe, E for Express, S for Specify and C for Consequence.
Below is the complete prompt for each letter, and some important tips to keep the communication factual, honest and respectful. Examples of the DESC method being used in a variety of ways to request support are included. Practice with this tool can be very helpful to change a passive, aggressive or passive-aggressive communication style around. The results of developing assertive communication skills will be more effective delivery of your requests, and a more open listener on the other end.
D escribe what is happening:
Tips: Remain factual and objective. Avoid interpreting meaning into the description.
Express your feelings about this:
Tips: Use "I" statements. Keep to basic feelings or emotions Avoid blaming the other person for the feeling you are having.
Specify your request, refusal or need:
Tips: What would you like to happen as an alternative. What is your specific request.
Consequences that are positive if the change requested is made:
Tips: Offer positive consequences which will result from the change Look for Win-Win outcomes.