Overcome a Passive Disposition with this Simple Technique

Is your communication style passive or assertive?

If you find yourself letting things that bother you slide or neglecting your own needs to please everyone else, you might need to work on your assertiveness.

Not addressing uncomfortable situations at work or home can cause you to bottle up your negative feelings. After enough time holding it in, you might let it out in angry or inappropriate ways.

Being assertive is simply a matter of standing up for what’s important to you without attacking the person who is causing you grief.

This video recommends that you practice an “assertiveness sandwich” to deliver your message.

If you can’t watch right now, here are the ingredients you’ll need to feed a difficult conversation to a colleague or loved one:

Every good sandwich needs two pieces of bread. To deliver an assertive message, the bread for your sandwich will be:

  • Positive feedback to start the conversation.
  • The positive outcome you’d like to see as the result of your talk to wrap it up.

The meat and filling of your message is the specific behavior change you’d like the recipient of your message to make. Start the middle, or meat, with an “I feel” statement.

Say a chatty co-worker is constantly interrupting you during the work day, making it hard for you to meet your obligations and get out the door at a reasonable hour. Here’s how you could approach him using the assertiveness sandwich method:

  • Start with positive feedback: “Jack, your stories really crack me up.”
  • Deliver the meat of your message: “That being said, I feel like it’s been hard for me to get all my work done because we’re always talking.”
  • End with the outcome you’d like to see: “Do you mind if we limit our conversations to break times and lunch? I think that would really help me have the best of both worlds.”

Think of the situations in your life that have been bothering you and how you’d like to see them change. Practice your assertiveness sandwich in front of a mirror and start with a low-stakes situation to see how it goes.

Have you ever had to address a difficult situation at work or home? What are your tips for starting the conversation? Share in the comments.

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Editor’s note: This video is part of a research project conducted by the University of Michigan School of Public Health, led by Dr. Daniel Eisenberg, with funding provided by the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation. The video mentions an employee assistance program – talk to your employer’s human resources representative to see what’s available at your workplace. 

Photo credit: Paulo Valdivieso



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