Being Assertive in Relationships Can Help Your Mental Health
Assertive communication works well when it comes to my communication styles. I have a history of vacillating between aggressiveness and passivity in relationships. Both of these styles come with their downsides and it's been an arduous journey to find an effective middle ground. Assertive communication is my middle ground.
On the one hand, for years, I remained passive in verbally and emotionally abusive relationships, internalizing the belief that I didn't deserve anything better. I had a partner tell me that every time I looked in the mirror, I should be ashamed of who I saw and should want to kill myself. I never told him how that comment made me feel.
On the other hand, when I decided I wasn't putting up with this abuse anymore, I became aggressive and scathing in my communication style. I would send nasty texts, threaten to leave partners at the drop of a hat, and inhibit all empathy and care at that moment. The downside about aggression is that it leads to hostility from your partner's end. Two people aggressively communicating doesn't get you anywhere remotely positive and surely doesn't help with mental health. That's where assertive communication comes in.
What Is Assertive Communication?
Although assertive communication is often conflated with aggressive communication, these two styles are drastically different. When people act aggressively, they are protecting their own opinions while discrediting the views and needs of their partners. Meanwhile, assertiveness entails communicating your needs while also being respectful of others. When speaking assertively, the opinions of both parties are met and considered in a caring manner. Therefore, this communication style supports open and honest discussion.
How Assertiveness Helped My Relationships and Mental Health
So often, primarily due to my depression, I felt as if my opinion and beliefs didn't matter and lacked value. I'd remain passive in relationships until I couldn't take it anymore and aggressively exploded. Both of these styles did not improve my mental health, mainly because my needs weren't met, and I was creating interpersonal turmoil that added to my anxiety. However, I started interning as a case manager at an agency where we taught our clients how to communicate assertively and I was immediately absorbed into this skills lesson.
Since teaching this skills class to my clients, I have adopted assertive communication into all of my relationships. The good news is that this style can be learned; however, it does take practice and a certain level of emotional intelligence. When speaking assertively, you need to remain calm, agree to disagree, utilize collaborative problem-solving, and be both empathetic and self-assured.
After implementing assertive communication into multiple facets of my life, I have found the benefits to be rewarding both for my relationships and mental health. When certain scenarios are exacerbating my mental illnesses, I speak up respectfully as opposed to remaining passive or exploding in anger. I can draw a line with people and respect their opinions and needs at the same time. Furthermore, people are more likely to truly listen and internalize what you are saying when you are calm, as opposed to raising your voice and displaying angry body language. By practicing assertiveness, I have found an increased sense of self-assurance and self-confidence, as well as an improved sense of control over my life and mental health.
O'Grady, H. (2019, June 9). Being Assertive in Relationships Can Help Your Mental Health , HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, July 8 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/relationshipsandmentalillness/2019/6/being-assertive-in-relationships-can-help-your-mental-health