Emotionally Intelligent Communication – Assertive Behavior


My wife and I were trying to provoke my grandson to read to us. One method that worked well for us was to discuss loudly how he was not able to read – and that was enough for him to take the bait and read to us to prove that he could. This time, however, it was different. “I don’t like it when you say that”, he firmly stated. And there was a lesson – on Assertive Behavior!

When someone makes an unreasonable or unfair comment to you, what do you do? Do you retaliate, get annoyed and express that annoyance, or prefer to ignore it? Any of these choices may result in a strain on the relationship. And yet, choosing to remain silent will have its own repercussions by way of stress build up – for while you may ignore it externally, your mind keeps working and resenting that comment.

Managing your emotions and making the appropriate response is the skill of Assertive Behavior. Here are a few tips to help you move to Assertive Behavior:

  1. Become aware of your Emotions. Emotional Awareness is the ability to get in touch with your ‘inner self’ and get familiar with the different feelings you experience. You may notice that you can experience multiple emotions fleetingly, of which one or two may be dominant.
  2. Learn the Emotional Vocabulary. Are you limited in your ability to label emotions? Well, several people are. Learning the vocabulary gives you a choice of words that help you express what you are feeling without resorting to the ‘stronger’ emotion words (angry, sad etc.). You can find one such list here.
  3. Practice Emotional Self-Expression. Say the words out loud and use them every day. Start using those words to speak out your feelings. Practice will give you the ability to match words with your feelings.
  4. Overcome fear. One big inhibitor of being outspoken is fear. Fear of repercussion, of being ‘marked out’, of a critical response, or being made fun of. Remember that people sometimes say or do things that they may not be conscious of. By speaking out, you help them change, and keep your self-respect as well.
  5. Own your statements. When expressing emotions, use the ‘I’ statement. (Like my grandson did: “I don’t like it when you say that”).
  6. Practice, practice, practice. Any new behavior needs practice. Just knowing the language will not help. Use Emotional Self-Expression every day. Keep an ‘emotion diary’ and track the improvements you make every day.

Moving from Passive to Assertive Behavior may take some time and effort, but the results are worth it – increased self-esteem and reduced stress!