What we say, or the content, is actually less important than how we say it! Clearly, content is important, however, when asserting yourself, it's important to not be aggressive, which means that how we say something is very important. It's important to use "I messages" that take ownership of our thoughts and feelings. It's also important to not use attacking or critical words. For example, if your spouse is not helping around the house as often as you would like, you wouldn't say "Can't you help around here? You are so lazy!". Instead, a better stated and assertive statement might be, "I'm feeling very overwhelmed and alone in taking care of things around the house. I really need you to take over the vacuuming, dishes and laundry this week". This statement turns a complaint into an assertive statement that is specific in the content, but is delivered in a way that the receiver can hear.
Don't spend too much time trying to come up with the perfect words to assert yourself. While it's important to think about it and not filter out spontaneous expression of your feelings, it's most important to make the assertive statement!
Joleen Watson, MS, NCC is a therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. She enjoys doing marriage counseling, relationship counseling, couples counseling, and individual counseling. Imagine Hope also specializes in family, child and adolescent counseling and serves the Indianapolis area, including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Noblesville, Zionsville, Westfield and Fishers.