Phew! One holiday down, a few more to go! It was terrific to see so much response from the last post about managing holiday family drama (without losing it) and dealing with those pesky little issues like guilt, control and sometimes all out tantrums.
So I thought it might be a great time to share another special “treat” with you. It’s sure to be better than cookies and WAY better than fruitcake! I want to share with you a little inside scoop on what makes people do what they do and say what they say so that you can better maneuver and manage those crazy, stress-inducing personalities that might just show up at your door in the next few weeks red bow and all? (And you might even see a trait or two in yourself that could use a little tweaking.)
Here’s the deal with families—we tend to treat them differently, expect more, challenge them more, nag more, judge more, try and control more and get annoyed with them easier than with anyone else in our life. I get it—you didn’t choose them—they are simply intertwined in your life without your input, but that is even more reason to try and figure out how to deal with them effectively. All right, here goes…let’s take a look at the four different communication styles and see if you can pick out which ones match up to the people in your family tree, office party or holiday open house.
Assertive Communication: By far, the most effective and healthiest form of communication is the assertive style. It’s how we naturally express ourselves when our self-esteem is intact, giving us the confidence to communicate without games and manipulation.
When we are being assertive, we work hard to create mutually satisfying solutions. We communicate our needs clearly and directly. We care about the relationship and strive for a win/win situation. We know our limits and refuse to be pushed beyond them just because someone else wants or needs something from us. Surprisingly, assertive is the style most people use least. (Isn’t that just silly?)
Aggressive Communication: Aggressive communication ALWAYS involves manipulation. We may attempt to make people do what we want by inducing guilt (hurt) or by using intimidation and control tactics (anger). Covert or overt, we simply want our needs met – and right now!
Although there are a few arenas where aggressive behavior is called for (i.e., sports or war), it will never work in a relationship. Ironically, the more aggressive sports rely heavily on team members and rational coaching strategies. Even war might be avoided if we could learn to be more assertive and negotiate to solve our problems.
Passive Communication: Passive communication is based on compliance and hopes to avoid confrontation at all costs. In this mode we don’t talk much, question even less, and actually do very little. We just don’t want to rock the boat. And saying the word “no” gives us serious butterflies.
Passives have learned that it is safer not to react and better to disappear than to stand up and be noticed.
Passive-Aggressive Communication: A combination of styles, passive-aggressive avoids direct confrontation (passive), but attempts to get even through manipulation (aggressive).If you’ve ever thought about making that certain someone who needs to be “taught a thing or two” suffer (even just a teeny bit), you’ve stepped pretty close to (if not on into) the devious and sneaky world of the passive-aggressive. So now what?
Clearly, for many reasons, the only healthy communication style is assertive communication. You probably see quite the combo in your family tree now don’t you?
Most of us use a combination of these four styles, depending on the person or situation. The styles we choose generally depend on what our past experiences have taught us will work best to get our needs met in each specific situation. If you take a really good look at yourself, you’ve probably used each throughout your lifetime. Now that you have a better understanding of the four basic types of communication — hopefully you can react most effectively when confronted with a difficult person.
This holiday I challenge you to do this first: Take care of yourself. We get caught up quick in the quick pace and frantic holiday demands and forget to take good care of ourselves in the process. Channel your best assertive self and have a more stress-free and joyful holiday season!
Cheers! Happy holidays to all!