Tag Archives: Assertive Skills

How To Get To The Bottom of Vague, Manipulative Communication For Instant Emotional Rewards

When humans communicate we rarely are upfront and clear about our intentions. Many times, most times in my opinion, we don’t even know the full extent of our intentions. How many times have you gotten into a fight with somebody, and after wards you were wondering why in the world you said what you said?

It’s hard enough to clear air after a particularly nasty fight, even harder when you aren’t sure why you were fighting to begin with. Underneath our words and sentences are emotions so deep and complex many are afraid to even acknowledge their existence.

It’s no wonder that communication can sometimes be difficult. Sometimes the words themselves with are seemingly impossible to argue with, even though they give you a deep “icky” feeling inside. Many times we unconsciously try eliciting an emotion in somebody else through manipulative tactics because we aren’t willing to address, or even understand our true needs.

For example. Lets say your girlfriend or boyfriend says to you:

“If you loved me, you’d know when I was angry.”

If you address this accusation at any logical level, you are doomed from the start. Simply by engaging in the conversation, you will be at an emotional disadvantage.

If you disagree, and try to assert that you do indeed love them, you are admitting you don’t know when they are angry. There’s just another reason. So you are admitting that you can’t read the emotions of your partner.

If you disagree, and say you know when they are angry, you are tacitly admitting that you aren’t being clear, because they don’t feel that you know. Another defensive position.

If you agree, then you are tacitly admitting that you don’t love them, because the “If you loved me..” is in the second conditional, meaning a description of an event that isn’t likely true. Yet another defensive position.

No matter how you respond to the actual words or logic in the sentence above, you are doomed to fail. The sentence is constructed to elicit a defensive emotional position, no matter how answer it. Of course, you will feel obligated to apologize for your horrible actions, thereby making this an extremely useful manipulative tactic to solicit an apology or admission of wrongdoing, or an admission of responsibility for your partner’s cruddy emotions.

However, there is another way. Ideally, you want to let your partner know that while you acknowledge their emotions, you are not responsible for them. They are. To do this in the above example, you need to keep your cool, and not get drawn into an argument, no matter how covertly it has been set up.

There are a couple ways of doing this. One is to simply be vague, and not give credence to what they say. This is good for dealing with people that you don’t really have a vested interest in creating a lasting emotional relationship with (like a coworker or somebody else you are kind of forced into dealing with.)

In this case you just pause, as if you are thinking and say:

“Hmm, maybe you’re right.” And then go on about your business. Because the above claim (if you loved me, or cared about me you’d..whatever) has many different levels of meaning, it puts the ball back in their court to explain exactly what they mean.

If you are interested in keeping a health relationship, you’ll need to ignore the surface language, and address the likely underlying emotions. In this case they are either feeling unloved, or they are feeling angry. Just pick, and carefully ask for more information. Be sure to keep an even keel, and not get drawn into an argument.

“What is it about me that makes you think I don’t love you?”
“And why does that (whatever that is) mean that I don’t love you?
“What is it about me that makes you feel angry?”
“Why does that (whatever that is) make you feel angry?”

The trick is to let them know you are interested in them feeling better, while at the same time making them aware that they are responsible for their own emotions.

This can take some practice, but it is very powerful in getting to the bottom of difficult emotions and feelings that can clutter up an otherwise health and rewarding relationship.

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How To Be Assertive And Get What You Want

I was talking to a friend of mine the other day, and he was telling me about this problem he had with a neighbor of his. His neighbor is an old widower, and kind of a lonely guy. I guess his loneliness has caused him to be less polite than you’d normally expect, as he is always imposing himself on my friend.

He’ll come over several times a week, many times without any reason, and just to have somebody to talk to. On the one hand, my friend can appreciate his situation, his kids and grandkids all live in a different state, and the old guy apparently doesn’t like to leave the apartment complex. So it’s easy to have sympathy for somebody like that, but lets be honest. Sympathy can only go so far. Pretty soon your good manners wear thin, and you start to think of reasons to get rid of the guy.

It’s gotten to the point where my friend feels anxious when he goes to do laundry in the shared laundry room. I guess he’s been caught a couple of times loading and unloading clothes, and dragged into some lengthy conversation about times past.

Then his girlfriend suggested he read a book called “When I Say No I Feel Guilty” by Smith. I checked the book out, because my friend really said it helped him. It is a book filled with helpful advice, and strategies to become more assertive. It was written during the seventies, so it’s filled with some references that don’t really work anymore, but the underlying concepts are just as powerful.

Not only can you effectively say “no” to people and reclaim your time, but you can avoid manipulation, and stay out of arguments with no end in sight you’d otherwise get dragged into. The great thing is that the concepts are really easy to understand and apply.

Here is one of my favorites.

One is called the broken record. This is for when you are talking to a salesperson, or a clerk at a store, and they are being less than helpful. Basically it works so well because it effectively defeats any argument somebody throws at you for not being able to do what you are requesting. It’s pretty simple, and works like this.

You figure out what you want, let’s say you want to return or exchange a book you bought at a private bookstore. (Most large chains have a pretty good return policy, so you likely won’t need these skills there.)

So you figure how to word your request, for example:

“I’d like to return this book.”

So far so good, right? Likely, you’ll get some reason why you can’t, especially if it is a family owned store. Even if they have a big sign stating “NO REFUNDS,” this will still work. Small stores (even huge international chains) can pretty much do what they want, despite the seemingly rigidness of their policies. Its’ not like the refund police is going to pop in out of thin air and arrest everybody.

So you say:

“I’d like to return this book.”

And they say:

“We can’t because of blah blah blah…”

The great part is that it doesn’t matter at all what they say for the “blah blah blah” part. You just say:

“I understand that, and I’d like to return this book.”

And just keep repeating this until they cave in, which they usually do pretty quickly when they realize what they are up again. Can you see why this is called the broken record technique? It’s important to stay as calm as possible, and not get angry. It helps to even try not to listen to their excuse at all. Just imagine they are on of those teachers on those old Charlie Brown cartoons.

There are many other techniques in this book, which can do wonders for all your relationships. It’s considered one of the classics of assertiveness, and has helped millions of people since it’s publication. I strongly suggest you pick it up; you can probably buy a used on Amazon for a couple bucks. It’ s great to have a couple copies around to refer to whenever you wish you would have handled a situation a little bit better, so you can study up and improve for the next time.