Say What You Mean and Mean What You Say


Do you ever feel frustrated in your relationships about your needs not being met? Have you ever reflected and realized that, perhaps, you weren’t speaking your truth and asking for your needs clearly?

Assertive communication can decrease stress and increase trust within relationships. First, let’s discuss a few different communication styles.

Aggressive: I mean it, or else!

Aggressive communication is often an attempt to force or control a situation. This can sound like statements such as, “Do what I say!” or “Everyone has to agree with me.”

Aggressive parenting can focus on punishments with little acknowledgment or empathy for a child’s experience or needs at the time.

In marriage or romantic relationships, this often throws off the balance so one partner is always “right” or getting their way and the other must comply.

Passive: Do you really mean that?

On the other side of the spectrum is passive communication. One term used to describe this is “doormat.” Passive communicators often stuff down their thoughts and feelings which can create resentment, depression, and a lack of self-awareness.

Passive parenting often results in children that do not know boundaries. The passive parent is “afraid to upset” the child, so they avoid difficult discussions.

 » » » » » » » » » » » » » RELATED READ: Is There a “Right” Way to Parent? « « « « « « « « « « « « «

Passive behavior in relationships can look like: “I will let them make the decisions so they aren’t mad at me” or “I don’t want to rock the boat.” Once again, an imbalance is created if both people aren’t aware and discussing their individual needs. This dynamic can create an environment of blaming and self-denying, which can be very toxic.

Passive Aggressive: Nevermind, you know what I meant.

Passive aggression is like a dance between passivity and aggression. It is often used to try and control others, but usually in a manipulative and dishonest way.

Passive aggressive parenting can appear as telling your child they must hug a relative because it makes your “heart sad” if they don’t give them a hug. In this situation, the child is being held responsible for their parent’s emotions, and thus the child feels pushed to perform to improve the situation.

In relationships, this can be as simple as silent treatment towards your partner while carrying an expectation they know what is bothering you.

Say What You Mean and Mean What You SaySay What You Mean

Assertiveness is one of those skills that’s truly simple but can seem overwhelming for some. “I statements” are excellent for lessening defensiveness and creating an open dialogue about each individual’s needs.

In parenting, this can happen during a moment of overstimulation for the parent. Instead of saying, “You’re always making a mess and stressing me out,” a parent could say, “I’m feeling overwhelmed by the mess. I need to take a minute, and then we need to create more space in the home.”

In relationships, instead of saying, “You don’t care what I’m feeling and you never listen,” you could try something like, “I feel frustrated and not supported. I don’t feel I have space to share my thoughts and feelings in a safe way.”

Getting in Touch with What You Mean

So how do we get the point across? This might take a little time, reflection, meditation, journaling, or possibly therapy if needed. Sometimes we lose sight of what we actually need and want. These can also change over the course of becoming a parent and having priorities shift.

In our effort to take time for ourselves and get in touch with our needs and inner voice, we are modeling this for our children. As they grow older and begin having relationships and children, hopefully, they will use these skills of self-reflection and clear communication.

The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of ABQ Mom, its executive team, other contributors to the site, its sponsors or partners, or any organizations the aforementioned might be affiliated with.