First learn the meaning of what you say, and then speak. ~Epictetus
Communication is a rather deep topic. It involves perceptions, belief systems, learned behaviours, self-esteem, to only name a few. More often than not, we each fall into one of four communication styles. Being aware of our communication style gives us the upper hand in working towards a more healthy communication style. Of course, you may see yourself a little in each of the categories, but we essential want to strive to be assertive communicators!
The aggressive communicator is the communication bully. They often over-power the conversations and don’t allow others to have their say. They will aggressively ‘dump’ their thoughts, feelings, and beliefs in the laps of others and walk away, not caring about the clean-up. The aggressive communicator loves verbal weapons! They use foul language, loud yelling, name calling, rhetorical questions, sarcasm and you-statements to defend their position. The aggressive communicator frequently changes partners and friendships, as they isolate themselves with these poor communication techniques.
The aggressive communicator needs to learn how to turn on their mental filter. “I don’t care,” the typical dysfunctional thought of an aggressive communicator, can be changed to “I do care, stop and think before you speak!” They can practice active listening by using a pen and paper to write down their thoughts while the other party is speaking and they can practice ‘the pause’ by literally thinking for 30 seconds to one minute before reacting.
The passive communicator is the bullied of the communication. They are the proverbial pressure cooker, stuffing all of their thoughts and emotions down by not expressing themselves clearly. Whether they were the shy kid who never fully developed their communication skills, or they have taught themselves over the years to hold everything in, this communication style is just as unhealthy as the aggressive communication style.
The passive communicator needs to remember that they have personal assertive rights and to stand up for them. It’s ok to say no, speak your mind, and have a say in decisions! “Hmmm” and “I’m not mad,” the typical dysfunctional sayings of a passive communicator, can be changed to “I feel/think that___,” and “Yes, I’m mad, but I want to think about it some more before talking about it.” They can practice eye contact while speaking to others and acting out a conversation before having it.
Take the passive communication style above and add the explosion of the aggressive communication style above that and we have the passive-aggressive communicator! As mentioned above, the passive communicator is the proverbial pressure cooker, when the lid blows, it blows aggressively! The key here is to catch the passive communication style when it’s happening so that it doesn’t lead to the aggression.
The assertive communicator assumes that we all have rights that need to be respected. They practice empathy, active listening, choose their words wisely, understanding all of the information about the situation before commenting, and use their I-statements. They express themselves clearly and calmly without offending the other party. They make sure that their personal needs are met without walking all over those of another. If all of their needs are not able to be met then they are able to compromise and have some of them met, while meeting some of the other party’s needs. Arguments and conflicts are non-issues for the assertive communicator!
WHAT TYPE OF A COMMUNICATOR ARE YOU? I'd love to hear your comments!
In light of my recent radio segment on The Wolf 101.5FM, today I’m going to chat about how to deal with insurance companies, or anyone difficult for that matter. This spring there has been a lot of flooding and this has caused unbelievable amounts of damage to properties. Many owners are left with a number to call, a file number to quote, a long waiting time, and a huge stress on their shoulders.
It’s very difficult dealing with situations such as these because they leave you at a state of constant stress over long periods of time. When we are at a state of crisis (stress) it becomes very difficult for us to deal with situations logically and calmly. When we are talking to insurance companies it can become very frustrating. At times it feels like we have to jump through hoops to get the help that we’ve already paid for. Here are some tools to use, in order to keep yourself calm while dealing with the insurance companies (or anyone who you find it difficult to communicate with).
1. ORGANISE YOURSELF BEFORE THE COMMUNICATION
Get out the good ol’, trusty pen and paper. Write down all of the things that you want to ask. Prepare your thoughts and comments before going in to the conversation. This will help you stay on track and get all of your questions answered.
2. ASK FOR THE AGENT’S NAME
By asking for the agent’s name and using it frequently throughout the conversation, you personalize the conversation. This is helpful on both sides. The agent will feel addressed as a person, not a voice on the other end of the line, and you will be able to remember to empathize with the person.
By remembering that the agent on the other line is just a normal person like you and I, you will be able to have more empathy towards them and not lose your marbles on them if conflict occurs. Remember that they are just the messenger; they don’t own the company or set the rules. Treat them as a person, not a punching bag and you will get much better results. They may know loop holes that aren’t normally shown to the layperson and they may be able to help you file appeals, etc. faster. If you beat the snot out of them verbally, they’ll be less likely to stick their neck out on the line for you.
4. TAKE A TIME OUT IF YOU NEED IT
Simply say “could you please hold?” and put the phone down. Go and breathe deeply for a few minutes, jump up and down, shake it off, get logical again, and then go back to the conversation. Nothing good will come of it if you allow your inner beast to take over! When you return you can either just carry on with the conversation or you can explain that you had to take a minute because you were getting angry.
5. TALK ABOUT THE FACTS
Although we would like to pull the heart strings of the agent, because ours are being pulled, remember to talk facts with the agents. They are trained to be impartial, not to mention the fact that they deal with these matters daily, so most have become calloused to the events. If you are pouring your heart out to the agent and they act impartially, you will most likely get offended, and this is a sure fire way to get angry. Remember to stick to the facts and leave the emotions out of it!
6. SELF-CARE ROUTINE
You’re going through a lot right now! Long-term stress is the silent killer and you have to take care of yourself during this difficult time. Take care of yourself! Eat a healthy and balanced diet, exercise regularly, practice your self-calming techniques, and remember to do what you like (be that reading, watching a movie, going to the show). During my segment on The Wolf, I told the listeners to kick back, have a beer and watch the game. I've got a lot of comments about that recently, which all make me laugh. The point is to RELAX, I don't promote getting drunk, nor the intake of alcohol in order to relax, but I do know that there are many people who do just that. If you are one of them, then a beer or two isn't a big deal, don't use it as a crutch or an instrument for relaxation though.
Let me tell you all about a little story....a personal story about a recent anger situation. In my classes I teach my clients about a part of our brain called the reptilian brain. What's that? Well, it's the innermost part of our brain that houses all of the most reptile-like parts of us. Think alligators...they like to eat, reproduce, and defend their territory with aggression. We all have these impulses within us and the reptile in me came out recently!
So, there I was sitting in my home office, finishing up some work before closing up shop for the night. Click-ity-click-click-click. Suddenly, there was a large crash in the lower level of our back-split home. I was finishing up the last line of a time-sensitive e-mail, so initially I ignored the crash, thinking that my new puppy (a.k.a. the monster) had knocked something over. I figured I'd check it out in one minute once the shop was closed for the night, not wanting to lose my train of thought so close to the end.
I started to hear a strange snorting sound. This made me bolt out of my chair, thinking that the puppy had hurt himself, maybe something had fallen ON TOP of him!! Running faster (with the other puppy at my heals), I turned the bend in our hallway and noticed lots of stuff all over the bathroom floor...Strange! There isn't anything that the puppy can get into in the bathroom. I approached the door, running to the rescue of the monster, and stop DEAD in my tracks...but not for long!!
There, standing in the middle of my bathroom, was a HUGE (we're talking a small bear here people...or at least it felt like that to me) raccoon!!! That's right! A WILD RACCOON WAS IN MY HOME! Now, I handled this situation like any other reasonable person would....I ran screaming down the hall, yelling at my daughter to get in the room, and shaking from the adrenaline that was rushing through me!
Luckily, my daughter grabbed both of our puppies and locked herself in her room quickly, until I told her that it was ok to come out. After knowing that she was safe (ready to fight the bear-raccoon with my bare hands if it tried to attack my family), I ran downstairs and opened the front door and waited....
Mr. Coon took his sweet time to saunter down the stairs and out the front door, while I kindly held it open for him (hiding on the opposite side of course). It doesn't surprise me that he felt the home was his own, he was living in the attic for who knows how long!
So, we have a new roof now, and we are living happily, coon-free, ever after! I learnt that although I am able to manage my daily stresses and anger very well, I still have a ways to go with my defensive, reptilian anger!
I am the founder of The Anger Managers, a clinic that provides court-approved psycho-educational courses and workshops to individuals and corporations