Human beings are structured to interact and this is through communication, verbal or otherwise. Hence, it is of utmost importance that we are able to communicate effectively with various people in different places and situations. However simple communication may seem to be, there are times that we do not get our point across to the other party for one reason or another.
The problem is mostly on us as the conveyors of the message and at all times, improvements need to be done to ensure clarity in communication. In this paper, I will tackle a personal barrier that hinders interpersonal communication (IPC), how it affects communication and how best to improve.
Aspect of Interpersonal Communication That Needs Work
Interpersonal communication has been defined as the process in which we share out our “ideas, thoughts and feelings to another person” (Foundation n.d., p.1). However, this process encounters obstacles along the way and the sources vary, one of them being the communicator.
A personal area that needs to be improved is the lack of assertiveness which is a big hindrance in communication. Assertiveness is one of the four styles of communication, the other three being; passive, aggressive and passive-aggressive communication (Kardol n.d.). Assertiveness can be defined as “standing up for rights and expressing feelings in an honest, open and direct way which do not violate another person’s rights” (Grey Owl, 2004, p.1).
Lack of assertiveness would therefore mean: the presence of the belief that as an individual, “I do not have the right to ask for what I want”; fearing getting a negative feedback from the recipients of the message; a defensive approach in communication while guarding oneself from those who might take advantage; and finally inadequate skills (Kardol, n.d. p.2).
Causes of Lack of Assertiveness
What causes a lack of assertiveness? There are many contributors to this i.e. self-esteem, incompetence or self-fulfilling prophecy. Self-esteem is the “evaluation and judgment or how we feel about ourselves” (Edwards, 2007, p.4). If it is low, then chances are there will be tendencies to avoid speaking in public. If it high on the other hand, our communication will be effective (Grey Owl 2004). Self-esteem also influences our self-image and will determine how the listeners receive our message (Edwards 2007). Low self-esteem is also likely to get negative feedback from the listeners.
Self-fulfilling prophecy on the other hand is the way in which “we predict, or prophesize something to be true” (Edwards, 2007, p.4). This can either have a positive or negative impact especially with the outcome we expect. For instance if I truly believe I will fall on the stage when delivering a speech, chances are that it will happen and it will be because the idea will have been deeply synthesized in my mind to the point of becoming a reality.
Another hurdle to assertiveness is incompetency. If we do not feel confident enough to fulfill the role assigned to us due to lack of knowledge, then chances are we look down ourselves and feel ‘we do not have the right to ask’ since we do not even know our duty in the first place. A person who is knowledgeable on the other hand is able to accomplish their tasks confidently (Foundation n.d.).
Improving Lack of Assertiveness
How then can lack of assertiveness be improved to ensure effective communication in the long run? Engaging in self-talk, visualization, seeking to become knowledgeable; are some ways to improving assertiveness. Self-talk for instance is a way of counteracting low self-esteem. Becoming knowledgeable will involve initially getting acquainted with the “communication process and fully understanding it in order to know how to deliver messages correctly (Foundation n.d., p.2). Being knowledgeable gives confidence (Foundation n.d.).
In the article by Grey Owl (2004), being assertive involves knowing one’s right and it is on this premise that improvement should be made. These rights include: “rights to have and express your own feeling and ideas, rights to be listened to and taken seriously, right to ask for what you want, right to get some of your own needs met, rights to be treated with respect, right to say ‘no’…and not feel guilty, right to ask for information from others” (Grey Owl, 2004, p.2). With a full knowledge of these rights, then one is on the pathway of assertiveness.
Visualization is the other way in which self-esteem can be improved and consequently achieving assertiveness in the process. It involves foreseeing positive results instead of negative ones. Alternatively, one can use a positive self-fulfilling prophecy in order to obtain good results.
Assertiveness is of great importance since it “helps individuals to be clear on what they want and to act in a positive, honest, direct and self-enhancing way without diminishing self” (Grey Owl, 2004, p.2). It also puts emphasizes on both sides of the story i.e. both parties can air their opinions and views without infringing anyone’s rights (Grey Owl 2004).
Effective interpersonal communication will be best achieved by identification of the barrier. In this case lack of assertiveness. Once this is done, then solutions to improving assertiveness will not only improve the communication but will ensure the right results are achieved.
Edwards, C. (2007). Theories and Principles of Interpersonal Communication. Web.
Foundation. (n.d.). Effective Interpersonal/ Intrateam Communication. Web.
Grey, O. (2004). Lack of Assertiveness. Web.
Kardol, C. (n.d.). Communication Skills. Web.