Assertive communication

Your neighbor complains that your dog barks too loud. Your coworker says that the smell of your lunch distracts her. Your boss criticizes your work product. Your spouse nags you to complete a household task.

Do any of these scenarios sound familiar?

Almost everyone has a need for effective communication skills, but most people believe that theirs could use some improvement.

There are several potentially effective strategies to help you become more assertive, and thus become more confident in your ability to successfully address with the above-mentioned situations (and many more!) to a productive and quick resolution.

First, it's important to remember the following truth:

You cannot control others' behavior.

Many people become indignant when they hear this for the first time. They may insist, "The other person has the problem, not me! Why should I change?"

The reality is that the other person may, indeed, "have a problem" -- but you cannot change another person! Therefore, any accusations of right or wrong become irrelevant. You can only change the way you address yourself to other people, situations, and challenges. By remembering this, you could save yourself substantial time, aggravation and stress.

Consider the scenario of the neighbor complaining about your dog. If you take the time to listen to your neighbor -- in a non-defensive manner -- you may learn that the neighbor likes to sleep until 9 a.m., but your dog is up and ready to play at 6 a.m. A peaceful and productive resolution may be for you (or one of your kids!) to take your dog for a walk in the morning to drain his energy. Your family would get exercise, your dog would be thrilled, and your neighbor may decide that you are the most thoughtful family on the block!

Of course, not all situations can be resolved easily. However, the more you practice your assertiveness skills, the more equipped you will be to handle whatever challenges life throws at you.

Until next time,

Dr. Tracy


Dr. Tracy Mallett is a Licensed Psychologist and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. She is the clinical director at Florida Family Options, where she provides individual therapy, family therapy and couples therapy. She also facilitates batterer's intervention, anger management, parenting education and trauma survivor groups, and supervises interns and student therapists. She can be reached at