Usually, the discussions are not tasteful to anyone. Many times they are generated by the lack of certain social or communication skills that end up exploding causing us to lose control and end up screaming. Is it really necessary to reach these extremes? The lack of assertiveness is one of the most common causes in the discussions.
A while ago we dedicated an article to nonviolent Communication and assertive communication, before continuing I recommend you to read it. To be assertive involves knowing one’s own rights and defending them, respecting others. Express feelings both positive and negative without being aggressive. On this occasion we will focus more specifically on assertive techniques to avoid inappropriate discussions.
>> Related article: The 19 basic assertive rights.
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7 Assertive techniques to avoid arguments.
Social skills can be trained and improved. It is about developing the behavioral deficits that a person has in reference to their external behavior. Assertive response is one of these skills which is not very useful when we have to face a discussion. Here are some recommended assertive techniques to avoid arguments:
1. Striped disc.
As the name says, the scratched disc consists of repeating one’s point of view again and again, in a calm and quiet manner, without entering into provocations or discussions and keeping a calm tone of voice.
Imagine this exemplary situation that is sure to be at many family dinners on Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve. Try to avoid the typical arguments with your brother-in-law:
Other: I think Cristiano Ronaldo should win the Golden Ball and not Messi.
You: Messi is a better player, he should win.
Other: What’s up! Cristiano Ronaldo has made a very good season and has won titles.
You: That’s true, but Messi is generally a better player.
Other: You do not know what you’re saying! Cristiano Ronaldo has scored many goals and won the most important competitions.
You: I understand, but I still think Messi is better and the prize is given to the best.
Other: You have no idea!
You: I do not know if I’m right or not, but for my Messi is the best and I keep my idea.
The most probable thing in this situation is that your brother-in-law, seeing that you are firm in your opinion ends up by not insisting on the same subject.
2. Fog bank.
In this case, the technique consists in giving the other person reason in what you consider to be true of your opinion or criticism, but refusing to enter into further discussions. We always reserve our right to be our own judge regarding our behavior. It is used when the other person tries to manipulate persistently and reduce with it the levels of anxiety and hostility, avoiding going into justifications. That is to say, I give you the reason in some thing but I maintain my general opinion on the matter. We must avoid saying it sarcastically or ironic.
Other: You should buy a new mobile phone, I know a lot of offer.
You: You’re right, this phone is already a bit old.
Other: If you do not change your mobile you will not be able to update it to the latest versions.
You: Yes, it is possible.
Other: You know that now they have much more memory capacity, you could get more and better photos.
You: Right, you’re right. When I have time I will go and look at one.
Other: Look at these new models that are cheap. I buy them in China!
You: I do not want to look at them now, maybe tomorrow I’ll take a look at them. I’ll ask you if I have any questions. Thank you.
With this technique it forces us to listen and respond only to what the other person is telling us and allows us to think in terms of probabilities with which we can always agree with the part of the truth that exists in the critic.
3. Assertive deferment.
As the word says, it is a question of postponing the response that we are going to give the person who is criticizing us, until we feel more calm and able to respond in a correct way. It is very useful when the criticism is very direct and offensive, when they make you feel pressured to answer. This technique can be combined with the previous two striped disk and fog bank. Two will not discuss if one does not want to.
Other: If you want, I’ll buy your new phone and I’ll buy it now! There is a very good offer right now on Amazon Offers!
You: Oh, yes? I find it interesting, but I have to think better before deciding whether or not to change the phone.
Other: You will know! But, the offer ends in a few hours.
You: If I do not say that the offer is not good, but I think and this week I think and tell you.
Other: The offer will eventually run out.
You: Well, I tell you in the next few days and if it is not that offer sure there are others.
4. Process the change.
When a conversation is beginning to rise, it is better to shift the focus of the discussion to an analysis of what is happening. It is about getting out of the content of what we are talking about so that we can see it from another perspective.
Example of an answer after a long conversation that leads nowhere.
You: I think we’re getting out of the conversation, maybe it’s too late to talk about this and we’re not thinking clearly.
This technique can be applied when the caller is angry. It is similar to assertive deferment, we do not enter into the discussion and it is left for another time. We must be careful that when we say it we do not seem abrupt and do it in a relaxed and empathetic way.
Another: You never listen to anything I tell you! Answer me!
You: I will not answer that until you speak to me correctly and you are calmer.
6. Assertive agreement.
It is a technique similar to the fog bank, but goes a little further. It is not only a question of giving up the ground without further comments but we try to make it clear that one thing is that there has been an error and another thing is the general assessment made of our person.
Other: You never come with me to watch football!
You: You’re right that I’m not going, but it’s because I match the job. When I do not agree I always try to go.
7. Assertive question.
In this case it is useful for people close to us (your brother-in-law, for example). We start from the basis that the other person is right in their criticism. We will try to avoid the discussion by performing a “manipulative” criticism, causing the other person to stop making moral judgments about us and our behavior by asking him assertively to tell us what he wants. It is about requesting more information or exhausting it in case it is manipulative. We should not use it with sarcasm or irony to avoid provoking anger in the other person.
Other: You never come with me to watch football!
You: What do you think I could do to try to go and see a game with you?
It is important that these techniques combine them with good non-verbal language. I invite you to read the following article: The blockages and barriers in nonverbal communication.
Castanyer, O.; Estela O. (2013) Asertividad en el trabajo: Cómo decir lo que siento y defender lo que pienso. Editorial Conecta.