How to help your teen respectfully ask for what they need:
The doctor in my office recently coined the term “appropriately assertive” when he was working with a company that was attempting to fix a busted pipe in his back yard. He explained that they had not identified the problem correctly, thus adding more time and money to the plumbing issue. He wanted to bring that to their attention in order to not have to pay for the extra work and equipment due to their own error. We find ourselves in these situations nearly everyday, and most of us will have one of two responses: either not say anything because it could get awkward, or overreact.
I often see this with teenagers as well. Most are not as comfortable with verbal communication versus written (texting), therefore they would rather not say anything. This type of communication takes practice, and personally it has been something I have just started to put into practice in the last 5 years. I can be seen as a very laid back person who does not want to rock the boat, therefore when this skill was taught to me in my masters program, it took some practice to make it a habit in my daily life.
Some key things to remember when being assertive:
Remain calm when talking, notice your breath and remember to breathe! This can be very helpful!
Display respect for the other person in your face and body posture. This means have a neutral or positive expression; have a relaxed body stature that is open for communication.
Look people in the eye, not looking down or off in the distance.
Start sentences with "I" and keep the conversation about you. "I ordered this, and this came instead"… NOT "You brought me the wrong thing"! "I expected the work to look like this"… but instead "it looks...." NOT "YOU did this wrong and I want my money back!"
Focus on listening to what the person is actually saying, not rehearsing in your head your rebuttal for their thought.
When people hear the word assertive people, it may have a negative connotation, but that does not have to be the case. It is often more difficult for women to be assertive since they don’t want to come off too directive, having an opinion, or bossy. Of course, this is a horrible stereotype and I want my adolescent girl clients to know that they have every right to state a need, idea, or opinion just like any other human being. It may be a more difficult dance for us girls, but it is worth it to know that we communicated what wanted and needed in a given situation and were effective in our communication.
***Disclaimer: This blog is the opinion of an individual and does not constitute professional advice or a professional relationship to the reader. If you are seeking mental health services, please contact a therapist in your area. If you are experiencing an emergency, please go to the nearest hospital or call 911.***