We all face situations when it is difficult to respond to people who are intimidating or deal with a friend or family member who’s a constant drain on our energy. Sometimes you may want to discuss your concerns with that person, but you are unsure how they will respond. These types of situations can create huge amounts of stress that sometimes last long after the conversation ends. While you can’t change others personalities, you can do a lot to change how you address others.

Assertion is an honest and appropriate expression of one’s feelings, opinions, and needs. Asserting yourself allows you to stand up for your rights and not be taken advantage of. While the listed techniques may not always work, having a well thought out plan can be helpful in not only stating your needs, but also getting your point across clearly.

Planning a Time to Talk

It’s hard to talk when you’re ready to burst with feelings of anger or you are so tired you can’t think straight. One of the first steps in being able to discuss difficult topics is designating a time and place to talk. Setting a time and place to talk helps to decrease the chances for conflict or avoidance related to someone being unable to fully engage in the conversation. This first step is vital in not only making sure the conversation occurs, but that both people are ready to begin the discussion.

Watch Those You’s

Striving to keep your statements assertive can help the conversation move in a more beneficial direction. Saying statements such as “I’m feeling neglected” versus “You just don’t care about me,” keep the focus on your needs. Phrases starting with “I” are usually less likely to come across as critical and make the listener defensive. Try describing what you see instead of accusing or blaming. Changing “You never watch the baby,” to, “I seem to be the only one chasing after Alex today” can help prevent the other person from feeling attacked and waging a defense than really considering your point.

Clarity is King

While you may think that others understand your needs and desires, unless you have stated them they may go unheard. Instead of “You left the dining room a total mess,” say, “I’d appreciate it if you would clean your stuff off the dining room table.” Instead of “You never have time for me anymore,” say, “Remember how we used to go out every Saturday night? I loved spending so much time alone with you. Let’s start doing that again.” However justified or irritated you may feel, blaming the other person will not produce beneficial results. In keeping your statements focused on your requests instead of the others person’s personality or character, the conversation has a better chance of ending with your concerns being heard.

When All Else Fails

The time will come when all your attempts to stay assertive and steer the conversation in a productive direction may fail. Fear not, there is still hope in keeping the discussion focused on your concerns and not getting swayed into a verbal battle royale. Here are four techniques that can give you the needed advantage for staying positive and not reacting to another’s statements.

The Broken Record

When you find that you are dealing with someone who has no interest in listening to your request, you can use this technique so you are not sidetracked by another persons irrelevant issues. Make sure that you acknowledge the other persons point, and calmly restate your “broken record” statement. Remember, you are going on the offensive, no more reacting to others emotionally charged statements.


When someone is critical of you, sometimes agreeing with the criticism can keep you from reacting defensively. This method can help in taking the wind out of another’s statement designed to fuel conflict. Responding to a statement like, “You’re and idiot” with, “I guess sometimes I could be a little thoughtless” can help to lessen the chance for conflict.

Content-to-Process Shift

There are times in conversations when people may drift away from the topic being discussed. You can get back on topic by shifting the focus from the subject being discussed (content) to what is going on between you and the other person (process). For example, you could say, “We have moved away from what we agreed to talk about” or, “I feel uncomfortable discussing this topic further, I noticed that we are both starting to raise our voice.” The trick to using this technique is to comment on what’s happening without placing blame or criticizing the other person.

Assertive Inquiry

When you are verbally attacked, attempt to find out where the other person is having trouble with your request. While this technique invites criticism, you have a better chance understand what is bothering the other person. This technique will give you a chance to discuss an issue that has yet to be verbalized or bring the focus back to solving the original concern. For example you might say, “I understand you don’t like the way I have decided to plan the vacation. What is it about my planning that bothered you? What is it about the plan that you feel is too stressful?”

If you’re in the Atlanta area and you want to schedule an appointment with Adam Bagley visit Thriveworks Atlanta or call us at 404-682-1923.