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How to Get Your Needs Met (and Most of Your Wants), without Being a Jerk

By November 1, 2014Blogs

Human beings require certain things from their environment in order to survive and thrive. One way to classify these things is to distinguish between needs and wants. Needs are things that are essential to our lives and that we cannot live without. Needs include food, shelter, love, respect, and peace of mind. Wants are important too, but they are not essential to our well-being. Wants include feeling great, being intimate, iphones, and vacations. Everyone’s wants will be different, but people’s needs tend to be the same.

How well we get our needs and wants met depends a lot on our ability to communicate with others. The Relaxation and Stress Reduction Workbook identifies three basic interpersonal styles: aggressive, passive and assertive. Most of us learn these communication styles from our parents. We tend to either adopt their communication style in order to be like them, or take on the opposite style in order to differentiate from them. For instance, if you grew up with a father with an aggressive communication style, you may have developed a passive style in response. Each style has its own ups and downs, and is worth exploring here.
The upside to having an aggressive interpersonal style is that it works well in the short-term. People will usually give you what you are asking for because they are afraid of you. The downside to being aggressive is that while you may get what you are after, it is often at the expense of other people’s feelings. As a result, people will often lie to you in order for you to leave them alone. Bullies are great examples of the aggressive communication style. We probably all know some of these people.
Having a passive interpersonal style has one big upside: because you never ask for anything, you rarely get told ‘no,’ and therefore do not have to feel the pain of rejection. The downside to being passive is that you rarely get your needs met. It is a sad fact of life that people with passive interpersonal styles tend to get stepped on by others. These people are sometimes known as “doormats.”  We probably all know some of them too.
The most effective style is the assertive style. Assertiveness means that you clearly state your needs without making others feel bad in the process. It means that you assert yourself even if others may disagree. You are neither a jerk, nor a doormat. You own the fact that you need or want something, but also respect the fact that others have needs and wants too.
Being assertive has its unique challenges. In the course of communicating your needs, people will sometimes tell you ‘no,’ which can be painful and disappointing to hear. However, being told ‘no’ is a good sign – it means you are not being passive. In fact, if people aren’t telling you ‘no’ once in a while, chances are you are not being assertive enough.
Interpersonal styles can impact the way we parent our children and interact with our spouses. For kids, it can affect the way we interact with friends and teachers. The good news is that just as our communication styles were learned, they can be re-learned. Assertiveness training teaches simple, powerful and practical life skills that can be immediately implemented. Learning these communication skills can be empowering and exciting, and you don’t have to do it alone.
Come to RFC and learn assertiveness in a safe, supportive and fun environment! Call us at 310-268-1888 for more information about teen and adult assertiveness groups.
1 Davis, M., & Eshelman, E. (2008). The relaxation & stress reduction workbook (6th ed.). Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications.