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Communication is how we share ideas, but it’s also how we get our needs met (so, pretty important). Basically, when we communicate we are sending and receiving messages. There are many different ways we send and receive messages. Here are just a few:

  • talking face to face
  • texting
  • emails
  • social media (Snapchat, facebook, Instagram, etc.)
  • phone
  • regular mail (haha!)

Did you know?

93% of what you communicate comes across from your facial expressions, tone of voice, as well as your body language. That means the words you say make up only 7% of the message you are a sending. So it’s not so much what you say that matters, but how you say it.

Emails, texts and instant messaging cut out that whole 93% of communication that shows us the feeling behind the message. This can lead to misunderstandings which can cause problems! Using emoticons like smiley faces :) , “jk” or “lol”, or adding your feelings in brackets (seriously) can help others understand what you are really trying to say. To learn more about the skills of communicating, read on!

Three Types of Communication

Assertive Communication:

  • Getting your own needs met while at the same time respecting other person’s needs.
  • Acting confident without being pushy or bullying.
  • Talking as well as listening to other people.
  • Negotiating with respect.

This type of communication is a good way of getting your needs met while being respectful and giving the other person space as well.

Four Easy Steps to Communicate Assertively

  1. Explain your feelings and the problem using “I” statements (“I feel… when… because…”)
  2. Make your request (“I would like…” or “I wish you would”)
  3. Ask how other person feels about request (“Is that okay with you?”)
  4. Accept with thanks (“Great, I appreciate that.”)

Aggressive Communication:

  • Putting yourself first before others by overpowering, threatening, or bullying people.
  • Not listening to other people’s opinions.
  • Taking what you want, but often not getting respect from others.

Passive Communication:

  • Putting others first before you all the time.
  • Always giving in to what others want
  • Staying silent when something bothers you.
  • Apologizing a lot for no reason
  • Not able to stick up for yourself or others

Assertive communication is a great way to make sure that both people are getting a chance to voice their needs/opinions and that all people are feeling respected. It’s not easy, but it can be worth it. Also, being assertive is expected in a lot of places in North America, it’s what a lot of schools teach and what employers often look for in job interviews and on the job.

However, we know that assertive communication is not always the best. Sometimes we need to use our best judgment in choosing what type of communication style to use especially when safety is concerned or when we feel threatened. Communication is also shown differently across cultures. For example, in some cultures communicating respectfully can mean putting other people’s voices before your own or not looking people in the eyes.

Gender Roles & Communication
Gender” means whether people identify as being male or female, neither or both. Our society usually recognizes male and female the most, but we know that there are other genders too. A “role” is a part someone acts out, like in a play. People are raised to act a certain way (play a role) based on whether they are born with a penis or a vagina. For example…

Our society teaches boys that:

  • Little boys play with trucks and wear blue.
  • Boys should be aggressive, take what they want.
  • Boys should not cry or talk about their feelings.

Our society teaches girls that:

  • Little girls play with dolls and wear pink.
  • Girls should be passive.
  • Girls are very emotional and it’s not “lady-like” to show anger or be loud.

When it comes to communication these roles are not helpful and sometimes harmful because:

  • Girls are taught to be passive and not speak out about their needs and guys are taught to be aggressive and do what they want without thinking about the other person.
  • If this played out in a sexy situation between a guy and a girl, it could mean that the guy is aggressive and does not ask for permission (consent) or consider/ask what the girl wants and the girl may not feel comfortable saying no or voicing what she wants or needs. This could lead to sexual assault or a lot of other problems in the relationship.
  • It makes it harder for people to express themselves and talk about problems or important issues like condom use in a respectful/safe way.
  • It doesn’t make space for other genders and assumes someone’s gender based on their genitals.
  • It is limiting and people can feel pressure to act the role and not be who they really are just to fit in or to avoid being made fun of.

What Can You Do?
Asking yourself the three questions below can help you figure out how to talk about an issue or a problem in relationships.

What can be hard to talk about?

Why is it hard to talk about these things?

  • Scared to bring it up
  • Embarrassed
  • No information
  • No privacy
  • Gender roles
  • Don’t know exactly what you want to say
  • Don’t know how to say it
  • Feeling like you don’t have the right to say what is on your mind.

How can you make it easier?

  • Bring it up by making a joke or telling a story about something you heard or saw the other day
  • Get information before you talk
  • Set aside a time and a quiet place just to talk
  • Know that you have the right to be heard (and they do too!)
  • Practice what you want to say (by writing it down, with a friend, in the mirror, or with a pet).

Listening to a Friend
When supporting friends, it’s important to remember how it feels to not be listened to, how hard it is to talk about some things, and how hard it can be to reach out for help. Here are some tips on how to be an active listener. Remember, you don’t have to be a stiff robot! These are some suggestions that can make sure the person we are listening to knows that we are supportive.

F- Face the person (your shoulders squared to theirs)

E- Maintain good eye contact

L- Lean towards the other person

O- Have an open posture (crossed arms and legs are a non-verbal sign of disinterest)

R- Respect physical boundaries (sitting too close or too far away can make the other person feel vulnerable or disconnected from you)

Everyone has their own style that works best for them, and culturally, not all of this is helpful (e.g. Eye contact), however, if you want to show the person you are talking to that you are interested in what they have to say, it helps to keep this in mind. For example, if you have folded arms because you are cold, but know that closed arms show people that you aren’t interested in what they have to say, you can say ‘I am interested in what you are saying, but just so you know, I have my arms crossed because it’s freezing in here.’

We can all be great supports. Sometimes it might just take a bit of practice!

Questions About Communication

How do I ask for consent?
 For any sexual activity to happen, both people need to consent, or say yes, willingly and freely. We don’t often see examples of consent in the media so sometimes we may not know how to ask. Asking for consent works by checking in with the other person about the sexual activity you’re interested in doing. It will feel more comfortable if you put it into your own words.  Asking for consent can sound sexy and ensure that everyone is having a good time.

Here are some suggestions to help you get started:

  • “Would be okay with you if… ?”
  • “I’ve always wanted to try ___ what do you think?”
  • “This feels good for me, does it feel good for you?”
  • “Are you comfortable with this?”
  • “How do you feel about this?”
  • “Do you like this?”
  • “What are you comfortable with?”
  • “What do you like?”
How can I be a better communicator?
Being a good communicator means being able to speak clearly with another person. It also means being able to express one’s own needs and wants while listening to the needs and wants of the other person. This means taking the time to say exactly what a person wants to say while being curious about the other person too.
I tried asking assertively, but they still said no. What do I do?
Assertive communication doesn’t guarantee that we always get what we want; it’s about having respectful conversations. The truth is we are all told no at some point in our life.  It may not feel good if someone says no when we ask for consent, but it’s important to always respect their answer.
How can I get something like a picture off the internet?
If there is an image or video of you on the internet, you can take steps to have this content removed. Needhelpnow.ca is a site that can be helpful if a you want to have images taken down. Most of the popular websites or social networking sites have a “report” option that someone could click on. When making a report, state your age, identify yourself as the person in the picture or video and object to the posting of the content.
How can I be better understood when I text?
Ensure that you are offering more than one or two word responses. Make sure to notice that you are doing half of the texting with the other person. Make sure to respond to open ended questions when the other person asks you about your opinion. If things are becoming heated, consider talking o he person on the phone or in person.
How can I be a better listener?
Being a good listener depends on who is talking, but here are some skills that can help show a speaker that you are paying attention. Instead of judging them, be curious. Be aware of your body language. Focus on the person who is talking. Listen carefully and try not to get distracted. If emotions are running high, try problem solving ways of calming down. Make sure that the speaker feels listened to and understood, and ask clarifying questions if you do not understand.