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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
  • instant messaging
  • phone
  • regular mail

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’re saying 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. 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 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

Coming soon…