Episode recap: Assertive Communication with Paulette Dale

In the fifth episode of the Joy Superpowers series, we had the chance to discuss with Paulette Dale about assertive communication and the connection between language use and well-being. Paulette is a professor in linguistics and communication, the author of “Did You Say Something, Susan?” as well as an acknowledged speaker. Here are her key messages!

“Yes, language can construct the world”

Words are a powerful tool that not only impact the vision we have of others, but also the vision we have of ourselves. The way we describe others and ourselves might turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy. If we think of children or people that are being gaslighted, we can easily see how phrases like “you’re too sensitive” or “you’re not going to succeed” will turn into truths for those concerned. Likewise, using demeaning language minimizes the value of the person in question. 

On the other hand, language can change the world. Calling people with the names and pronouns they wish to be called is a statement for dignity. Likewise, by choosing to compliment others we can give people faith in their own abilities. Complimenting is an assertive act because it requires us to overcome the fear of the receiver’s response.

Assertiveness for equality

“Assertiveness is often confused with aggressiveness.” – Paulette Dale

Assertiveness is standing up for yourself, expressing feelings directly and firmly and establishing equal relationships that take both people’s emotions in account. Since communication is the base for our relationships and relationships are the greatest source of satisfaction in our life, it’s crucial to know how to express yourself without giving in or stepping on others’ toes. 

According to Mayo Clinic’s article (that Paulette highly recommends) assertiveness helps you to build self-confidence and honest relationships. It also enables you to get in touch with your feelings. Doing things to please others causes anger whereas forcing your way makes others avoid you: cultivating assertiveness respects both your and your discussion partner’s opinion.

Strategies for respect

“Being liked and being respected are not mutually exclusive” – Paulette Dale

According to Paulette, especially women are still being socialized to keep the peace at the cost of expressing diverging but important opinions. If you feel like you’re not listened to, then you might want to try out these tips:

1. Cut the tag questions. Tag questions (like isn’t it) are great in informal conversations, but in the public sphere they make you come across insecure. Instead, a “thank you” and “please” will ensure politeness without risking your credibility.

2. Don’t let yourself become interrupted. If it’s about a meeting, ask the meeting leader beforehand to intervene in case someone tries to steal your turn. If there’s a habitual interruptor, talk with him beforehand. Raising your hand and asking to finish your turn is also a powerful tool.

3. Avoid vocal fillers. If in the middle of your turn you take a moment of reflection, prefer silence over “uhms”: it signals that you’re thinking instead of hesitating.

Do you master the superpower of assertive communication? Or on the contrary, do you often find yourself saying “yes” when you want to say “no”? Tell us about your assertive and not-so-assertive moments in the comments down below! You can also spark the conversation on social media with the hashtag #joysuperpowers. Listen to the whole episode with Paulette here.

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