Do we communicate our feelings associated with a need or do we communicate a need? How important it is to communicate right need / want. All forms of communication are ok as long as we are sure of which one we are using and the awareness that one has multiple options to choose from. Lets…

In a day to day life an important piece of communication is how do we express our wants and needs to others. This type of social interaction is important in every relationship like peers, friends and family, in working relationships. It becomes little more tricky if the other person is either elder or superior in working hierarchy or a bossy stranger. Many a times expressing our needs or wants also become a source of conflict.

It would be nice if children are exposed to 3 broader category of responsive communication.

  1. Passive Response
  2. Aggressive Response
  3. Assertive Response

Adopting one category of response does not indicate other 2 responses fall in wrong category. But one need to understand that these 3 categories increase my option of responding in a given situation.

Let’s take a real example to understand the responses in each category. Following incident happened during our surfing trip at Mulki. 

One of the surfing instructors was teasing a few children and also disturbing a group of children that were working (on their secondary objectives) by passing unsolicited comments. Few in the group were not able to say anything to the instructor with the apprehension that it may be rude, or it would create problems.

Let’s see what would be a response in each category

  1. Passive response – Stay quiet or move away quietly from that place. Not expressing one’s needs or wants
  2. Aggressive response – The expression may show some kind of anger or irritation and the respond may be like “Can’t you see you are disturbing us. Stop that” or “Stop teasing them otherwise ….”
  3. Assertive response – The expression will be somewhat calm but clear. It may be like ” “I need to focus on my work, can you please talk elsewhere.” Or “I am not liking this person being teased, can we avoid focusing on one person and all focus on our work.” or even saying, I am moving to another place as I am getting disturbed by all the talking that is happening here.”

Do these responses tell our needs or just express an emotion.

  1. The passive response is primarily based on fear. somewhere we feel we are not right (I am not right/ Others are right)
  2. The aggressive response is primarily based on anger. We feel the other person is wrong (I am right / you are wrong)
  3. The assertive response actually states one’s needs. We don’t have notions of rights and wrongs. We see our needs and we also try to see other person’s needs (I am right and other person is also right)

Remember that all the above three categories are important to have. No one way of response is superior to other. It is the awareness which matters – that I have multiple ways of responding based on situation and people.

Also, no matter how we express, the other person would respond in any which way, based on his or her beliefs, needs /wants and feelings.

While returning from Mulki, in the train, one child said to a lady at 6am, “I want to sleep, can you keep volume low (she was playing bhajans at loud volume)”. She retorted, “You all were talking loudly in the night, I did not complain!” But she did lower the volume :).

We presume that “how we respond” is an important aspect of our social interaction and is significantly important to all the parents and children. Hence requesting families to have long meaningful conversations on these three categories with their children. We all can use situations from movies, storybooks, day to day interactions etc. to fuel these discussions