Family Affairs: Communication: Teens And Giants

Family Affairs
Communication: Teens And Giants

I love it! The one-panel cartoon shows a skinny, blue-jeans-wearing teen with spiked hair looking up at a Goliath-size bruiser dressed only in a leopard skin and carrying a club. Both are standing at the entrance to a telephone booth. The feet of the contenders leave no doubt about who got their first-by a toenail.
The kid is looking up into the eyes of Goliath, declaring, "I promised to call my mom at this particular time, and I intend to do that!"
Whoa! Time out!
What are possible worst-case scenarios?
1. The giant plods forward. He flexes his muscles and taps his club on the tips of the teen's gym shoes. Squeezing into the phone booth, he settles in for an extended call. The teen had rapidly backed off and cowers, steaming as the minutes tick away.
2. The teen assumes an aggressive karate position. Goliath lurches backward. The kid wins the phone.
3. The teen and the giant engage in combat. A passerby goes into the phone booth and calls an ambulance that carries them both to the hospital. The passerby has control of the phone.
Back to the cartoon.
On hearing the teen's need, the expression on Goliath's face and in his body language clearly reads, "OK, kid. I respect your need." The teen's final words: "Be off in a sec!"
So who was assertive? Both the teen and the giant.
Who needed to be assertive? Both the teen and the giant.
Who won? Both the teen and the giant.
Assertive persons clearly express their rights or needs. They tend to face problems promptly and focus on solutions rather than on problems. The teen was pretty much on target.
Assertive persons may not necessarily like a person's words, tone, or behavior nor desire to be liked by that person. But they do respect others and their rights and/or needs. The giant was big on assertiveness.
The assertive person's behaviors are designed to promote communication and problem-solving.
I invite you to mentally replay the teen vs. giant scenario, referencing your most often repeated conflicts within your home. Analyze your part in the conflicts.
* Like the teen, do you express your needs and opinions forthrightly-and possibly a tad too passionately.
* Like the giant, do you listen between the words, with your eyes as well as your ears, and keeping your emotions in control?
* Is your focus on being the sole winner? Or like the giant and the teen, do you tend to the needs of the opposition?
Being assertive is a growth process. You can become more assertive than you are now by increasing your understanding of the idea and by practicing assertive behaviors.
Regardless of age, size, or roles in the home, assertive people are able to be more open to information and to be more effective in analyzing and evaluating the value of what they hear and see. Parents must teach their children these skills by words and actions. Children must learn and apply assertiveness tactics. Family members have more at stake than strangers at a phone booth.

Faith Johnson Crumbly is a writer and motivational speaker for Essential Pieces Communication Strategies, essentialpieces@gmail.com.