Assertiveness means standing up for ourselves in inter personally effective ways that exercise our personal rights while respecting the rights of others. Failure to be assertive may keep you from achieving your goals and may lower your self esteem. We can understand the specific qualities of assertive communication best if we contrast it with other ways of interacting when we believe our rights, feeling, or needs are in danger of being violated or ignored.

Contrasting Methods of Expressing Our Needs and Rights

When we believe our rights, feelings, or needs are being ignored or violated by others, we can choose to behave in one of three ways: passively, aggressively or assertively

Passive behavior

People behave passively when they do not state their opinions, share feelings, or assume responsibility for their actions. They may behave
passively because they fear reprisal, are insecure about their knowledge, or for some other reason. Whatever their motivation, instead of attempting to influence others’ behavior, they submit to other people’s demands, even when doing so is-inconvenient, against their best interests, or violates their rights. For example~ hen Bill was ingratiating the new color television he purchased at a local department store, he noticed a scratch on. the left side of the cabinet. If Bill is upset about the scratch but keeps the set without trying to get the store to replace it, he is behaving passively.

Assertive behavior

As we have noted, behaving assertively means standing up for yourself in an inter personally effective way. The difference between assertive behavior and passive or aggressive behavior is not the original feeling

Distinguishing among Passive, Aggressive, and Assertive Responses

Because our interpersonal exchanges will often involve the need to assert ourselves, it is important to learn to distinguish among passive, aggressive, and assertive responses. To highlight the contrasts among the three response styles, let’s examine two situations in which the issue is the quality of interpersonal relations.

At work Tanisha works in an office that employs both men and women. Whenever the boss has an especially interesting and challenging job to be done, he assigns it to a male coworker whose desk is next to Tanisha’s. The boss has never said anything to Tanisha or to the male employee that would indicate he thinks Jess of Tanisha or her ability. Nevertheless, Tanisha is hurt by the boss’s behavior.

Passive: Tanisha says nothing to the boss. She is very hurt by what she feels is a slight but swallows her pride. Aggressive. Tanisha marches into her boss’s office and says, “Why the hell do you always give Tom the plums and leave me the garbage? I’m every bit as good a worker, and I’d like a little recognition” Assertive: Tanisha arranges a meeting with her boss. At the meeting, she says, “I don’t know whether you are aware of it, but during the last three weeks, every time you had a really interesting job to be done, you gave the job to Tom. To the best of my knowledge, you believe Tom and I are – equally competence you’ve never given me any evidence to suggest that you thought less of my work. But when you ‘reward’ Tom with jobs that I perceive as plums and continue to offer routine jobs, it hurts my , feelings. Do you understand Feelings about this?” In this statement, she has described her perception or the boss’s behavior and her which cf her responses wound be most likely to achieve her goal of getting better assignments Probably the assertive behavior. Which of her responses would be most likely to get her fired? Probably the aggressive behavior. And which of her responses would be least likely to “rock the boat”? Undoubtedly the passive behavior-but then she would continue to get the boring job assignments.

With a friend Dan is a doctor doing his residency at City Hospital. He live with two other residents in an·apartment they have rented. Carl, one of the other residents, is the social butterfly of the group. Whenever Carl has time off, it seems that he has a date. Like the others, Carl is 2 bit short of cash, but doesn’t  feel a bit bashful about borrowing clothes or money from his roommates. One evening, Carl asks Dan if he can borrow his watch, a new, expensive watch Dan received as a present from his father only a few days before. Dan is aware that

Cultural Variations

Although assertiveness can be thought of as a basic human need, assertive behavior is primarily practiced in Western cultures. In Asian cultures, how one is seen is often felt to be more important than asserting one’s beliefs or rights, and a premium is often placed or, mountaineering a formally correct standard of interaction. For people from these cultures, maintaining “face” and politeness may be more important than achieving personal satisfaction. In rats, in T .Hispanic societies, men especially frequently taught to exercise a form of self expression that goes far beyond the guidelines presented he’h! for assertive behavior. In these societies, the concept of “machismo” guides male behavior. Thus the standard of assertiveness appropriate in our dominant culture can seem inappropriate to people whose cultural frame of reference leads them to perceive it as either aggressive or weak.

For this reason, with assertiveness-just as with any other skill-we need to be aware that no single standard of behavior ensures that we will achieve 0 goals. Although what is labeled appropriate behavior varies across cultures, the results of passive and aggressive behavior seem to be universal: Passive behavior can cause resentment, and aggressive behavior leads to fear and misunderstanding. When talking with people who e culture, background, or lifestyle differs from your own, you may need to observe their behavior and their responses to your statements before you can be sure of the kinds of behavior that are likely to communicate your intentions effectively

Carl does not always take the best care of what he borrows, and he is very concerned about the possibility of Carl’s damaging or losing the watch. Which of these responses might Dan make?  Passive: “Sure.” Aggressive “Forget it You’ve got a lot of nerve ask g to borrow a brand new watch. You know I’d be damned lucky to get it back in one piece.”  Assertive lent you several items with much ado, but  this watch is special. I’ve had it only a few days, and I just don’t feel comfortable lending it. I hope you can understand how I feel.” What are likely to be the consequences of each of these behaviors? If he behaves passively’; Dan is likely worry the entire evening and harbor some  ‘resentment of even if he gets the watch back undamaged. Moreover, Carl will continue to think that his roommates feel comfortable in lending him anything he wants. If Dan behaves aggressively, Carl is likely to be completely taken aback by his explosive behavior. No one has ever said anything to Carl  before, so he has no reason to -believe that he can’t borrow whatever he’d like.
Moreover, the relationship between Dan and Carl might become strained. But if Dan behaves assertively, he puts the focus on his own  feelings and on this particular object-the watch. His. response isn’t a denial of Carl’s right to borrow items, nor is it an attack on an explanation of why Dan does not want to lend this item at this time. For a review of the characteristics of assertive behavior,

your goals. The skills discussed in this book are designed to increase the probability of achieving interpersonal effectiveness. Just as with self-disclosure and  describing feelings, however, there are risks involved in being assertive. For instance, some people will label any assertive behavior as “aggressive.” People who have difficulty asserting themselves often do not appreciate the fact that  the potential benefits far outweigh the risks. Remember, our behavior teaches people how to treat us. When we are passive-when we have taught people  that they can ignore our feelings-they will. When we are aggressive, we teach people  to respond in kind. By contrast, when we are assertive, we can influence others to treat us as we would prefer to be treated.  Here are some useful guidelines for practicing assertive behavior: (1) identify what you are thinking or feeling; (2) analyze the cause of these feelings; (3) choose the appropriate skills to communicate these feelings, as well as the outcome you desire, if any; and (4) communicate these feelings to the appropriate person., If you ~re having trouble taking the first step to being more assertive, begin with situations in which you are likely to have a high potential for success (Alberto & Lemons, 1995). In addition, try to incorporate the characteristics of assertive behavior outlined in

Cultural Variations

Although assertiveness can be thought of as a basic human need, assertive behavior is primarily practiced in Western cultures. In Asian cultures, how one is seen is often felt to be more important than asserting one’s beliefs or rights,  and a premium is often placed or, mountaineering a formally correct standard of Siccing! interaction. For people from these cultures, maintaining “face” and  politeness may be more important than achieving personal satisfaction. In Hispanic societies, men especially frequently taught to exercise a form of self-expression that goes far beyond the guidelines presented he’h! for assertive behavior. In these societies, the concept of “machismo” guides male behavior. Thus the standard of assertiveness appropriate in our dominant culture can seem inappropriate to people whose cultural frame of reference leads them to perceive it as either aggressive or weak. For this reason, with assertiveness-just as with any other skill we need to be aware that no single standard of behavior ensures that we will achieve 0 goals. Although what is labeled appropriate behavior varies across cultures, the results of passive and aggressive behavior seem to be universal: Passive behavior can cause resentment, and aggressive behavior leads to fear and misunderstanding. When talking with people whose culture, background, or lifestyle differs from your own, you may need to observe their behavior and their responses to your statements before you can be sure of the kinds of behavior that are likely to communicate your intentions effectively.

Conversation and Analysis

Use your Communicate CD-ROOM to access a video senator of the following conversation click on the Communicate. In Action feature and then click on. Trevor. Meg As you watch Trevor and Meg discuss the future of their relationship focus on how effectively they are communicating.

1. How do Trevor and Meg disclose their feelings?

2. Note how effective each is at owning feelings and opinions.

3. How well do Trevor and Meg use praise and constructive criticism?

4. Notice how each demonstrates the characteristics of assertive behavior.

5. What is really Meg’s fear?

We have provided a transcript of Trevor and Meg’s conversation. After you have viewed the conversation on your CD-ROM, read the transcript. In the

right hand column there is space for you to record your analysis. You can also complete your analysis electronically using the Conversational Analysis feature included in Communicate! In Action, From the Conversation Menu on your CD-ROM, click “Analysis” for Trevor and Meg. Type your answers to the questions above in the forms provided. When you are finished, click “Submit” to compare your response to the analysis provided by the authors.

Trevor and Meg have been going together for the last several months of their senior year at college. Now that graduation is approaching, they are trying to figure out what to do about their relationship. They sit and talk.


Meg: Yes, Trevor, but you need more than a job. You need to figure out what kind of job really turns you on. Or else, you risk waking up one day and regretting your life. And. I don’t want to be there when that happens. I watched my dad go through a midlife crisis, and he ended up walking out on us.

Trevor: I’m not your dad, Meg. I won’t leave you. And don’t worry about me, I’ll find a job

Meg: Really? You’ve known I was going to law school in the city for over a month, but you still haven’t even begun a job search. Trevor, right now is the time when people are hiring and you haven’t even done your resume. The longer you wait, the more difficult your search is going to be.

Trevor: Come on Meg, you’ve already said I’m irresistible. What company wouldn’t want me?

Meg: rm serious, Trevor. Look, I’ve got a scholarship to pay law school, but it’s only going to pay half of my expenses. I’ll be taking a loan to get enough  money to pay the rest and to have money to live on. I won’t have the money 01 the time to be very sup portiere of you if haven’t found work. I   need the security of knowing that you’ve got a job and that you are saving money .

Trevor: Well, they say that “two can live as cheaply as one.” I was thinking that once you got settled, I’d move in and that will save us a lot of money.

Meg: Whoa, Trevor. You know how I feel about that. I do love you, and I hope that we have a future together. But living together this year is not an option. I trunk we need at least a year of living on our own to get ourselves settled and make sure that we really are compatible. After all, we come from totally different back grounds.


I practically raised myself, and I’ve paid my own bills since I was 18, while you’ve been lucky enough to have parents who footed your bills. There have been several times whenever talked about important issues and the differences between us have been obvious, and they worry me.

Trevor: You mean when I was joking around about our different tastes in cars?

Meg: No, Trevino cars, that’s minor. But we also have greatly different feelings about money and family. You’ve told me that once you get married you want to start a family immediately. As see it, I’ve got a three-year commitment to law school, then seven to ten years ‘of hard work in order to make partner at a good firm. So I’m not sure when I want to start a family. But I know it won’t be at least for six years.

Trevor: So, what are you saying, Meg? Is it over? “Thanks for the good time, Trevor, but you’re not in my plans?”

Meg: Please don’t be sarcastic. I’m not trying to hurt you. It makes me happy to think that we’ll spend the rest of our lives together. But I’m worried about several things, so I’m j~St not ready to commit to that now. Let’s just take a year, get settled, and see what happens. I’ll love it if you do get a job near where I’m in school. That way we can have time to sort through some of the issues Between us

Trevor: You mean if you ‘can fit me into your schedule? Meg, if we love each other now, area’t we still going to love each her next year? If we wait until we have everything settled we might never get married; there’ll always be something. After all, we are two different people. We’re never going to agree on everything


Meg: Are you saying that with as unsettled that our lives are right now that we can shoulder the additional stress of planning for a marriage?

Trevor: No, what I’m saying is that we live together this year, see how it goes, then if it isn’t working we don’t have to get married.

Summary Self Disclosure and Feedback 

Self disclosure statements reveal information about ourselves that is unknown to others. Several guidelines can help us decide when self disclosure is appropriate. Three ways to disclose our feelings are to withhold them, display them, or skillfully describe them .

.Instead of owning our own feelings and ideas, we often avoid disclosure by making generalized statements. The skill of making I statements can help us to more honestly assume ownership of our ideas and feelings. Assertiveness is the skill of stating our ideas and feelings openly in inter personally effective ways. Passive people are often unhappy as a result of not stating what they think and feel aggressive people get their ideas and feelings heard but may crease more problems for themselves because of their aggressiveness. And, as we migrant expect, appropriateness of assertiveness varies across cultures.

Some of the characteristics of behaving assertively are owning feelings, avoiding confrontational language, using specific statements directed to the saviors at hard, maintaining eye contact and firm body position, maintaining a firm hut pleasant tone of voice, and avoiding hemming and hawing .

Describing Feelings

Describing Feelings

Describing feelings is naming the emotion you are feeling without judging it. Describing feelings increases’The chances of positive interaction and decreases the chances of sheet circuiting lines of communication. Moreover, describing feelings teaches others how to treat us by explaining the effect of their behavior. The knowledge gives them the info nation they need to determine the appropriateness of that behavioral. Thus, if you tell Paul that you feel flattered when he visits you, your description of how you feel should encourage him to visit. you will very angry he borrows your jacket without asking, more likely to ask the next fume. Describing  actions have on you. Many times people think they are describing when in fact they are displaying feelings or ‘evaluating the other person’s behavior. The Test Your Competent exercise at the end of this section focuses on your awareness of the difference between describing feelings and either displaying feelings or expressing evaluations. If describing feelings is so important to effective communication, why don’t more people do it regularly? There seem to be at least five reasons many people don’t describe feelings.

1. Marry people don’t have a very goo-i vocabulary for describing the various feelings they experience. People can sense that they are angry; however, they may not be able to distinguish between feeling annoyed, betrayed, cheated, crushed, disturbed, envious, ‘furious, infuriated, outraged, or shocked. Each of these words describes a slightly different aspect of what

many people lump together as anger, A surprising number of shades of meaning can be used to describe feelings, as shown in Figure 7,1, To
become more effective <in describing your feelings, you may first need to . work to develop a better “vocabulary of emotions,”

2. Many people believe describing the is true feelings will make them too vulnerable. If you tell people what hurts you, it is true that you risk their using the information against you when they want to hurt you on purpose. So it is safer to act angry ~an to be honest and describe the hurt you feel; it is safer to appear indifferent than to share your happiness and risk being made fun of. Nevertheless, as the old saying goes, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.” If you don’t take reasonable risks in your relationships, you are unlikely to form lasting and satisfying relationships. For instance, if Pete calls you by a derogatory nickname that you don’t like, you can tell Pete that calling you by that nickname embarrasses you. Pete does have the option of calling you by that name when he wants to embarrass you, but if Pete is ethical and cares about you, he is more likely to stop calling you by that fame. If you don’t describe your feelings to Pete, however, he will probably continue calling you, by that name simply because he doesn’t realize that you don’t like it. By saying nothing, you reinforce his behavior. The

level of risk varies with each situation, but if you have healthy relations you will more often improve a relationship by describing feelings than hurt it by doing so.

3. If they describe their feelings, many people believe others will make them feel guilty about having such feelings. At a tender age, we all learned about

tactful behavior. Under the premise that “the truth sometimes hurts, we learn to avoid the truth by not saying anything or by telling little” lies, Whee you were young, perhaps your mother said, Don’t forget to give grandma a great big kiss. At that time, you may have blurted out, Ugh It makes me feel yucky to kiss grandma. She’s got a mustache. If your mother then responded, “That’s terrible-your grandma loves you. Now

you give her a kiss and never let me hear you talk like that again!” you probably felt guilty for having this “wrong” feeling. Yet the thought of kissing your grandmother did make you feel yucky’ whether it should have or not. In this case, the issue was not your having the feelings but the way you talked about them .

4. Many people believe describing feelings causes harm to others or to a relationship. If it really bothers Odor when his girlfriend, Lana, bites her fingernails, Odor may believe describing his feelings may hurt her feelings so much that it will drive a wedge into their relationship. So it is better if Odor says nothing, right? Wrong! If Odor says nothing, he is still going to be- irritated by Lana’s behavior. In fact, as time goes on, Odor’s irritation probably will cause him to lash out at Lana for other things because he can’t bring himself to talk about the behavior that really bothers him. Lana will be hurt by Odor’s behavior, but she won’t understand why. By not describing his true feelings, Odor may well drive a wedge into their relationship anyway, But if Odor describes his feelings to Lana in a nonjudgmental way, she might try to quit biting her nails. They might get into a discussion in which he finds out she doesn’t want to bite her nails but that she just can’t seem to stop. Perhaps he can help her in her efforts to stop. Or Odor might come to see that it really is a small thing, and it may not continue to bother him as much. In short, describing feelings yields a better -Chance of a successful outcome than does not describing them.

5. Some people belong to cultural groups in which masking or withholding feelings is culturally appropriate behavior. In some cultures, for example, harmony among the group Of in the relationship is felt to be more important Lilian individuals’ personal feelings. People from such cultures may not ‘describe their feeling, at of concert the health of the group.

To describe feelings, (1) indicate what has triggered the feeling. The feeling result from some behavior,den rife the behavior, (2) Mentally ridden . what you are feeling-be specific. people experience a feeling, they will sometimes display it without thinking about it. To describe a feeling, you must be aware of exactly what you are feeling. The vocabulary of emotions provided in can help you develop your ability to select specific words to describe your feelings. (3) Verbally own the feeling. Begin statement with I feel (4) Verbally star the specific feeling (happy, sad, irritated, vibrant)

Here are two examples of describing feelings: (1) Thank you for your compliment I [the person having the feeling] feel gratified [the specific feeling] that you noticed the effort I made. (2) “When yen criticize my cooking on days I’ve worked as many hours as you have [trigger], I [the person having the feeling] feel very resentful” [the specific feeling].

To begin with you may find it easier to describe positive feelings “You .know, your taking me to that movie really cheered me up or “When you offered

to help me with the housework, I really felt delighted. As you gain success with positive descriptions, You can try describing negative feelings attributable to environmental factors: “It’s so cloudy feel gloomy or When the wind howls through the crack, I really get jumpy, Finally, you can move to negative descriptions resulting from what people have said or done: “When you step in front of me like that, I real get annoyed or When you use that negative tone while you are saying that what I did pleased you, I really feel confused.

Owning Feelings and Opinions

Owning feelings or opinions, or crediting yourself, means making I statements to identify yourself as the source of a particular idea or feeling. An I statement can be any statement that has a first person pronoun such as my, me or mine. I statements help the listener understand fully and accurately the nature of the message. For example instead of saying Advertising is the weakest department in the corporation (an unsupported assertion), say believe advertising is the weakest department in the corporation. Likewise, instead of saying Everybody thinks Collins is unfair in his criticism, say It seems to that Collins is unfair in his criticism. Both of these examples contr t a generalized or impersonal account with an I statement. Why do people use vague referents to others rather than owning their ideas and feelings? There are two basic reasons

1. To strengthen the power of their statements. If listeners doubt the statement that Everybody thinks Gall ins is unfair in his criticism they are buck in the collective evaluation of countless people. Of course, not everybody knows and agrees that Collins is unfair. In this instance, the statement really means that one person holds the belief. But people often think that their feelings or beliefs will not carry much power, so they feel the need to cite unknown or universal sources for those feelings or beliefs

2. To escape responsibility. Similarly, people use collective statements such as everybody agrees’v-and anyone with any sense to escape responsibility for their own feelings and thoughts. It seems far more difficult for a person to say I don’t like Herb” than it is to say “No one likes Herb.

The problem with such generalized statements is that at best they are exaggerations and at worst they are deceitful and unethical. Being both accurate and honest with others requires-taking responsibility for our own feelings and opinions. We all have a right to our reactions. If what you are saying is truly your opinion or are expression of how you really feel, let others know and be willing to take responsibility for it. Otherwise, you may alienate people who would have respected your opinions or feelings even if they didn’t agree with them.

Giving Personal Feedback

There are times in our interactions and relationships with others when it is appropriate to comment on’ how die other person’s message or behavior is affecting us. Responses that do this are generally referred to as giving personal feedback. When we highlight positive behavior and accomplishments, we give positive feedback through praise. When we identify negative harmful behavior and actions, we provide negative feedback through constructive criticism.


. Praising is describing ‘the specific positive behaviors or accomplishments of . another. Too often we fail to acknowledge the positive things people say and do. Yet, as you will recall from our earlier discussion of self-concept, our view of who we are-our identity, as well as our behavior-is shape  by how other respond  to us. Praise can be used to reinforce positive behavior and to help another develop a positive self-concept. Praise is not the same as flattery. When we flatter someone, we Use excessive compliments that are insincere in order to ingratiate ourselves to that person. When we praise, our compliments are in line with the behavior or accomplishment. We express only admiration that we genuinely feel. For praise to achieve its goal and not be perceived merely as flattery, we need to focus the praise on the specific action and make sure that the message is worded so that it is in keeping with the significance or value of the accomplish mint or behavior. If a friend who tends to be forgetful remembers to return a pair of pliers he borrowed that same day, that is a behavior that should be praised so that it is reinforced. But saying “You’re so wonderful, you’re on top of everything” reinforces nothing because it is an overly general “statement that does not identify a particular behavior or accomplishment. Overly general statements can be perceived as flattery. Gushing “Oh, you remembered to returnee the pliers! I’m so grateful. That was just unbelievably thoughtful of you”

is overkill that will be perceived as insincere. Simply saying something like “Thanks for returning the pliers today; I really appreciate it” would be appropriate. A response like this acknowledges the accomplishment by describing the specific behavior and the positive feeling of gratitude that the behavior has caused. Here are two more examples of appropriate praising. Behavior: Sonya takes responsibility for selecting and buying a group wedding present for a friend. The gift is a big hit. Praise: “Sonya, the present you chose for Stevie was really thoughtful. Not only did it fit our price range, but Stevie really. liked it.” ” Accomplishment: Cole has just received a-letter inviting him to a reception at which he is to receive a scholarship award given for academic accomplishments and community service work. , Praise: “Congratulations, Cole. I’m proud of you. It’s really great to see that the effort you put into studying as well as the time and energy you have devoted to the Second Harvest Food Program and Big Brothers is being recognized and valued.” Praising responses don’t “cost” much, but they are valuable and generally appreciated. Not only does praising provide information and acknowledge the worth of another person, but it can also deepen our relationship with that person because with it increases the openness of the relationship. To increase your effectiveness at praising, try to follow these steps: (1) Make note of t’he specific -behavior or accomplishment that you want to reinforce. (2) Describe the specific behavior or accomplishment. (3) Describe the positive feelings or outcomes that, you or-others experienced as a result of the behavior or accomplishment. (4) Phrase the-response so thatcher level ‘)f praise-appropriately reflects the significance of the behavior or accomplishment

Giving Constructive Criticism

Research on reinforcement theory has found that people learn faster and better through stewardship as praise. Nevertheless, there are still times when personal feedback needs to address negative behaviors or actions. Constructive criticism is describing the specific negative behaviors or actions of another and the effects that these behaviors have on others. You will be more effective in giving constructive criticism if you proceed in the following ways

1. Ask the person’s permission before giving criticism. 0 obviously, it is best to give this type of feedback when a person specifically asks for it. Even when people don’t ask, however, we sometimes need to provide another with constructive criticism. A person who has agreed to hear constructive criticism is likely to be more receptive to it than is someone who is not accorded respect by being asked

2. Describe the behavior by accurately recounting precisely what was said or done without labeling the behavior good or bad, right or wrong. By describing behavior, you lay an informative base for the feedback and increase the chances that the person will listen receptively. Feedback that is preceded with detailed description is less likely to be met defensively. Your description shows that you are criticizing the behavior rather than attacking the person, and it points the way to a solution. For example, if Shawn asks, “What did you think of the visuals I used when I delivered my report?” instead of saying “They weren’t very effective,” it would be better to say something like “Well, the type on the first two was rather small, which made the words hard to read.” This criticism does not attack Shawn’s self concept, and it tells him what he needs to do to be more effective.

3. Preface a negative statement with a positive one whenever possible. When you are planning to criticize it is a good idea to start with some praise. Of course, common sense suggests that superficial praise followed by crushing feedback will be seen for what it is. In our example, one could say, “First, the charts and graphs were useful, and the color really helped us to see the problems. Second, the type size on the first two overheads made them hard to read.” Here the praise is relevant and significant. If you cannot preface feedback with significant praise, don’t try. Prefacing feedback with empty praise will not help the person accept your feedback. When you link constructive criticism with praise, try to avoid using the word “but.” For some -reason, it is easy for a person to miss the praise interpreted only the criticism when “but” is used. In the previous example, nonce-that by labeling “first” and the criticism “second” the: statements gain facial emphasis.

4. Be as specific ‘” possible The more specifically you describe the behavior or the actin s, the easier it will be for the person to understand what needs to be changed. In tl~ situation just discussed, it would not have been helpful to Some of the slides were kind of hard to read.” This comment is 50 general that Shawn would have little idea of what to change. Moreover, he may infer that every overhead needs to be redone.

5. When appropriate, suggest how the person “can change the behavior. Because the focus of constructive criticism is helping, it is appropriate to provide the person with your suggestions that might lead to positive “change. In responding Shawn’s request for feedback, one might also add~”When I make overheads, I generally try to use I8-point type or larger. You might want to give that a try.” By including a positive suggestion; you not only help the person by providing honest information, you also show that your intentions are positive.

Self Disclosure and Feedback

Cultural and Gender Differences

As we might expect, levels of self-disclosure and appropriateness of disclosure differ form culture to culture. The United tes is considered to be an informal culture (Samovar, Porter, & Stefani, 1998, p. 82). As a result, Americans tend to  disclose more about themselves than do people from other cultures. Levels of formality can be inferred by how formally people dress, how formally they address each other, and how much they self disclose. Germany, for instance, a country that seems-like the United States-in many ways, has .a .much higher degree of formality. Germans are likely to dress well even if just visiting friends or going to school. They also use formal titles in their interactions with others and have fewer close friends. Germans are also more private and disclose less than-do Americans in similar relationships.

Particularly in the beginning stages of a friendship, such cultural differences can easily lead to misconceptions and discomfort if the people involved are unaware of them. For instance, ‘a person from the United States may perceive an acquaintance from a more formal culture as reserved or less interested in pursuing a “genuine” friendship, whereas the acquaintance may see the person from the United States as discourteously assertive or embarrassingly expressive about personal feelings and other private matters. • Given the differences in culture, can we assume that disclosure always deep-ens relationships? Unsteady and Kim (1997) have discovered that, across cultures when relationships become more intimate self-disclosure increases. In addition, they found that the more partners self-disclosed to each other the more they were attracted to each the and the more uncertainty about each other was reduced (po 325)

Women tend to disclose more than men, are disclosed to more than men, and are more aware t an men of cues that affect their self-disclosure (Dindia, )000, p. 24; Re is, 1998, p. 213). Of course, this generalization is not true in all cases. Deborah Tannen (1990) argues that one way to capture the differences between men’s and women’s vernal styles is by paying attention to “report talk” and “rapport talk” (I’. 77). Her point is that men in our society arc more likely to view conversation a~ report-talk-a way to share information, display knowledge, negotiate, and preserve independence. In contrast, women are more likely to use rapport talk a way to share experiences and establish bonds with others. When men and women fail to recognize these differences in the way they have learned to use conversation, the stage is set for misunderstandings about whether or not they are being truly open and intimate with one another  “Learning about style differences won’t make them go away,” Tannen remarks, “but it can banish mutual mystification and blame” (pp. 47-48)

At the heart of intimate self-disclosure is sharing your feelings with someone else, and sharing feelings is a risky business. Why is this so? When we share our feelings about something important, we are generally giving someone else potent knowledge about us that they might use to harm us. Yet all of us experience feelings and have to decide whether and how we disclose them. Obviously, one ‘option we have is to withhold or mask our feelings. If we decide to disclose our feelings, we can display them or we can describe them.

many people need to be more demonstrative of good feelings than they typically are. The bumper sticker “Have you hugged your kid today?” reinforces the point that people we care about need open displays of love and affection. Displays become detrimental to communication when. the feelings you are experiencing are negative-especially when the display of a negative feeling appears to be an overreaction. Although displays of negative feelings may make you feel better temporarily, they are likely to be bad for you inter personally. Displays of feeling often serve as an escape valve for very strong emotions. In this way, they may be a more healthy approach than withholding feelings because we “get them out of our system.” Unfortunately, especially with negative emotions, these displays can often damage our relationships or cause stress in our relational partners. In many families, children learn to “stay out of dad’s . way if in a ‘bad mood.'” Children do this when they have experienced the power of dad’s emotional displays. Rather than just display our emotions, we can use the self-disclosure skill of describing feelings to help us share our feelings with others in a manner that does not damage our relationships or cause stress.