conflict resolution

How to Be Mindful When You are Angry - Meditation for Real Life


By David Gelles
April 5, 2017

“Anger is a natural, life-affirming emotion. It lets us know when a boundary has been crossed, when our needs are not being met, or when someone we care about is in danger. But when misdirected, anger can harm our physical health and our relationships. Being mindful of anger means not suppressing, denying or avoiding it and also not acting out in harmful ways. Instead, connect with the direct experience of the anger, and then decide what action you want to take.” — Jessica Morey, executive director of Inward Bound Mindfulness Education

Recognize and respect that anger is happening. It’s part of the human experience.

Stop fueling the anger: Cut off the stories about how you were wronged or why your anger is justified. Instead, shift your attention to the body.

What part of your body is not feeling angry? Your feet? Your back? The breath at the tip of your nose? Are there any sensations in your body that feel neutral, even pleasant? What else is happening around you? Are there any neutral or pleasant sounds you can attend to?

est your attention on these sensations for a few minutes, allowing yourself to find some calm. If your mind wanders back into thinking about the anger-producing situation, come back to these neutral sensations.

Investigate the anger more directly. Where do you feel it? Is it in your chest? Your hands? Your jaw? What does the anger feel like? How do the sensations of anger change as you pay attention to them? Do any other emotions show up underneath the anger?

Explore the information this anger has for you. What is its message? What does it need? Was a boundary crossed?

Reflect on how you could skillfully respond to what is making you angry. What would be the most helpful response right now?

Finally, commit to taking whatever skillful action is needed without doing any harm — whether it’s a walk, a nap or a direct, difficult conversation.

Content from here.

How Exercise Can Calm Anxiety


By Gretchen Reynolds
July 3, 2013 12:01 AM

In an eye-opening demonstration of nature’s ingenuity, researchers at Princeton University recently discovered that exercise creates vibrant new brain cells — and then shuts them down when they shouldn’t be in action.

For some time, scientists studying exercise have been puzzled by physical activity’s two seemingly incompatible effects on the brain. On the one hand, exercise is known to prompt the creation of new and very excitable brain cells. At the same time, exercise can induce an overall pattern of calm in certain parts of the brain.

Most of us probably don’t realize that neurons are born with certain predispositions. Some, often the younger ones, are by nature easily excited. They fire with almost any provocation, which is laudable if you wish to speed thinking and memory formation.

But that feature is less desirable during times of everyday stress. If a stressor does not involve a life-or-death decision and require immediate physical action, then having lots of excitable neurons firing all at once can be counterproductive, inducing anxiety.

Studies in animals have shown that physical exercise creates excitable neurons in abundance, especially in the hippocampus, a portion of the brain known to be involved in thinking and emotional responses.

But exercise also has been found to reduce anxiety in both people and animals.

How can an activity simultaneously create ideal neurological conditions for anxiety and leave practitioners with a deep-rooted calm, the Princeton researchers wondered?

So they gathered adult mice, injected them with a substance that marks newborn cells in the brain, and for six weeks, allowed half of them to run at will on little wheels, while the others sat quietly in their cages.

Afterward, the scientists determined each group’s baseline nervousness. Given access to cages with open, well-lighted areas, as well as shadowy corners, the running mice were more willing to cautiously explore and spend time in open areas, an indication that they were more confident and less anxious than the sedentary animals.

The researchers also checked the brains of some of the runners and the sedentary mice to determine how many and what varieties of new neurons they contained.

As expected, the runners’ brains teemed with many new, excitable neurons. The sedentary mice’s brains also contained similar, volatile newborn cells, but not in such profusion.

The runners’ brains, however, also had a notable number of new neurons specifically designed to release the neurotransmitter GABA, which inhibits brain activity, keeping other neurons from firing easily. In effect, these are nanny neurons, designed to shush and quiet activity in the brain.

In the runners’ brains, there were large new populations of these cells in a portion of the hippocampus, the ventral region, associated with the processing of emotions. (The rest of the hippocampus, the dorsal region, is more involved with thinking and memory.)

What role these nanny neurons were playing in the animals’ brains and subsequent behavior was not altogether clear.

So the scientists next gently placed the remaining mice in ice-cold water for five minutes. Mice do not enjoy cold water. They find immersion stressful and anxiety-inducing, although it is not life-threatening.

Then the scientists checked these animals’ brains. They were looking for markers, known as immediate early genes, that indicate a neuron has recently fired.

They found them, in profusion. In both the physically fit and the sedentary mice, large numbers of the excitable cells had fired in response to the cold bath. Emotionally, the animals had become fired up by the stress.

But with the runners, it didn’t last long. Their brains, unlike those of the sedentary animals, showed evidence that the shushing neurons also had been activated in large numbers, releasing GABA, calming the excitable neurons’ activity and presumably keeping unnecessary anxiety at bay.

In effect, the runners’ brains had responded to the relatively minor stress of a cold bath with a quick rush of worry and a concomitant, overarching calm.

What all of this suggests, says Elizabeth Gould, director of the Gould Lab at Princeton, who wrote the paper with her graduate student Timothy Schoenfeld, now at the National Institute of Mental Health, and others, “is that the hippocampus of runners is vastly different from that of sedentary animals. Not only are there more excitatory neurons and more excitatory synapses, but the inhibitory neurons are more likely to become activated, presumably to dampen the excitatory neurons, in response to stress.” The findings were published in The Journal of Neuroscience.

It’s important to note, she adds, that this study examined long-term training responses. The runners’ wheels had been locked for 24 hours before their cold bath, so they would gain no acute calming effect from exercise. Instead, the difference in stress response between the runners and the sedentary animals reflected fundamental remodeling of their brains.

Of course, as we all know, mice are not men or women. But, Dr. Gould says, other studies “show that physical exercise reduces anxiety in humans,” suggesting that similar remodeling takes place in the brains of people who work out.

“I think it’s not a huge stretch,” she concludes, “to suggest that the hippocampi of active people might be less susceptible to certain undesirable aspects of stress than those of sedentary people.”

Content from here.

10 Ways Smart People Stay Calm


Dr. Travis Bradberry, Contributor
TalentSmart, President and ‘Emotional Intelligence 2.0,’ Coauthor

The ability to manage your emotions and remain calm under pressure has a direct link to your performance. TalentSmart has conducted research with more than a million people, and we’ve found that 90 percent of top performers are skilled at managing their emotions in times of stress in order to remain calm and in control.

If you follow my work, you’ve read some startling research summaries that explore the havoc stress can wreak on one’s physical and mental health (such as the Yale study, which found that prolonged stress causes degeneration in the area of the brain responsible for self-control). The tricky thing about stress (and the anxiety that comes with it) is that it’s an absolutely necessary emotion. Our brains are wired such that it’s difficult to take action until we feel at least some level of this emotional state. In fact, performance peaks under the heightened activation that comes with moderate levels of stress. As long as the stress isn’t prolonged, it’s harmless.

10 ways smart people stay calm.jpg

Research from the University of California, Berkeley, reveals an upside to experiencing moderate levels of stress. But it also reinforces how important it is to keep stress under control. The study, led by post-doctoral fellow Elizabeth Kirby, found that the onset of stress entices the brain into growing new cells responsible for improved memory. However, this effect is only seen when stress is intermittent. As soon as the stress continues beyond a few moments into a prolonged state, it suppresses the brain’s ability to develop new cells.

“I think intermittent stressful events are probably what keeps the brain more alert, & you perform better when you are alert,” Kirby says. For animals, intermittent stress is the bulk of what they experience, in the form of physical threats in their immediate environment. Long ago, this was also the case for humans. As the human brain evolved and increased in complexity, we’ve developed the ability to worry on events, which creates frequent experiences of prolonged stress.

Besides increasing your risk of heart disease, depression, & obesity, stress decreases your cognitive performance. Fortunately, unless a lion is chasing you, the bulk of your stress is subjective & under your control. Top performers have well-honed coping strategies that they employ under stressful circumstances. This lowers their stress levels regardless of what’s happening in their environment, ensuring that the stress they experience is intermittent & not prolonged.

While I’ve run across numerous effective strategies that smart people employ when faced with stress, what follows are ten of the best. Some of these strategies may seem obvious, but the real challenge lies in recognizing when you need to use them and having the wherewithal to actually do so in spite of your stress.

1. They Appreciate What They Have

Taking time to contemplate what you’re grateful for isn’t merely the “right” thing to do. It also improves your mood, because it reduces the stress hormone cortisol by 23%. Research conducted at the University of California, Davis found that people who worked daily to cultivate an attitude of gratitude experienced improved mood, energy, and physical well-being. It’s likely that lower levels of cortisol played a major role in this.

2. They Avoid Asking “What If?”

“What if?” statements throw fuel on the fire of stress and worry. Things can go in a million different directions, & the more time you spend worrying about the possibilities, the less time you’ll spend focusing on taking action that will calm you down & keep your stress under control. Calm people know that asking “what if? will only take them to a place they don’t want—or need—to go.

3. They Stay Positive

Positive thoughts help make stress intermittent by focusing your brain’s attention onto something that is completely stress-free. You have to give your wandering brain a little help by consciously selecting something positive to think about. Any positive thought will do to refocus your attention. When things are going well, and your mood is good, this is relatively easy. When things are going poorly, and your mind is flooded with negative thoughts, this can be a challenge. In these moments, think about your day and identify one positive thing that happened, no matter how small. If you can’t think of something from the current day, reflect on the previous day or even the previous week. Or perhaps you’re looking forward to an exciting event that you can focus your attention on. The point here is that you must have something positive that you’re ready to shift your attention to when your thoughts turn negative.

4. They Disconnect

Given the importance of keeping stress intermittent, it’s easy to see how taking regular time off the grid can help keep your stress under control. When you make yourself available to your work 24/7, you expose yourself to a constant barrage of stressors. Forcing yourself offline and even—gulp!—turning off your phone gives your body a break from a constant source of stress. Studies have shown that something as simple as an email break can lower stress levels.

Technology enables constant communication and the expectation that you should be available 24/7. It is extremely difficult to enjoy a stress-free moment outside of work when an email that will change your train of thought and get you thinking (read: stressing) about work can drop onto your phone at any moment. If detaching yourself from work-related communication on weekday evenings is too big a challenge, then how about the weekend? Choose blocks of time where you cut the cord and go offline. You’ll be amazed at how refreshing these breaks are and how they reduce stress by putting a mental recharge into your weekly schedule. If you’re worried about the negative repercussions of taking this step, first try doing it at times when you’re unlikely to be contacted—maybe Sunday morning. As you grow more comfortable with it, and as your coworkers begin to accept the time you spend offline, gradually expand the amount of time you spend away from technology.

5. They Limit Their Caffeine Intake

Drinking caffeine triggers the release of adrenaline. Adrenaline is the source of the “fight-or-flight” response, a survival mechanism that forces you to stand up and fight or run for the hills when faced with a threat. The fight-or-flight mechanism sidesteps rational thinking in favor of a faster response. This is great when a bear is chasing you, but not so great when you’re responding to a curt email. When caffeine puts your brain and body into this hyperaroused state of stress, your emotions overrun your behavior. The stress that caffeine creates is far from intermittent, as its long half-life ensures that it takes its sweet time working its way out of your body.

6. They Sleep

I’ve beaten this one to death over the years and can’t say enough about the importance of sleep to increasing your emotional intelligence and managing your stress levels. When you sleep, your brain literally recharges, so that you wake up alert and clear-headed. Your self-control, attention, and memory are all reduced when you don’t get enough—or the right kind—of sleep. Sleep deprivation raises stress hormone levels on its own, even without a stressor present. Stressful projects often make you feel as if you have no time to sleep, but taking the time to get a decent night’s sleep is often the one thing keeping you from getting things under control.

7. They Squash Negative Self-Talk

A big step in managing stress involves stopping negative self-talk in its tracks. The more you ruminate on negative thoughts, the more power you give them. Most of our negative thoughts are just that—thoughts, not facts. When you find yourself believing the negative and pessimistic things your inner voice says, it’s time to stop and write them down. Literally stop what you’re doing and write down what you’re thinking. Once you’ve taken a moment to slow down the negative momentum of your thoughts, you will be more rational and clear-headed in evaluating their veracity.

You can bet that your statements aren’t true any time you use words like “never,” “worst,” “ever,” etc. If your statements still look like facts once they’re on paper, take them to a friend or colleague you trust and see if he or she agrees with you. Then the truth will surely come out. When it feels like something always or never happens, this is just your brain’s natural threat tendency inflating the perceived frequency or severity of an event. Identifying & labeling your thoughts as thoughts by separating them from the facts will help you escape the cycle of negativity and move toward a positive new outlook.

8. They Reframe Their Perspective

Stress and worry are fueled by our own skewed perception of events. It’s easy to think that unrealistic deadlines, unforgiving bosses, and out-of-control traffic are the reasons we’re so stressed all the time. You can’t control your circumstances, but you can control how you respond to them. So before you spend too much time dwelling on something, take a minute to put the situation in perspective. If you aren’t sure when you need to do this, try looking for clues that your anxiety may not be proportional to the stressor. If you’re thinking in broad, sweeping statements such as “Everything is going wrong” or “Nothing will work out,” then you need to reframe the situation. A great way to correct this unproductive thought pattern is to list the specific things that actually are going wrong or not working out. Most likely you will come up with just some things-not everything—& the scope of these stressors will look much more limited than it initially appeared.

9. They Breathe

The easiest way to make stress intermittent lies in something that you have to do everyday anyway: breathing. The practice of being in the moment with your breathing will begin to train your brain to focus solely on the task at hand and get the stress monkey off your back. When you’re feeling stressed, take a couple of minutes to focus on your breathing. Close the door, put away all other distractions, and just sit in a chair and breathe. The goal is to spend the entire time focused only on your breathing, which will prevent your mind from wandering. Think about how it feels to breathe in and out. This sounds simple, but it’s hard to do for more than a minute or two. It’s all right if you get sidetracked by another thought; this is sure to happen at the beginning, and you just need to bring your focus back to your breathing. If staying focused on your breathing proves to be a real struggle, try counting each breath in and out until you get to 20, and then start again from 1. Don’t worry if you lose count; you can always just start over.

This task may seem too easy or even a little silly, but you’ll be surprised by how calm you feel afterward and how much easier it is to let go of distracting thoughts that otherwise seem to have lodged permanently inside your brain.

10. They Use Their Support System

It’s tempting, yet entirely ineffective, to attempt tackling everything by yourself. To be calm and productive, you need to recognize your weaknesses and ask for help when you need it. This means tapping into your support system when a situation is challenging enough for you to feel overwhelmed. Everyone has someone at work and/or outside work who is on their team, rooting for them, and ready to help them get the best from a difficult situation. Identify these individuals in your life and make an effort to seek their insight and assistance when you need it. Something as simple as talking about your worries will provide an outlet for your anxiety and stress and supply you with a new perspective on the situation. Most of the time, other people can see a solution that you can’t because they are not as emotionally invested in the situation. Asking for help will mitigate your stress and strengthen your relationships with those you rely upon. 

Bringing It All Together

Overwhelming anxiety and empowerment are mutually exclusive. Any time you are overcome with enough stress/anxiety to limit your performance, just follow the steps above to empower yourself and regain control.

Content from here.

Choosing the Right Mental Health Therapist


Why is this choice so important?

Therapy is a collaborative process, so finding the right match—someone with whom you have a sense of rapport—is critical. After you find someone, keep in mind that therapy is work and sometimes can be painful. However, it also can be rewarding and life changing…

What are the steps for choosing a therapist?

  1. Find out what the mental health coverage is under your insurance policy or through Medicaid/Medicare.
  2. Get two or three referrals before making an appointment. Specify age, sex, race, or religious background if those characteristics are important to you.
  3. Make sure the therapist has experience helping people whose problems are similar to yours. You may want to ask…about the therapist’s expertise, education, and number of years in practice.
  4. If you are satisfied with the answers, make an appointment.
  5. During your first visit, describe those feelings and problems that led you to seek help. Find out:
    • What kind of therapy/treatment program he or she recommends;
    • What the benefits…;
    • How much therapy the mental health professional recommends;
    • Whether he or she is willing to coordinate your care with another practitioner…
  6. Be sure the psychotherapist does not take a “cookie cutter” approach to your treatment, because what works for one person does not necessarily work for another. Different psychotherapies and medications are tailored to meet specific needs.
  7. Although the role of a therapist is not to be a friend, rapport is a critical element of successful therapy. After your initial visit, take some time to explore how you felt about the therapist.
  8. If the answers to these questions and others you come up with are “yes,” schedule another appointment to begin the process of working together to understand and overcome your problems. If the answers to most of these questions are “no,” call another mental health professional from your referral list and schedule another appointment.

Excerpts from National Mental Institute Health Information Center

Counseling 911

Seeking a couples therapist? Here are some resources and questions to help steer you to a good one. lists more than 15,000 marriage and family therapists who are members of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, which requires that they meet strict training and education requirements and abide by the association’s code of ethics.

To find a therapist who prioritizes commitment as the first option, search a registry of therapists who have agreed to a values statement at

Two widely recognized evidence-based approaches with research supporting their effectiveness include emotionally focused couples therapy, which helps couples shift their negative interactions to positives ones ( for a list of certified therapists); and integrative behavioral couple therapy, which helps each partner accept the other as is ( has a list of trained counselors).

For couples on the road to divorce, the University of Minnesota’s Couples on the Brink Project developed a new type of short-term therapy called “discernment counseling” to help them determine whether it’s worth pursuing counseling or if it’s better to let the marriage go. Go to (search for “discernment counseling”) for more information.

Information from here.

Done Right, Many Couples Benefit from Counseling


Article by: ALEXIA ELEJALDE-RUIZ , Chicago Tribune  Updated: April 28, 2013

Couples counseling, marriage therapist Pat Love says, is “like assembling an airplane in flight.” Highly stressful. Highly volatile. Potentially explosive. So you want a skilled technician in control. But not all counselors are trained to navigate the rough winds of a relationship in distress. And they can do more harm than good, some experts say.

“Unfortunately, many therapists have not been trained to step out of the who’s-to-blame dynamic,” said Diane Gehart, professor of marriage and family therapy at California State University at Northridge.

While any number of social workers, psychologists and other counseling professionals can perform couples therapy — and many do it well — that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ve had much experience with it or that they’ve gone through the specialized course work required of licensed marriage and family therapists. And when a therapist accustomed to treating individuals brings an individualistic approach to a couples’ session, it can backfire, Gehart said. Unlike traditional psychodynamic therapy for individuals, the most effective couples’ therapy doesn’t plumb the unconscious or delve into the past or seek to identify the psychopathologies causing people to behave in destructive ways, Gehart said. Rather, couples therapy works best when it focuses on the systemic interactions between partners, she said — that is, how the relationship dynamics are perpetuating patterns that are driving them apart and what positive steps each person can take to change them.

“You learn to treat the system, not the symptom,” said Love, an Austin, Texas-based author of several relationship books. “If you don’t pay attention to the system, one person will feel betrayed, left out, reactive and not want to come back to therapy.”

So in the classic case of the stoic husband and emotional wife, good couples therapists might identify how his indifference is driving her panic, and vice versa, so both can make changes and neither shoulders all the blame, Gehart said. What they don’t do is identify the man’s inability to express his feelings as the central problem. Love said people often come to therapy in hopes of getting the therapist to agree that their partner is, in fact, a useless lump or a horrid nag. And it’s hard not to get sucked into their worldview.

Before she became trained as a couples therapist, Love said, “I thought a couple came in, and they would tell me their story, and I would say, you’re right, you’re wrong, and I would break the tie.” But siding with one partner, or even seeming to, hurts the cause. The real client in couples counseling is the relationship, Love said. And it needs a calm and cogent arbiter whom both partners trust to direct the session when temperatures in the room rise.

“Can you cut people off? Can you intervene? Can you redirect? Can you draw out emotions? Can you build a bridge between the two people?” Love said.

Bill Doherty, director of the Minnesota Couples on the Brink Project at the University of Minnesota, has been writing about bad couples therapy for years. One of the most important questions people should ask when seeking a therapist, he said, is how much of their practice is devoted to couples. Look for at least 30 percent. Among the missteps a well-meaning but inexperienced counselor can take, Doherty said:

  • Appearing to side with one partner over the other.
  • Allowing hot conflict, including letting partners interrupt each other and blame or criticize each other.
  • Offering bromides about good communication but little else.
  • Failing to give homework that each partner can work on for the next session.
  • Performing a cost-benefit analysis on whether the relationship is worth saving.
  • Advising partners that they may be better off split.

Doherty advocates against couples therapy that takes a “values-neutral” approach that treats marriage and divorce as equally viable options or the “me”-oriented perspective that views relationships as platforms for people to be happy. That’s not to say people should stay miserable. But Doherty notes that there’s a lot of psychological research showing the pursuit of happiness is itself self-defeating.

“Happiness is a byproduct of a life well-lived — of good relationships, of making a difference in the world,” he said.

Doherty didn’t always practice what he now preaches. At the start of his career, he said, he took an individualistic approach to couples therapy, and if one partner didn’t want to save the marriage, he didn’t see how it was worth saving. About 30 percent of couples who seek counseling are these “mixed agenda” couples in which one person is “leaning out.”

But while not all marriages can or should be salvaged, it’s not the counselor’s role to decide.

“I’m the last person to give up; I’m not the first person to give up,” Doherty said. People should be able to tell early on if the therapy is helpful. Within the first couple of sessions, each partner should feel that the therapist understands his or her point of view and is actively structuring the sessions, Doherty said. The relationship should be improving in five to eight sessions. When done right, about 70 percent of couples therapy cases show positive change, according to a study last year in the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy.

Article from here.

Conflict Resolution

So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
— 1 Corinthians 13:13

Every one fights. You will too. One key to a successful relationship is learning to fight fairly. We know our loved ones Achilles’ heel; the challenge is to not use that knowledge to harm another when we are red-hot with rage. A fight about who does the dishes shouldn’t end up with words that wound and can never be taken back.  Learning to fight fairly is a skill and we can all learn to do a better job. Here are some ideas.

Using "I" Statements to Resolve Conflict: D.E.S.C Model

D = DESCRIBE the behavior that you do not like.

E = EXPRESS your feelings regarding the behavior, using an “I” statement.

S = SPECIFY a more acceptable behavior, either with or without the input of the person(s) with whom you are experiencing conflict.      This can best be done by listing alternative behaviors and coming to an agreement upon one of them.

C = Developing CONSEQUENCES, both positive and negative, might be helpful, especially if previous efforts at resolving the conflict have led to mistrust. This need not be done if trust is present.


  • I feel [state a feeling] when you [describe the behavior].
  • I would really like to do something about this situation so that it will not happen again. I’m wondering if you have any ideas about possible solutions.
  • Here are some of my ideas. [State alternative solutions and come to an agreement on one of them.]
  • Now, since this problem has come up before, I want some assurance that the problem will work this time. [Negotiate positive and/or negative consequences.]
  • I feel much better now that we’ve spoken about this issue. I appreciate your willingness to work this out with me.

Information from here.

Thomas-Kilmann Model of Conflict Resolution


takes a wholly assertive and uncooperative approach to resolving the conflict. It means standing up for your rights, defending a position which you believe is correct, or simply trying to beat the other side.


takes a wholly unassertive and cooperative approach. This might take the form of selfless generosity or charity, giving in to another person’s orders when you would prefer not to, or yielding to another’s point of view.


takes an unassertive and uncooperative approach to the conflict and don’t deal with it. Avoiding might take the form of diplomatically sidestepping an issue, postponing an issue until a better time, or simply withdrawing from a threatening situation.


takes an approach that is both assertive and cooperative but only to some extent. It’s the approach of “half a sixpence is better than none.” Both sides get something but not everything. It might mean splitting the difference between the two positions, some give and take, or seeking a quick solution in the middle ground.


takes the opposite extreme of avoiding. It means being willing to believe that when two parties are at loggerheads, it is possible for both sides to come out with what they want. Collaborating requires developed conflict resolution skills based on mutual respect, a willingness to listen to others, and creativity in finding solutions.

Adapted from here.

Roadblocks to Communication

Listen with the ear of your heart.
— The Rule of Benedict

Put down messages—belittling, ridiculing, disapproving

  • You shouldn’t feel that way
  • You have some strange ideas
  • You must be kidding


When that happened to me I handled it by....

Judging, criticizing, blaming

  • I can’t believe that
  • You might not be having these problems now if you had...

Preaching, moralizing

  • It’s for your own good
  • There’s more fish in the sea

Diverting, avoiding, changing the subject

  • Forget it
  • That reminds me...


  • Let’s not discuss that any longer
  • I have to leave now, I can’t take this conversation


  • You couldn’t have done that
  • You don’t really mean that


  • That person has an excellent reputation
  • But that doctor is very competent

Five Ways of Making a Verbal Assertion


1. Basic Assertion

Expresses needs, ideas, expectations.

  • This is what I think
  • This is what I feel
  • This is what I am.


  • I would like to finish what I am saying.
  • I need some time to think about that.
  • This afternoon is not a good time for me.
  • I like you.

2. Empathetic Assertion

Recognizes the other person’s needs, feelings and situation but stands up for one’s self.


  • You may not realize that interrupting me bothers me but it does.
  • I know you are trying to be helpful, but I would rather do this my way.
  • I know it is easier for you to file this under the old system but the new one is more useful to me.

Empathetic assertions confront the other person with behavior that is having undesirable consequences without judging or threatening and also give the other person recognition for having needs and feelings that you are aware of.

3. Escalating Assertion

When the other person does not respond to a basic assertion or request, it is sometimes necessary to escalate the assertion by changing words or tone of voice so that the individual who is denying your rights will be forced to consider them. An assertion is escalated from a simple request to a demand if the request is ignored.


I have asked you to please make an effort to get to work by eight o’clock. You have been late three times this week. You will have to get to work on time. I cannot make any exceptions unless there are unusual circumstances.

4. Confrontive Assertion

The confrontive assertion calls attention to discrepancies between what the other person said they would do and what they actually did do. It involves:

  • Describing (not judging behavior):
  • What they said they would do.
  • What they did do.
  • What you want.


  • I was supposed to be consulted before this report was submitted. You sent the report to Mr. Jones without the September figures. I want it retyped with this added information. I want to see it before Mr. Jones gets the revised version.
  • I thought we agreed that we would make no changes in the budget without another meeting. I want to discuss these figures with the other department heads before I can approve that increase.

5. Feeling Assertion

A feeling assertion is sometimes necessary in order to preserve or improve a working relationship. It involves some degree of risk taking but is indicated when a working relationship or a personal one is subjected to strain because of conflict in style, values expectations or needs.

A feeling assertion:

1. Describes your reaction.

Ex: I am frustrated, concerned, angry, disappointed, etc.

2. Describes behavior.

Ex: You did not finish the work I assigned you. You gave me the responsibility for getting that job done but you did not give me the people I needed in order to complete it. You did not give me enough time to complete my research.

3. Describes consequences.

Ex: I will have to find someone who can do the job. I cannot take the responsibility unless you will support my authority.

4. State your wish, demand or requirement.

Ex: I want to know in advance if you cannot complete a project.