How to Achieve Interpersonal Effectiveness

By: Lisa Card Strong, Ph.D. | August 21, 2020

Do you feel like you’re getting what you need in relationships? Do you ever find yourself

    • just going along with other people?
    • not really standing up for yourself?
    • participating in something you don’t want to?
    • feeling dissatisfied or irritated?
    • not even knowing the reasons why?

Increasing your interpersonal effectiveness skills can help decrease these annoyed, irritated, anxious feelings. Three different ways people use to approach relationships that have an impact on feelings in those relationships include the following:

1. Passive (nonassertive) communication

This pattern involves avoidance by not sharing your thoughts, feelings, and ideas with other people, the goal being to please other people. This approach sometimes sacrifices your own underlying needs, however. Your own anger and resentment can build, and for some can result in a swing into temporary aggression and later back to passivity. Such passive-aggressive swings in communication can create an uncomfortable cycle where your needs are not met. You may find that you feel down, as if your needs aren’t ever considered.

2. Assertive communication

This pattern involves expressing your ideas, wants, and needs with the goal of communicating with others. People will respect you but may not meet your own needs nor discuss or acknowledge them in the process. Nevertheless, people using these skills often feel positive and self-confident about themselves.

3. Aggressive communication

This pattern involves sharing your wants, desires, ideas, and feelings at the expense of others. Often, the intent here is to dominate or humiliate. This can cause problems arising from irritability and anger outbursts destructive to the relationship. Applying this method to “get even” or get what you need at the expense of others may expose the issue you are experiencing.

Understand that choosing the assertive communication option* can truly result in increased internal satisfaction and calm. Initially, it involves some risk-taking, that is, by sharing how you really feel but not necessarily knowing how your partner, family, friends, or co-workers may react. The beauty of assertive communication exists in sharing vulnerable feelings, by sharing who you are and what you need. It can increase satisfaction across a number of relationships and domains in your life including work, play, and parenting.

You can learn specific assertiveness skills to increase your overall interpersonal effectiveness by working with a psychologist in a specific, goal-focused way. Interpersonal effectiveness skills can help you to ask for what you want or need in a confident, self-assured manner that increases the likelihood of getting your own needs met. Making the decision to learn how to stand up for yourself may make you feel vulnerable but may just be the thing you need to increase satisfaction with your life, decrease anxiety, and gain internal peace.

Choosing to improve your own interpersonal effectiveness skills through individual psychotherapy represents an important step in improving the quality of your life while creating meaningful impact on all relationships.


*Jakubowski, P & Lange, A (1978). The Assertive Option: Your Rights and Responsibilities. USA: Research Press.
Linehan, M (2013). DBT Skills Training Handouts and Worksheets, Second Edition. New York: Guilford Press.


Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

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