Meta-Communication and Assertive Communication Skills

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The following post is submitted by a young man in his mid-twenties. He describes meta-communication and assertive communication skills and how he has applied these to turn around his poor communication learned from very violent, abusive and negative childhood experiences.

Meta-communication is communicating about how we are communicating: how a message or information is delivered, and is meant to be interpreted. It is based on the idea that the same message accompanied by various verbal and non-verbal deliveries can make a message mean something totally different, including its opposite, as in irony. For example, two people may discuss certain body language such as rolling the eyes, frowning or a shrugging of the shoulders to determine what message is being conveyed.

Assertive Communication uses both verbal and non-verbal communication to respect the boundaries of yourself and others. It is the quality of being self-assured and confident without being aggressive. Examples of this include people who are able to maintain long-term comfortable relationships with other people and and are able to effectively express thoughts and feelings.

I was raised in a family where violence was present unnecessarily. It seriously got in the way of me learning proper assertive communication skills.

It was difficult to grow up having a father figure because of how my father was to my family. I was never taught proper social skills or had any examples provided to me. Because of how my father was, I knew everything about him was negative and I did not want to be like him at all… one bit.

In a way, it is hard to describe but I became a better man because of how my father acted. I learned how to treat others with respect and how to properly communicate. It is good to know that I have seen what the negative outcome will be without proper communication skills and to learn from that bad example.

Recently, my mother and I have been beginning to communicate better. I am now expressing more of my true thoughts to her by opening up, by using a more friendly approach to topics that usually would cause stress between the both of us. We are both using more positive expression and more positive body language.

Less nagging has been occurring leading to more different approaches to conversations that we ever really had before.”

I hope you are as inspired as I am in this young man’s story of pain and recovery, of his striving to overcome horrible experiences and learn more caring, loving and effective communication. Just because we may have grown up in families where violence and abuse existed doesn’t mean we must repeat this behavior. We can, with reading and good guidance, confront our way of interacting with others, learn new ways of communicating and develop meaningful, satisfying, long-term, loving relationships with others.


Hurtful arguing, fighting and conflict stresses children and parents, severely limiting effective functioning.  This frequently unnecessary stressor can easily disturb sleeping, disrupt digestion and gastrointestinal systems and result in regression in routine behaviours at home, in school and at work.

Whether parents are still residing together, separating/separated or already divorced, hurtful arguing is simply a poor choice.  There are so many options for effectively resolving differences, positive strategies for communicating concerns and feelings effectively, and resources to assist people. So why do so many parents choose to be hurtful?

Is it really a conscious choice, a learned behaviour or merely a lack of knowledge, training or coaching on how to get along?  It can be one of these or any combination. Regardless, we can get along well and argue more lovingly even when under stress and distress. The picture above is just one of thousands of resources that are designed to help parents who are struggling. Contrary to the age old axiom “children don’t come with a manual” they actually do; thousands of parenting books fill store shelves and web bookstores.

Counsellors have made it their job to read many parenting books, be aware of helpful local resources and provide training and coaching to assist parents when situations are beyond their normal capacity to function well. Our counsellors in Oshawa help parents in the GTA (now even worldwide via video-based web coaching) so that their ability to “Get Along” quickly increases. In doing so, parents effectively reduce stress in the family, increasing all family members’ happiness and quality of life.

When we sincerely want better for our children and families we will humble ourselves, accepting our inability to get along on our own.

Then we will reach out and find solutions to help us get along now!

   Contact us today

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