The 3 Communication Stances: Are You a Doormat, Sword, or Lantern?
I was happy to have a recent conversation with Lauri Mackey of “Lauri’s Lemonade Stand” (a blog and collection of interviews dedicated to fostering positivity in women over age 40). We talked about assertiveness (what else?), and while there are quite a few interrelated topics that I wrote about in my book “The Assertiveness Guide For Women: How to Communicate Your Needs, Set Healthy Boundaries, and Transform Your Relationships,” on this particular day, I was pleased to delve a little deeper into a subtopic that I haven’t discussed quite as much: the three stances of communication.
Before I describe what these are, it’s necessary to back up a little bit and explain that communication is only one aspect of assertiveness. In the book, I write about how it’s crucial to reflect on our past history and look inward to our experiences before communicating our needs, wants, feelings, and thoughts to another person. In other words, in order to express ourselves in a way that is clear, we first must have a solid understanding of what emotional history we are bringing to our current relationships.
So here is an explanation about the communication stances:
As its name implies, individuals with a doormat stance often allow their own needs and feelings to be trampled on. They tend to be insecure in their attachment and believe that expressing themselves may cause problems in their relationships, so they don’t risk it and instead stay quiet. Doormats often are overwhelmed by their own feelings but don’t think they are important enough to assert or are unable to do so in a way that is clear to others.
A sword is in many ways the opposite extreme of a doormat. Those with a sword stance are perhaps too vocal, even pushy, about their views, as they express them in ways that are harsh and alienating to others. While doormats are often overly concerned about others, swords tend to think only of themselves and their own feelings and needs. They may not be aware of how their words and actions affect other people, who are often pushed away by a sword’s aggressive manner of communicating.
The lantern is the goal for all communication. A lantern values her own feelings and thoughts but is also mindful of and sensitive toward those of others. Individuals who employ this type of communication are neither too timid (like the doormat) nor too forceful (like the sword). Just like its namesake, a lantern illuminates all perspectives and views, not just her own. While the doormat and sword stances mask insecurity, the lantern stance is built upon confidence.
It’s important to note that most of us do not just assume one stance; though it’s common for individuals to usually interact as a doormat, sword, or lantern, different situations and people can bring out different styles of communication in us. The good news is that there are concrete ways to improve how well we communicate (in both words and actions) with others in a way that is clear and kind.
Listen to my interview with Lauri here, and read my book “The Assertiveness Guide For Women” to learn more about these kinds of communication, how to understand your own default way of relating to and speaking with others, and how to be more assertive in your relationships.
Dynamic self & relationship expert Dr. Julie de Azevedo Hanks, LCSW loves to make a difference for women. She owns Wasatch Family Therapy and regularly contributes to KSL TV's Studio 5, and her advice has been featured nationally including Wall Street Journal, Parenting, Fox News, and others. Connect on Facebook & Twitter. Her books The Burnout Cure and The Assertiveness Guide are now available.