Discover the Importance of Assertive Communication When a Loved One is Suffering from Problem Gambling

The importance of the way we communicate to others cannot be understated. Some of us have not been taught how to share our thoughts and feelings with others in an assertive fashion. When it comes to dealing with a loved one suffering from problem gambling, it is imperative to learn to speak assertively. An individual with a gambling addiction will push to get everything and everyone to revolve around his or her needs, whether or not they know they are doing this.

If you are living with a problem gambler and have lost yourself in the chaos, this information will be an important learning tool for you. Maybe you never learned that it is OKAY to ask for what you need and to say “NO” when appropriate. You are not alone!

Assertive behavior “enables a person to act in his/her own best interests, to stand up for him or herself without undue anxiety, to express his/her honest feelings comfortably, and safely or to exercise his/her own rights without denying the rights of others.”1

The key to communication is learning to use your tone of voice, eye contact, body language, and words thoughtfully. If any one of these goes offline, then the listener will have a negative response. This is hard to do when you are involved in a roller coaster life with a compulsive gambler. There are so many emotions that fuel any communication process to the negative. Many loved ones will turn into “people pleasers”, because they are sick and tired of the conflict and become passive.

Being assertive means communicating with others in a direct and honest manner without intentionally hurting anyone’s feelings.

Below you will find examples of the different ways of expressing yourself.2

Passive Assertive Aggressive
Too scared to say what you think Expresses self clearly and confidently Expresses self with aggression and irritation/anger
Avoids eye contact Maintains eye contact Stares in a judgmental way
Speaks softly or weakly Speaks firmly Speaks loudly (e.g., shouting)
Reduces own self-esteem Increases own self-esteem Reduces others’ self-esteem
Makes body smaller (e.g., slouching) Firm yet welcoming posture Closed posture (e.g., making body bigger)
Others’ needs are put first Self and others’ needs are taken into account Own needs are put first
Can’t say ‘no’ to others’ requests or demands Is able to say no in a calm and direct way Says no in an aggressive and reactive way
Aims to please others Aims to express needs Aims to win

Another distinct way of negatively communicating, combing two of these, is passive aggressive. Some examples of passive aggressiveness are sarcasm, silent treatment, excuses, subtle digs, “ghosting”, and expressing your feelings non-verbally.

If you are wondering how to speak assertively, here are a few examples. First, it is important to begin any statement with “I”, instead of “YOU”. Making yourself (“I”) the subject of the statement will disarm the person you are trying to convey your message to, whereas saying “YOU” will immediately put them on the defensive. It is not easy to learn to speak in “I” tones and takes practice to break the “blame game”. Here are a few examples of assertive statements:

  • “I hear what you are saying to me, and (not but) I cannot add that to my plate right now.”
  • “We made an agreement that I would take care of the finances and at this time, we have no extra money for what you want.”
  • “I need you to not speak to me in an aggressive manner.”

This takes practice and will take breaking some reactive habits! Take a deep breath before you say anything, but know this: YOU HAVE EVERY RIGHT TO SAY WHAT YOU NEED AND ASK FOR WHAT YOU WANT.

Always keep in mind that anytime you need support as the loved one of a problem gambler, 888-ADMIT-IT has resources for you, your children, your finances, and much more, depending on your situation. Call or text 24/7 to speak with a knowledgeable HelpLine Specialist, knowing this service is completely confidential, multilingual, and free!

  1. Alberti, Robert E., et al. The Professional Edition of Your Perfect Right: A Manual for Assertiveness Trainers. Impact Publishers, 1986.
  2. Arasteh Gatchpazian, A., Ph.D. Candidate. Assertive Communication: Definition, Examples, & Techniques​. Berkley Well Being Institute.

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