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Assertive Communication

Updated: Oct 4, 2023

Assertive people effectively conveys their thoughts with clarity and composure, exuding self-assurance. They are unafraid of encountering challenges or divergent viewpoints. They prioritise their own needs without resorting to aggression, maintaining a balanced and respectful approach when interacting with others while expressing their ideas and perspectives.

Assertiveness plays a pivotal role in effective communication, emphasising the need to express ourselves clearly without resorting to aggression.

Assertive communication serves as a potent tool for self-expression, conveying the message, "This is who I am, and this is how I wish to be treated," while remaining attuned to the emotions and needs of others.

It's essential to understand that assertiveness is not about constantly seeking approval or prioritising the happiness and harmony of others.

The primary goal of assertiveness is to ensure that you are both heard and treated equitably. This not only enhances your communication skills and strengthens decision-making but also bolsters your self-esteem.

Becoming more assertive equips you to confront conflicts and challenging situations with confidence, earning the respect of those around you.

So, what steps can you take to cultivate greater assertiveness?

Developing a positive self-image

It can prove valuable to establish a set of guidelines for assertive behaviour that can serve as a reminder of our entitlement to our individual needs, which we can confidently expect without feelings of guilt or uncertainty.

Assertive Rights

The following list can be embraced (and adjusted as necessary) as a set of principles for assertive living.

These principles serve as a reminder that you have the entitlement to your individual needs and can anticipate them without experiencing guilt or uncertainty.

I have the right to:

Assess my own thoughts, emotions, and behaviour – even though others' actions affect me, I retain the choice of how to respond.

Decide whether I am responsible for solving others' problems – while I may empathise with others' issues, I am not obligated to ensure their happiness.

Change my mind – life is constantly evolving, and as individuals, so do our perspectives and beliefs. It is perfectly reasonable for our views to evolve over time.

Admit when I don't know – it's acceptable to acknowledge when I lack knowledge.

Make mistakes – making mistakes is an inherent part of being human. I can make mistakes and take responsibility for them. Others might consider some errors unthinkable or unforgivable, but errors are essential for personal growth.

Be independent of others' approval – while appreciation is welcome, I do not require others' permission to form my own opinions.

Be illogical – I can make decisions in situations where inadequate information makes logical reasoning impossible or unable to predict outcomes.

Confess when I don't understand – it's acceptable to admit when I don't comprehend something.

Express that I don't care – there may be times when I genuinely lack interest in a subject or another person's biased viewpoint. While courtesy is important, it should not lead to a closed mindset. I am not obligated to agree with everything, and it is acceptable to disagree.

Regularly review these principles of assertiveness and modify them as necessary. They can be particularly beneficial before or after challenging conversations, reinforcing your inner strength and reminding you that you deserve respect.

Self-dialogue to Foster Assertiveness

Self-dialogue can take on either a positive or negative tone. In fact, when we convince ourselves that we cannot accomplish something, it erodes our self-confidence and can diminish our sense of self-esteem.

Conversely, people who engage in positive motivational self-talk can enhance their ability to manage discomfort.

Using Positive Assertiveness Statements can promote a strong and nurturing sense of self-worth.

Positive Assertiveness Statements

Read and affirm the following positive assertiveness declarations aloud to foster a more positive self-image and bolster your self-esteem. You can expand this list with your own empowering statements:

■ I excel at communication.

■ I exude confidence and inner strength.

■ I boldly advocate for my beliefs.

■ I assertively defend my rights.

■ Saying "no" when necessary is my prerogative.

■ My self-belief is unwavering.

■ I possess control over my circumstances.

■ I am equipped to handle challenging and tense situations.

■ I am will not be diminished by people or external situations.

■ I inherently deserve respect and recognition.

■ I am self-assured and comfortable when expressing my needs.

■ I am capable of accomplishing anything I set my mind to.

Repeating these affirmations daily and before confronting challenging situations can reshape your self-perception and enhance your self-assurance. They can also serve as aids in visualisation exercises, helping you construct a mental image of your ideal assertive self.

Embrace this transformation in how you perceive yourself, fortify your inner voice, and become attuned to the heightened sense of self-empowerment that ensues.

Effective Communication with Assertive Language

When it comes to speaking assertively, it's crucial to consider the impression you're leaving on others. Speaking unclearly or in a hesitant manner can give the impression of lacking confidence and conviction.

Explore the following techniques to understand how your choice of words influences your assertiveness:

Basic Assertion: Employ straightforward and clear statements to express your needs or desires.

For instance, imagine you receive a phone call in the evening as you're about to meet friends. You might respond by saying, "It's great to hear from you, but I'm just heading out. Could I give you a call tomorrow?"

Empathy: Demonstrate an understanding of the other person's perspective while asserting your own rights.

Empathy can be a valuable approach, especially in confrontational conversations or situations where you're uncomfortable making requests.

For example, you can say, "I understand that you're busy, but I really need to meet with you tomorrow to discuss some important matters."

Escalation: This is a crucial skill for handling more challenging and confrontational interactions.

While maintaining composure, there may be times when it becomes necessary to assert yourself more assertively, especially when the other party is ignoring your needs or rights. Escalation is typically a last resort, used when basic assertion and empathy have proven ineffective.

"I" or "Me" Statements: After you've clarified what the other person has done, express your concerns.

Use simple statements and begin with "I" or "Me" to maintain control of the conversation from your perspective.

For example, instead of starting with an accusing "You" statement, you can say, "I am unhappy with the way you spoke to me; it hurt my feelings."

This approach focuses on expressing how their actions have affected you, sounding less confrontational or aggressive and making it more challenging to deny.

Look for opportunities to practice these four approaches and refine your communication skills based on your experiences and lessons learned. Being well-versed in your topic and having a clear message to convey can boost your confidence and enhance your assertiveness.

Effective communication begins with having a meaningful message to convey, with the aim of imparting your core idea to your audience.

To achieve this, consider the following steps:

■ Concentrate on a single central idea.

■ Identify a compelling reason for your audience to be interested.

■ Construct your idea using concepts that are already familiar to your audience.

Ultimately, successful communication hinges on having a message that holds value and significance.

Barriers to Assertiveness

Frequently, we erect barriers that hinder our ability to be assertive.

By acknowledging these barriers, we can gain a clearer understanding of them. If we find ourselves in situations where change is impossible, we can learn to accept them. However, if change is feasible, we can devise strategies to address them.

Recognising these challenges and discovering solutions will facilitate our personal growth and bring us closer to achieving our objective of becoming more assertive.

Understanding the impediments that stand in the way of assertiveness empowers us to surmount them.

Distinguishing Between Assertiveness and Aggression

It's essential to make a clear distinction between assertiveness and aggression, primarily concerning the concept of respect.

Aggressive individuals typically disregard the perspectives and needs of others. They frequently raise their voices, dismiss others' opinions, and invade personal boundaries. In some cases, their use of sarcasm and shouting can escalate into violent behaviour.

In contrast, assertiveness is marked by dignity. Assertive people strike a delicate balance between pursuing their own goals and respecting the needs of others.

Assertiveness vs. Passivity

It's crucial to recognise that passivity can be just as detrimental to effective communication as aggression.

The primary distinction between these two behaviours, once more, revolves around the concept of respect.

Passive people, in essence, show a lack of respect for their own feelings, needs, and opinions. They often prioritise the desires of others over their own.

While being aggressive may not be a recipe for building strong relationships, passivity is no better in that regard. Ultimately, it signifies a relinquishment of personal power, allowing others to make decisions on one's behalf. Visualise success in assertive communication

The more vividly you can visualise success – incorporating sights, sounds, and even smells – the more profound the positive influence it will have.

Additionally, take time to revisit past interactions that were successful and relish the sense of accomplishment in how you handled them.

Feel assured as you contemplate returning to conversations that were less successful. In situations where it felt like things went awry, reimagine your reactions and how secure you felt, envisioning the strength you possess. Cultivate Assertive Body Language

We can alter the perception we convey to ourselves and those around us by embracing behaviours that project both resilience and authority.

Presence, often described as self-assuredness without conceit, can be achieved through self-encouragement, making subtle adjustments in our body language, and refining our mindset, as supported by substantial research.

The "Power Pose" Exercise

Experiment with a posture that exudes confidence, such as placing your hands on your hips, and sustain it for two minutes – this is known as a power pose.

There are alternative methods to cultivate robust body language:

■ Maintain strong and unwavering eye contact.

■ Offer an authentic and sincere smile.

■ Keep your shoulders positioned back, yet in a relaxed manner.

■ When seated, sit upright and tall.

■ Gesture naturally with your hands, but refrain from excessive movements.

Managing Personal Relationships

Establishing and maintaining personal relationships can pose challenges for people lacking assertiveness. To earn respect from friends and partners, it's essential to first cultivate self-respect.

Here are some recommendations for asserting yourself within a relationship:

Reclaim Your Power: If you share a home with someone, remind yourself that you deserve to feel comfortable in your own space. Recognise that nobody has the right to make you uncomfortable within your own home.

Identify Your Desires: Take the time to reflect on your desires for a successful relationship and any changes you'd like to see. Articulate your needs and wants with composure and self-assuredness. Failing to communicate your needs is unfair to both yourself and your partner.

Express Your Desires: Carve out time to engage in open dialogue with your partner. Share your needs while also attentively listening to theirs. Use "I" and "me" when discussing what you seek in the relationship.

Being assertive does not equate to being indifferent. The fact that you want to share your feelings and enhance your relationship signifies your commitment to nurturing the bond you share. Find opportunities to calmly express your needs, making it an opportunity for mutual growth within the relationship, rather than a stressful encounter. Assertiveness in the Workplace

In a professional setting, assertiveness plays a pivotal role. When effectively used, it means articulating your needs and desires clearly, such as defining tasks, deadlines, and methods, all while maintaining courtesy and respect.

While being assertive doesn't guarantee that every request will be granted, it significantly increases the likelihood of a positive outcome.

Strive for Assertiveness, Not Aggressiveness: Behaving aggressively in the workplace hinders effective communication and undermines your chances of earning respect. It's essential to strike a balance between assertiveness and aggression.

Preparation Is Key: Before engaging in a challenging conversation, it's helpful to prepare. You can visualise the discussion, jot down your points, or seek advice from a trusted colleague on how to manage the conversation assertively.

Understand Your Rights: Take the time to familiarise yourself with your rights and entitlements in the workplace. For instance, what are your privileges concerning holiday or and sick leave? Are there any constraints on when you can take them? If you encounter inappropriate behaviour from a manager, it's crucial to know your options and next steps.

Define Your Boundaries: Identify your boundaries when it comes to work hours and expectations. While some flexibility may be acceptable, it's essential to recognise when late work or additional demands become unreasonable.

Recognise Your Value: Acknowledge your worth as both an individual and an employee. Reflect on your strengths and contributions to the organisation, recognising the value you bring to your workplace. Lacking assertiveness is a problem. Without it, you tend to back down and live your life on other people’s terms rather than your own.


Sally Edwards Counselling

I am a fully qualified counsellor based in Orpington, Kent

I work with clients with problems including: depression, anxiety, panic attacks, stress, low self-esteem, low self-confidence, identity issues, relationship problems, self-destructive behaviours, self-harm, childhood sexual abuse, sexual violence, domestic violence, domestic abuse, trauma, PTSD, eating disorders and body image problems.

I am easily accessible from local areas near me including Orpington, Bromley, Chislehurst, Petts Wood, Sidcup, Beckenham, Sevenoaks, Tonbridge, Knockholt, West Wickham, Chelsfield, Swanley and Bexley

Face-to-face in person or online counselling

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