Assertiveness is...

  • Behaviors and words that express a person's feelings, beliefs and opinions
  • Communicating directly, firmly, and honestly
  • Respecting the other person's rights and your own 
  • A skill that you will always be working on enhancing 

The ultimate goal of assertiveness is respect!

  •  Self-respect: It allows you to feel self-confident and more in control of your life
  •  Respect from others: People can sense it when you respect yourself, so they'll treat you with respect in return

Why aren't people assertive?

  • Many of us have a fear of displeasing others, since then we won't be liked. But even though you can avoid immediate unpleasantness, you may ruin a relationship in the long run since you'll feel taken advantage of
  • It's "not nice" to put our own needs above those of others
  • We shouldn't "make waves" if someone says/does something we don't like

Non-assertive communication styles


A person who is aggressive stands up for his/her own rights, but in a way that violates the rights of others. This commonly results in put-downs of the other person, and it can cause people to lose respect for the speaker.


A passive-aggressive person avoids direct confrontation (passive), but attempts to "get even" through manipulation or sneaky behavior (aggressive).


A passive person's individual rights will probably be violated. This style reflects the underlying belief that one's feelings aren't important, or that one is too weak to act on those feelings.

    The implications of being non-assertive

    • Depression - this is the end result of anger turned inward; it gives the person a sense of being helpless and hopeless with no control over his/her life
    • Anxiety - this leads to avoidance. If you begin to avoid uncomfortable situations/people, you may miss out on fun activities, job opportunities, etc.
    • Poor Relationships - if you are unable to express both negative and positive emotions, others can’t tell what you want and need.
    • Physical Complaints - headaches, ulcers, and high blood pressure

    These are all related to stress, and assertiveness is a great stress reliever!

      How You Deliver Your Message Matters

      Forming assertive statements

      • Be direct; express your request in just a few easy-to-understand sentences
      • Think about yourself positively, and don't add qualifying statement (i.e. "You'll probably think I'm crazy, but...")
      • Avoid demanding or blaming statements (i.e. You make me..., You think..., You should...)

      Use the "I" formula

      • I feel - state your feeling
      • When - describe behavior
      • Because - concrete effect/consequence on your situation
      • I'd prefer - offer a compromise
      • Feedback - "Am I being clear? How do you see this situation?"

      Be mindful of body language 

      • Gestures - relaxed use of these shows openness, self-confidence and spontaneity
      • Voice Tone - level, well-modulated, conversational tone
      • Voice Inflection - make sure your words sound like a statement, not a question
      • Voice Volume - try not to speak too softly or loudly (stay calm)
      • Fluence - maintain a smooth flow of speech, with clear and slow statements.
      • Body Posture - maintain an active and erect posture
      • Facial Expression - your words should express the same message as your face
      • Eye Contact - look directly at the person, but don’t stare too intently (look away occasionally)

      Become an Assertive Communicator and Reduce Your Stress

       Assertiveness can help control stress and anger and improve coping skills. Learn assertive behavior with these steps.

      Assertiveness Inventory: How Assertive Are Your?

      Learning how your stand on being assertive is the first step to being a clearer communicator.