How to be Assertive

As assertive handshakeWhat type of communicator are you?

Are you a passive communicator? Are you an aggressive communicator? Or are you an assertive communicator?

If you are a passive communicator, you have an opinion and you are aware of your feelings but you don’t express them. These are the people that are said “to let people walk all over them”. This is not a great place to be. The passive person doesn’t want any conflict in their life or any confrontational situations. This person never stands up for what they believe in.

On the other end of the spectrum, we have aggressive communicators. These are the people that you would definitely be able to point out. Quite often, they are loud and they are abrupt. This may mean they get their own way, but they do this in a rude and disrespectful way. Frequently, they are hurting themselves and, by doing that, they are hurting the people around them.

Then we have assertive communicators. Now assertive communication is where you want to be. These are the people that are direct, that let you know how they are feeling and are willing to compromise. These are the people we all like to be around. These are the people who let you know how they are feeling in a non-confrontational way and without any judgement. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Assertiveness can help you control stress and anger and improve coping skills.”

Here is a situation to help you decide:

Imagine you have gone out for dinner and have waited a reasonable amount of time for your meal. But when the meal arrives, it is cold. What would you do? Would you say nothing, eat your meal with a smile on your face and then leave? If this is the case and you haven’t said anything, you are more than likely going to be passive in a situation. Alternatively, would you have yelled at the waiter? Would you have made a scene? Would you have been rude and abrupt? If this is the case, then you are an aggressive communicator. However, if you have explained to the waiter how you feel and the reasons why you are upset, then you are likely to be an assertive communicator.

How to be an assertive communicator

Let’s have a look at how we could be assertive in this situation. And, by the way, this is a great tool for you to learn to use in order to be assertive in all areas of your life.

Firstly, recognise how you are feeling:

  • I feel sad…
  • I feel angry…
  • I feel upset…
  • I feel disappointed…
  • I feel over this…

The next part that you say is “when”

  • when you brought my meal out and it was cold,

The third part is “because”

  • because it not fair that I am paying all this money
  • because it’s not worth it.

Now it feels a bit funny if you say to the waiter: “I feel…when…because …” in that structure. We don’t want to make it robotic. But we want to make it our own.  How about:

“I’m a little bit disappointed that when you brought my meal out it was cold and I feel like I shouldn’t have to pay for it because its not fair.”

Obviously, you can put your own style onto it.

Practise being assertive 

There are other situations where we can communicate assertively, not just when we are confronted with a cold meal. It is especially valuable with our family and friends. For example, you might say to your partner:

I feel frustrated when you don’t call me when you are late coming home to let me know because it means I don’t know where you are and I get worried.

OR You might say to your children:

I feel angry when you leave your shoes by the front door because it means I trip over them and that’s very annoying for me.

Be positive

Woman being assertive and explaining why she enjoys spending time with man

Photo by Sept Commercial on Unsplash

There are many different ways to be assertive in our communications. And it doesn’t have to be in a negative way. You can say it in positive ways too. For example, you might say:

I feel happy

when I spend time with you

because it makes me feel connected to you.


I feel grateful

when you buy me gifts

because it makes me feel special.

There are different ways that we can do this, as long as you are using the formula:

I feel….. when…… because…

Using these three statements ensures that you are going to be assertive. Why not give it a go? Try to make sure that you are being assertive with the person you are talking to, not passive and not aggressive. This way you will always come out a winner: not just you, but the people around you also.

What next?

If you would like to learn more about being assertive, please contact us. Our counsellors would like to meet you and help you to become more assertive in your life.