The Power of Assertive Communication: How to Make Connections That Last

For many, speaking up is not easy. And while it may be uncomfortable, assertiveness is a way of communicating that leads to positive outcomes in many areas.

This article will explain what assertiveness means, why it matters, and how to improve it.

What is Assertive Communication?

Assertive communication is the ability to express your thoughts, feelings, and needs clearly, confidently, and directly. It focuses on understanding each other, respecting rights while keeping personal boundaries, and encouraging open and honest dialogue.

Characteristics of Assertive Communication

Characteristics of Assertive Communication

Effective assertive communication is both non-verbal and verbal.

  1. Eye contact: Shows confidence and establishes connection.
  2. Posture: Standing or sitting in a balanced way shows confidence and respect.
  3. Voice tone: Strong and steady tone conveys conviction.
  4. Facial expression: Keeping a neutral or positive expression avoids showing negative emotions.
  5. Timing: Choosing the right moment for communication is important, or assertiveness might come across as harsh or insensitive.
  6. Clarity: Using clear, straightforward language to express needs and wants.
  7. Non-threatening: Communication should be without blame or threats to get a better response.
  8. Positive: Framing requests or statements positively can be more persuasive.
  9. No criticism: Keeping a respectful tone means you can give constructive feedback while avoiding criticism.

Benefits of Assertive Communication Skills

Assertive communication skills bring many benefits to our personal and professional relationships:

  • Feel confident
  • Achieve your goals
  • Have strong self-esteem
  • Feel respected
  • Create strong and positive relationships
  • Reduce stress
  • Protect your boundaries
  • Develop trust
  • Feel less anxious

Assertive vs. Aggressive vs. Passive Communication

Assertive vs. Aggressive vs. Passive Communication

Understanding the differences between assertive, aggressive, and passive communication is key to effective communication. This section will explore these three styles of communication, focusing on their characteristics and impacts on relationships:

Assertive Communication

  • Conveys your needs clearly
  • Respects others
  • Gives room for compromise
  • Improves relationships
  • Uses healthy boundaries

Aggressive Communication

  • Forces needs on others
  • Disrespects or bullies others
  • Uncompromising
  • Weakens relationships
  • Violates boundaries

Passive Communication

  • Avoids
  • Disrespects
  • Leads to negative emotions
  • Weakens relationships
  • Fails to help either party make progress

How to Develop an Assertive Communication Style

Developing an assertive communication style helps you interact better in both work and personal life. It means knowing your rights and responsibilities in conversations and using techniques that build respect and understanding. Next, we will look at practical steps to improve your assertiveness, focusing on the importance of balance, practice, and self-reflection.

1. Be Factual About What You Don’t Like

When you need to talk about someone’s unhelpful behavior, focus on what they actually do, not on personal attacks. For example:

Situation: Your colleague often interrupts you in meetings.

Too aggressive response: “You always want to be the center of attention! You don’t let others talk.”

Better way to say it: “I’ve noticed you interrupt me when I’m sharing my thoughts in our meetings.”

2. Don’t Judge or Exaggerate

Being clear and objective about behaviors that negatively impact you, without overdramatizing or judging, is key for assertive communication. Also, explaining the consequences of someone’s actions without exaggeration or labels is important. Avoid assigning motives or flaws; just describe the situation as it is:

Situation: Your project teammate turns in their part of the work late, affecting the project timeline.

Inappropriate response: “You’ve messed up our project and left all the work to me. You always do this!”

Assertive communication: “We were counting on your portion of the project in order to hit the deadline. This has set us back and we need to make a plan to get back on track.”

3. Use “I” Messages

Using “I” messages is a good way in clear communication, as it focuses on your own feelings instead of blaming another person. This makes the other person less likely to get defensive, leading to better conversation. Here’s how switching from “You” messages to “I” messages can change a conversation:

You Message: “You’re always on your phone during our conversations. It’s so rude!”

I Message: “I feel ignored when you’re on your phone while we’re talking. I’d really like to have your full attention.”

In this example, the “I” message focuses on how the behavior affects the speaker, without accusing the other person of any ill intent. It simply shares the speaker’s feelings and what they want, making it easier for the listener to understand the issue and respond well.

4. Put It All Together

Combining these strategies into an effective communication formula can significantly improve the clarity and impact of your messages. A practical application of this would be using a structured statement that points out the behavior in question and expresses your feelings without blaming. For example:

“When you [specific behavior], I feel [specific feeling].” Using this framework ensures that your communication stays factual and focused on your personal experience, thus reducing the chance of defensive reactions. Here’s a simplified example to show this:

“When you raise your voice during discussions, I feel undermined.”

This method effectively communicates your perspective and feelings, leading to a healthier dialogue by concentrating on behaviors and their impact on you rather than assigning intent or character flaws to the other person.

5. List behavior, results, and feelings.

Expanding on how to use assertive communication effectively, a better method includes talking about the consequences of the behavior you’re discussing. This approach makes your message clearer. You start by describing what the person did, then you talk about what happened because of their action, and finally, you share how it made you feel.

The structure goes like this: “When you [their behavior], then [results of their behavior], and I feel [how you feel].” This way, you clearly express your point of view and encourage a positive reaction. For example:

“When you forget to provide timely updates, I am continuing to work off outdated information, and I feel like I’ve wasted my time and effort.”

These examples show how certain actions lead to specific outcomes and how those outcomes make you feel. Sharing this cause-and-effect helps the other person understand your perspective better, leading to more understanding interactions and solutions.


How to use assertive communication?

Assertive communication involves stating your needs, desires, or thoughts directly and respectfully. It means standing up for your rights without stepping on others’ rights. To use assertive communication, first identify what you want to say. Use “I” statements to express your feelings and how someone’s behavior affects you.

Be careful not to make accusations or imply a negative or malicious intent. Listen actively to understand their perspective and respond with empathy. Keep eye contact, use a clear tone of voice, have an open posture, and convey calmness through your body language.

How to be assertive in communication?

Being assertive means confidently expressing your thoughts, needs, and feelings respectfully and directly. It’s about finding a balance in conversation, valuing others’ rights and your own. To become more assertive, be clear and straight in what you say, stay away from being too aggressive or too passive, and keep calm in tough talks. Assertiveness is about self-respect and understanding others, leading to honest and effective communication.

How can I practice communicating assertively?

Practicing assertive communication can be done in everyday life through exercises and applying basic principles. Start by taking part in simple conversations where you express your needs or views using “I” statements and the communication formulas provided above. Role-playing with a friend or mentor is also helpful, as it allows you to practice and get feedback in a safe space.

Also, think about your daily interactions, noting when you could have been more assertive and planning how to improve in future talks. Lastly, consider going to workshops or seeking advice from a professional in communication skills to better understand and use assertive communication techniques. Regular practice in different situations will help make these skills a natural part of your interactions.

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