An Online Psychology Guide to Assertive Communication

Assertion is a mode of communication that can be described as a straightforward expression of your thoughts, desires, feelings, and needs. Assertiveness involves being open about your own needs, while still respecting the needs of others. It also allows us to take responsibility for our own actions without holding a grudge or blaming others for our own mistakes. As we grow, we learn new types of communication styles and in what situations they fit best. We have the choice to change our communication style if need be, as there are times when it’s best to stay passive and other times when aggressive communication may be necessary to present a point. However, most situations will call for assertive communication.

Communication Styles

Assertive, aggressive, and passive are the primary types of communication styles used in everyday situations. Assertion consists of standing up for your personal rights, being direct and honest in the way that you communicate, and not violating another person’s rights. The primary objective of assertive communication is to give and receive respect, as well as to be willing to compromise if a disagreement leads to a conflict. Passive communication involves disregarding one’s own rights, feelings, thoughts, and beliefs to avoid a conflict or to please someone else. When passivity is used in conversation, the person may feel that their own feelings do not matter and that the conflicting person is superior. Aggressive communication is the opposite as passivity as the person directly stands up for themselves and their personal rights, feelings, thoughts, and beliefs. However, this may be in a way that is inappropriate, dishonest, or violates the rights of others. Individuals who use aggression in the way that they communicate often try to dominate, degrade, humiliate, belittle, or overpower the other person so that they are less willing to defend their own rights. The following information and resources will provide additional information on the types of communication and how to become more assertive.

What is Assertiveness?

Assertiveness is recognized as a way of expressing ourselves, both negativity and positively, while still respecting the rights of others. It also allows us to confront a problem effectively and find a solution where conflict does not exist. When an assertive person confronts a problem, they are willing to listen, negotiate, and influence effectively to come to a solution that both parties agree with. It’s important to understand that assertive communication is not a lifestyle, but rather a choice. Assertiveness can be used in many different situations to effectively tell others how you feel, but it can not be used with everyone. Many people tend to mix up or combine aggressive communication with assertion. The main difference between these two communication styles is an impression of disrespect that comes from aggressive communication. Individuals who are assertive are still able to get their point across effectively without feeling inferior or putting the other person down.

Assertive Communication

Becoming assertive in the proper situation can be an effective way of telling another person or group how you are feeling. Using “I” messages let people know you feel, leaving no room for second guessing. An “I” message is made up of three parts: behavior which is what the person has done, effect which is what occurred due to the behavior, and feelings which is how you felt when the behavior happened. For example, if you are late for work on a regular basis, your coworker may say “When you arrive late for work (behavior), I become frustrated (feelings) because I must get all the morning work completed by myself (effect)”. This type of assertive communication is more effective than lashing out at the person. It’s very important to choose your words carefully when being assertive and provide factual information and avoid exaggerations. Instead of saying “You’re always late for work” (aggressive), it’s better to say “You’re twenty minutes late for work today. That’s the fifth time this month” (assertive). When you choose your words carefully, you’ll more likely get your point across without become angry or disrespecting the other person.

Ideas to Keep In Mind

There are several things to keep in mind when being assertive. Remember that being assertive is much different than being aggressive in your communication style. Assertive communication does not involve hurting another person emotionally or physically. You are not in a “win” or “lose” situation, but rather a neutral power who would like to express their own needs, wants, and ideas while the other person is able to express their own needs, wants, and ideas. When you become an assertive communicator, you’ll find more effective ways to build honest relationships, find solutions to conflicts, and express yourself through words and body language. When being assertive, it’s essential to make eye contact, maintain an erect posture, speak clearly in a normal voice, and use gestures and facial expressions that give your words meaning. Assertive behavior is more of a skill that takes time to learn. With patience and practice, you too can learn to be an assertive communicator.