How to Be Assertive: The Assertive Communication Style (with Examples)


Assertiveness is a valuable skill that allows individuals to express their thoughts, feelings, and needs in a clear and respectful manner. It is an essential aspect of effective communication and can greatly enhance personal and professional relationships. In this article, we will explore the characteristics of assertive communication, discuss its benefits, delve into strategies for developing assertiveness, and provide tips for maintaining an assertive communication style.

Characteristics of Assertive Communication

Confidence and self-assuredness

Being assertive requires a sense of confidence and self-assuredness. It involves believing in your own worth and the validity of your thoughts and feelings. For example, when presenting an idea at work, an assertive individual confidently expresses their perspective and stands by it, regardless of potential opposition.

Clear and direct communication

Assertive communication emphasizes clarity and directness. It involves expressing your thoughts and needs in a straightforward manner, using clear and concise language. For instance, when discussing a disagreement with a friend, an assertive person would clearly state their concerns without beating around the bush or resorting to passive-aggressive behavior.

Respect for others

One crucial aspect of assertive communication is maintaining respect for others. It involves valuing the opinions and feelings of others, even if they differ from your own. For example, during a team meeting, an assertive individual actively listens to their colleagues’ ideas, provides constructive feedback, and acknowledges the value of diverse perspectives.

Active listening

Assertive individuals are skilled listeners. They demonstrate active listening by giving their full attention, maintaining eye contact, and using appropriate nonverbal cues. For instance, when having a conversation with a loved one, an assertive person actively engages by nodding, maintaining eye contact, and providing verbal cues that indicate they are attentive and genuinely interested.

Nonverbal cues

Nonverbal cues, such as body language and facial expressions, play a vital role in assertive communication. Using appropriate nonverbal cues, such as maintaining an open posture and making appropriate gestures, enhances the impact and effectiveness of your message. For example, during a job interview, an assertive candidate presents themselves with confident body language, sits upright, and maintains eye contact with the interviewer.

Benefits of Being Assertive

Improved self-esteem and self-confidence

By expressing your thoughts and needs assertively, you develop a stronger sense of self-esteem and self-confidence. Embrace your uniqueness and recognize that your opinions and needs are valid. For example, by assertively stating your preferences when choosing a restaurant, you show confidence in your own choices and strengthen your self-assurance.

Enhanced relationships and communication

Assertive communication promotes healthier and more satisfying relationships. When individuals can express themselves honestly and respectfully, it fosters trust, understanding, and mutual respect. By communicating assertively, you create an environment that encourages open dialogue and strengthens connections with others. For example, when discussing a conflict with a partner, assertive communication helps maintain a healthy and productive conversation where both parties feel heard and understood.

Increased personal and professional success

Assertiveness often correlates with increased personal and professional success. By effectively communicating your goals, desires, and boundaries, you are more likely to achieve your objectives. Assertiveness also helps garner the respect and support of others, which can contribute to personal and professional growth. For instance, by assertively expressing your career aspirations and taking on new challenges at work, you position yourself for advancement and opportunities for growth.

Reduced stress and conflict

By expressing yourself assertively, you can minimize stress and conflict in your interactions with others. Clear communication and the ability to set boundaries help prevent misunderstandings, reduce tension, and avoid unnecessary disagreements. By asserting your needs and perspectives respectfully, you can create a harmonious environment. For example, by assertively communicating your workload limits to your supervisor, you set clear boundaries that prevent burnout and promote a healthier work-life balance.

Developing Assertive Communication Skills

Self-awareness and self-reflection

Developing assertiveness begins with self-awareness and self-reflection. Take the time to understand your thoughts, emotions, and needs. Reflect on past experiences where you may have struggled with assertiveness and identify patterns or areas for improvement. Pay attention to situations where you felt your assertiveness could have been stronger or instances where you felt confident in asserting yourself. For example, journaling about your communication experiences can help you identify patterns and reflect on opportunities for assertiveness.

Understanding your rights and needs

Assertive individuals recognize and respect their own rights and needs. Take the time to identify what is important to you and acknowledge that your thoughts and feelings are valid. Recognize that you have the right to express yourself, set boundaries, and assert your needs respectfully. For instance, acknowledging your need for personal space and alone time allows you to assertively communicate these boundaries to others.

Setting boundaries

Setting clear boundaries is an essential aspect of assertive communication. Determine your limits and communicate them to others effectively. This could involve clearly stating your availability, saying “no” when necessary, and expressing your comfort level with certain situations. By setting boundaries, you assert your needs and ensure that they are respected. For example, clearly communicating your boundaries regarding personal privacy and sharing personal information helps others understand and respect your limits.

Using “I” statements

Using “I” statements is a powerful technique in assertive communication. When expressing your thoughts or feelings, begin your statements with “I” instead of “you.” This shift in language helps you take ownership of your perspective and avoids sounding accusatory. For example, instead of saying, “You always interrupt me,” you can say, “I feel frustrated when I’m interrupted.” This approach fosters a more constructive and non-confrontational conversation.

Learning to say “no”

Saying “no” is a crucial skill in assertive communication. Practice setting boundaries and declining requests or offers that do not align with your values or priorities. Remember, saying “no” is not a sign of weakness; it is a demonstration of self-respect. By respectfully declining when necessary, you maintain control over your time, energy, and commitments. For example, politely declining an additional project at work when you are already overloaded showcases your assertiveness and prevents burnout.

Managing criticism and feedback

Assertive individuals are open to receiving criticism and feedback without becoming defensive. When faced with criticism, listen actively, reflect on the feedback, and respond thoughtfully. Constructive criticism can serve as an opportunity for growth and improvement. Remember, feedback is not a personal attack but a chance to learn and evolve. For instance, when receiving constructive feedback from a supervisor, an assertive individual actively listens, asks clarifying questions, and considers how they can improve based on the feedback received.

Overcoming Barriers to Assertiveness

Fear of confrontation

One common barrier to assertiveness is the fear of confrontation. Many individuals avoid expressing themselves assertively to prevent conflicts or negative reactions from others. However, by understanding that assertive communication can lead to more productive and respectful interactions, you can overcome this fear. Approach conflicts assertively, focusing on finding common ground and resolving issues constructively. For example, assertively addressing a misunderstanding with a coworker can help clarify expectations and prevent further miscommunication.

People-pleasing tendencies

People-pleasing tendencies can hinder assertiveness, as individuals may prioritize others’ needs and opinions over their own. It is important to recognize that your needs are just as important as others’. Practice asserting your own thoughts and feelings, even if it may initially feel uncomfortable. Remember that by being assertive, you can contribute more authentically to relationships and conversations. For instance, assertively voicing your preferences when choosing a restaurant with friends allows you to contribute to the decision-making process and ensures your satisfaction.

Cultural and gender influences

Cultural and gender influences can shape our communication styles and impact our ability to be assertive. Societal expectations and norms may differ across cultures and genders, but assertiveness can be developed and adapted to individual contexts. Embrace your unique cultural background while striving to assert your thoughts and needs respectfully. Seek a balance between cultural expectations and your assertiveness. For example, adapting assertiveness techniques to suit different cultural contexts allows you to assert your needs effectively while respecting cultural norms.

Lack of assertive role models

A lack of assertive role models can make it challenging to develop assertive communication skills. Seek out assertive individuals in your personal or professional life who can serve as role models. Observe their communication styles, learn from their approaches, and adapt their techniques to suit your personality. Having assertive role models can provide inspiration and guidance as you develop your own assertiveness. For instance, seeking mentorship from an assertive leader in your organization can help you gain valuable insights and develop your assertiveness.

Fear of rejection or disapproval

Fear of rejection or disapproval can discourage individuals from expressing themselves assertively. Remember that assertiveness is about respectfully asserting your thoughts and needs, not about pleasing everyone. Recognize that not everyone will agree with or approve of your assertiveness, and that is okay. Focus on fostering healthy and meaningful connections with individuals who appreciate and respect your assertiveness. For example, asserting your boundaries and preferences in a romantic relationship ensures that your needs are met and allows for open communication.

Practical Strategies for Assertive Communication

Active listening techniques

Active listening is a cornerstone of assertive communication. Practice attentive listening by giving your full attention to the speaker, maintaining eye contact, and refraining from interrupting. Show genuine interest in what the other person is saying, and reflect their thoughts and feelings back to them. Active listening promotes understanding and paves the way for assertive responses. For instance, when engaging in a conversation with a coworker, actively listening to their concerns and perspectives allows you to respond assertively and address their points effectively.

Using body language effectively

Body language can significantly impact the effectiveness of your communication. Maintain an open posture, make appropriate gestures, and use facial expressions that reflect your message. Effective body language helps convey your assertiveness and reinforces the sincerity of your words. For example, during a business presentation, standing tall, making eye contact with your audience, and using confident gestures convey assertiveness and captivate your listeners.

Expressing thoughts and feelings clearly

Clarity is key in assertive communication. Express your thoughts and feelings clearly and concisely, using simple language. Avoid being vague or ambiguous, as it can lead to misunderstandings. Clearly articulate your needs, desires, or concerns, and provide specific examples when necessary. By being clear and direct, you ensure that your message is understood. For instance, when discussing project requirements with a team member, stating specific deadlines and expectations ensures a clear understanding and promotes assertive collaboration.

Resolving conflicts assertively

Conflicts are an inevitable part of life, and assertive communication can help navigate them successfully. When conflicts arise, approach them assertively by addressing the issue directly and honestly. Use “I” statements to express your perspective and feelings, and actively listen to the other person’s viewpoint. Strive to find mutually beneficial solutions and seek compromise when appropriate. By approaching conflicts assertively, you contribute to productive problem-solving and maintain healthy relationships. For example, during a disagreement with a friend, assertively expressing your feelings and actively seeking a resolution demonstrates assertive conflict resolution skills.

Negotiating and compromising

Assertive individuals are skilled negotiators and are open to compromise when appropriate. Recognize that assertiveness does not mean always getting your way; it involves finding middle ground that respects everyone’s needs. When faced with differing opinions or conflicting interests, engage in assertive negotiation. Seek solutions that meet the needs of all parties involved and promote mutual understanding. For instance, during a team project, assertively discussing different perspectives and finding a compromise that incorporates the best ideas showcases assertive negotiation skills.

Tips for Maintaining Assertiveness

Consistency in communication

Consistency is crucial in maintaining an assertive communication style. Ensure that your assertiveness aligns with your actions. Consistently practice assertive communication across all interactions, whether at home, work, or social gatherings. By being consistent, you establish a pattern of clear and respectful communication that others can rely on. For instance, consistently asserting your needs and boundaries in various aspects of your life reinforces your assertive communication style.

Regular self-assessment and reflection

Periodically assess your assertiveness and reflect on your communication experiences. Ask yourself whether there were situations where you could have been more assertive or areas where you demonstrated strength in assertiveness. Take note of patterns or recurring challenges. Continuous self-assessment enables growth and improvement in assertive communication skills. For example, regularly reflecting on your assertiveness in different contexts helps you identify areas for improvement and celebrate your assertive successes.

Seeking support and feedback

Seek support from trusted friends, mentors, or colleagues who can provide feedback on your assertiveness. They can offer valuable insights, constructive criticism, or encouragement to help you refine your communication skills. Embrace feedback as an opportunity for personal and professional growth. By seeking support and feedback, you demonstrate a commitment to continuous improvement in assertive communication. For instance, discussing assertiveness strategies with a trusted mentor allows you to gain new perspectives and refine your assertive approach.

Practicing assertiveness in various settings

Assertiveness should be practiced across different settings to ensure its integration into your daily life. Whether at home, work, or social environments, seize opportunities to assert your thoughts, needs, and boundaries. Adapt your assertive communication style to suit different contexts while maintaining respect and authenticity. By practicing assertiveness in various settings, you develop adaptability and reinforce your assertive habits. For example, practicing assertive communication with friends, colleagues, and family members helps you refine your assertiveness across different relationships.


In conclusion, developing an assertive communication style is a valuable skill that can greatly benefit your personal and professional relationships. By embodying the characteristics of assertive communication, understanding its benefits, and employing practical strategies, you can become a more confident and effective communicator. Overcoming barriers and maintaining assertiveness require ongoing dedication and self-reflection. Remember, assertive communication is about expressing yourself respectfully while honoring the thoughts and feelings of others. Embrace your assertiveness and watch your interactions thrive.

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