By: Ben Richardson Last updated: November 29th, 2021
News & tips
Strong, respectful relationships are based on all parties communicating clearly and respectfully.
Many people find this difficult. They don’t find communicating their views and feelings clearly easy.
So how do people learn to communicate more assertively?
Obviously, we run training courses in London and Guildford but we don’t believe that we know it all.
We wanted to get the views of some other experts in the field and so we teamed up with Minuca Elena to find out from 81 experts:
What Is Your Top Assertive Communication Tip?
All of the answers below are from self-development, life and business coaches and therapists. Experts in the field of assertive communication.
We’ve split the tips from our experts across 3 blogs posts to ensure that their tips get the coverage they deserve. Part 2 be found at: Assertive Communcation Tips: Part 2
So without further ado:
~ Thea shares self-improvement, personal development, and self-growth resources on her blog, Forward Steps. Her aim is to help people discover and move toward what they really want, rather than feeling stuck, trapped or in a rut.
When we find ourselves in circumstances requiring us to communicate assertively, it is usually because we have something at stake, something which means a lot to us. We will have strong emotional attachment to the outcome of that conversation.
There’ll likely be an emotional charge around the topic of discussion. To get our view across, effectively, it’s those intense feelings which we will need to manage, to avoid the other person(s) becoming immediately defensive.
When the listener is in defensive mode, they will not hear what you are saying because they’ll be too busy in their own heads, creating counter-arguments.
Ideally “step into the shoes” of the other person(s) and get an honest sense of their perspective on the issue(s). Ask lots of questions and nod in agreement, making them feel heard. Really concentrate on what they say, so you can respond directly to the concerns, rather than reacting from pure emotion (which would send the conversation off on a tangent).
Listen intensely for opportunities, to find common ground and for potential compromises. You may see clues in their body language, their facial expressions, and strength of words they use. Directly address their concerns, by suggesting some of the solutions that you already had in mind.
Calmly describe how those suggestion(s) might be a win for them, how you both could comfortably accept them and easily come to an agreement.
In a nutshell, treat others exactly as you would want to be treated if the scenario were reversed i.e. if you were them. Assertive communication is a skill that is developed through regular practice.
In your day to day, be more aware of when you are either being too passive or being overly aggressive, then use these tips to shift your behaviour, until it simply becomes part of who you are.
~ Steve’s blog is focused on personal development, which includes personal growth, creating a lifestyle full of joy and happiness, living life to its fullest, thinking outside the box and learning on how to live life more conscious.
My number one tip for assertive communication would be to the honest, frank but always polite. There’s no use in lying around or talking around the bush. People will quickly discover if someone is not sincere with them. At the same time, it is important not to be rude or harsh.
If you criticize others, try to give them constructive criticism that helps them to become better. If your criticism cannot be used to become better, or if it is overly harsh, you should better remain silent.
Always remember that your message is more likely to be accepted if you are respectful to others.
When your counterpart understands that you are not attacking them, they are more likely to take your criticism into consideration.
My top tip is to use “I” statements. A formula for this statement is: “I feel _______ when you _______ because ________.” For example, if another person is yelling at you, you can say:
“I feel frustrated when you yell, because the only thing I can focus on is the fact you are yelling when what I really want is to understand your point of view.”
As another example, if someone is talking too loud on the phone in line at the bank, you can say:
“Excuse me, I’m sorry to bother you, but I feel very awkward right now when you talk so loud because I feel like I’m ease dropping on your personal conversation.”
This is a powerful assertiveness technique because you are not attacking the other person, you are simply letting them know how their behavior is impacting you and likely impeding them in what they want to accomplish.
It lets them know immediately what needs to change so they can effectively communicate, accomplish their goal, or at least stop impacting you. It also lets them know that you are willing to speak up for yourself, but will not attack them.
Joshua Syna HoustonHypnosis.com
~ Joshua specializes in hypnosis and is also a licensed counsellor in The State of Texas. He has given hundreds of presentations in speaking engagements informing the public about the benefits of hypnosis and is available to present lectures about hypnosis to groups in the Houston area.
I have my clients use a 3 step assertiveness communication process which works extremely well in almost every situation:
1) Tell them how you feel: The first step in assertive communication is to tell the other person how you feel about their behaviour. For example, let’s say someone keeps coming into your office and disrupting your workday: “When you barge into my office without knocking, I feel frustrated, angry and distracted.”
2) Tell them what you want: The next step is to clearly and specifically communicate what you want. “From now on I want you to knock on my office door and wait for me to reply, BEFORE you come into my office.”
3) Leave them an out: Finally let the other person know what YOU are going to do if they are not able to honour your request: “If you are not able to knock and wait for me to tell you that its OK to enter, then I am going to lock my office door so I will not be disturbed.”
~ Dan is the founder of PRAXES, a parenting program designed to reduce stress in parents of special needs children. He has been in the behavioural health field for over 40 years, as a therapist and director of programs for children and adults. He is also a parent of three special needs children.
My favourite tip is a skill called DESC, which stands for Describe, Express, Specify and Consequences. When you have something you want to ask for, whether work or personal life, and you may be nervous or unsure how you or the other person will respond, it’s helps you assert yourself without getting emotional.
Describe: ‘Mr. Ford, when I asked you a question about the project you asked me to do, you yelled at me.’
Express: ‘It made me feel unappreciated and hurt, as I respect you as a boss.’
Specify: ‘I would like it if you would speak to me calmly, rather than raise your voice at me.’
Consequences: ‘I definitely think it will help our working relationship if you did.”
It doesn’t always change other’s opinions, but at least you tried.
~ Tina is a psychotherapist, author, speaker and trainer based in Denver, Colorado, U.S.A.
Learning how to be assertive is only half the battle. Having the courage to practice what you’ve learned is the other half. Assertiveness training will help you communicate effectively, but you’ve got to be willing to use it. No one but you can make up your mind to be assertive.
That’s why the most important step toward assertive communication is the one you take before you even open your mouth. It’s when you say to yourself, “It matters what I want, how I feel, and what I think. I’m allowed to speak my truth, to stand up for myself (and others if necessary), and to say No.”
Being assertive isn’t the same as being aggressive overbearing, but it does take strength and courage.
Before you attend an assertiveness training, make a promise to yourself that you WILL use what you learn, no matter how daunting it might feel in the moment. Nothing that’s truly worthwhile comes easy, and assertiveness is no exception.
Maj Wismann MajWismann.com
~ Maj is a clinical sexologist and relationship therapist from Denmark. She is helping women and men around the world getting their love life & sex drive back.
I have worked with couples in my clinic since 2006, and have learned them how to stop fighting and start communicating. The absolutely best communication tip I have is to stop talking and start listening. Really! Most of the time we only talk to be listened to. But if nobody is listening, it will end in misunderstandings and arguing.
This is something you can learn and have to practice to be really good at. You should not only listen, you should listen to understand your partner. What is it he or she is trying to tell you? What is the ore points? The meaning of the things he or she is telling you about?
If you practice being a good listener, try to listen to really understand, and then check out if you have understood it correctly by asking: “Am I understanding this right, what you are telling me is….”, I promise you, your conversations will dramatically change for the better.
Christina Nicholson MediaMavenAndMore.com
~ Christina is the owner of Media Maven, a full-service public relations firm based in Coral Springs, Florida. She is an award-winning journalist with more than a decade of experience anchoring, reporting, writing, editing, networking, excelling in social media, photography, and live TV.
People need to listen to listen, not to respond.
When people try to sell me on their services, I pay attention to how they’re doing it, because I sell a service too. Most of the time, they start telling me all about what they do and how it will help me. That’s great and all, but they do this BEFORE they ask any questions or even listen to see if I actually NEED their services.
I think in sales, it’s important to see if the person you’re talking to is even in need of your services. Maybe they do the exact same thing you do, but you haven’t taken the time to listen to them to see what they need.
Outside of business, I think we just saw a lot of listening to respond instead of listening to listen with the recent presidential election. The political fights that stemmed from people have a different opinion was so disappointing to see.
It’s okay to have a different opinion, but if you want to learn from someone and have a real conversation, you need to listen to understand – not listen to respond.
Jean Cannon JeanCannon.com.au
~ Jean has had an interesting and varied career as a neurophysiologist, teacher, marine biologist, business consultant and now a hypnotherapist specializing in relief of stress, anxiety, and trauma.
I work with people who have been bullied, abused both physically and sexually, raped and generally disrespected. These people were never taught to be assertive.
From their earliest years in most cases, their opinions were ignored or rejected as not important. Until they know that the past is over, they are safe and they feel empowered they merely move on from one bully to another.
The wonderful hypnotic process that I use empowers them to safely stand up to their past abusers, get really angry in a trance and get all their past emotions out so that the feel safe, they know it is over and they remain empowered so that it can never happen again. They learn to be assertive and to remain safe.
~ Dr. E. Michele Ramsey is an associate professor of Communication Arts & Sciences and Women’s Studies at Penn State, Berks. She teaches courses in rhetoric, political communication, media, and conflict management. You can find more information at Ramsey-E-Michele and DrMicheleRamsey.com.
My key piece of advice for effective assertive communication to rethink how we approach communicating in conflicts and to redefine some of the conflict’s key elements. First, we must remove the negative connotation of the word “argument” and replace it with an understanding of argument as “reason-giving”.
We should also understand that if arguments between assertive communicators are taking place, that’s a good thing because people feel empowered to disagree with each other instead of blindly rubber-stamping someone’s ideas. This speaks to a more open communication system, which can be a healthy thing. Second, we have to understand that reasonable people can disagree on content without being disagreeable with each other.
When we separate the people that we’re disagreeing with from the problem we’re all trying to solve, we see ourselves as working side-by-side and attacking the problem rather than attacking each other. We should also recognize the difference between positions and interests. We share interests but may take different positions on dealing with those interests.
Thus, we need to commit to finding wise agreements, rather than committing to positions you feel you must defend. By rethinking our approach to conflict as something positive rather than negative and framing our assertive communications focused on solving a problem rather than just “winning”, assertive communication can make a positive difference in solving conflicts.
Jacqueline Mendez JacquelineMendez.com
~ Jacqueline is an AASECT Certified Sex Therapist, Licensed Marriage Family Therapist, and Professional Life Coach. She works with men, women, and couples.
Assertive communication is practising sharing your thoughts and feelings while still being compassionate with whom you are sharing. Many times what occurs is that we wait until we are heated to muster up the courage to say something. What is guaranteed then is everyone is defensive and no one is really listening.
The first step in asserting yourself is to come from a place of relaxation versus tension as tension indicates your body that something is wrong and ready for flight, freeze, or fight. By first noticing the tension in your body and then relaxing it by breathing and moving your body. Take a walk, push-ups, or simply shake your bootie.
Once centered and more relaxed, inquire within what is the intention of your sharing? What is is that you are intending to get out of sharing? I often teach my clients the idea of “care-frontation” which focuses not in proving the other person wrong, but to come from the place of concern for your relationship with them.
Keep in mind timing is everything. Many times we are feeling so upset that we need a resolution right now, but waiting until things cool off may get you a better outcome. Also, waiting for all parties to be in a more receptive place.
Finally, sometimes it does not matter how calm, assertive, or loving you are because there are some issues that are so heavy that you need to take it piece by piece. Be patient and be consistent, but above all be clear on where you stand on the issue at hand.
Katy Whitton FlippingHeck.com
~ Katy runs Flipping Heck, a blog dedicated to bringing you the latest productivity, self-improvement and motivational tips and tricks for students, parents, business people and those wanting to just get more organized.
My top assertive communication tip is to listen. That’s it, simple huh? It’s a tool we all have but often fail to use and it is more powerful than anybody language technique or speech pattern that you may be taught.
Whilst you may not see the act of listening as “assertive” in the traditional sense, it’s one of the most powerful communication techniques you can have in your toolbox and can make or break business dealings and even friendships.
You won’t get anywhere with anyone if you don’t understand their frame of mind and what they are trying to achieve. Not listening to what the other party is saying will mean that you go into any negotiation or meeting with a set of preconceptions that could be completely at odds with what the desired outcome of the conversation is.
Why is listening such a powerful tool? It not only shows the other person that you are interested in them and you value their opinions, it also allows you to reword your own proposal or argument in a way that’s acceptable to the person you’re dealing with without necessarily giving in to any demands.
In his seminal work “The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People” Stephen Covey tells us how important understanding the other person’s point of view is in order that our own viewpoint can then be understood (Habit 5: Seek first to understand then to be understood). This then allows for compromise and (as Covey puts it) a Win/Win outcome.
Some people may think that in order to be good at communication they need to dominate the conversation, be louder than everyone else and be the most memorable. I think that you’ll have far a more beneficial outcome with the simple act of listening which is often sadly underused in today’s “me me me” world.
~ Mark runs Productivity501, a site dedicated to bringing you regular tips and tricks to help increase your productivity.
The most important thing to remember in communicating is the “golden rule.” Communicate with others the way you would want them to communicate with you.
If you are engaging in a conversation with someone who has a different opinion, you can’t go into it with the goal of changing their mind and expect to have a good outcome.
Your goal should be to make sure that you both understand each other–even if you disagree. Typically this means spending more time asking questions than you spend defending your position.
Think about the interactions you’ve had in the past. Do you remember any instances where you disagreed with someone, but they took the time and made an effort to fully understand your perspective?
Did that make you more open to trying to see their side? Being assertive in understanding another point of view is the foundation of being understood yourself.
~ Sid helps people involve their lives through better time management, personal development planning and increased motivation.
To be assertive and improve your communication, learn how to listen and echo back before you present your point of view.
So often we find ourselves in a debate, with both people trying to convince the other of their point of view – and each person just digs in their heels and doesn’t listen.
The problem with this is that it often turns into two people talking to nobody: because neither side hears the other.
So next time you find yourself in a situation where you’re either not able to get a word in, OR you feel like the discussion isn’t going anywhere – pause and listen, and echo back the other person’s point of view.
Say something like “I think I hear what you are saying, let’s see if I understand right. You’re saying ….” – and then sincerely try to repeat what they have said.
Not only will this help improve the discussion, but when they know you’ve heard them – they will naturally give you a moment to then present your thoughts, assertively.
~ Ronit is a life coach, motivational speaker and author specialising in relationships and education. She posts regularly on Family Matters, a personal development blog for parents. She aims to make the world a better place, one family at a time.
Assertiveness is the ability to express your needs, feelings and desires with confidence and without hurting others. We are not born assertive and highly depend on our social agents to role model it.
Assertiveness requires you to keep some of your thoughts private and let go of the desire to justify, convince or put pressure on others to agree, approve or accept your way. Remember, whatever others say and think about you is none of your business; it will be easier to consider it only as their opinion.
They have the right to have theirs; you have the right to have yours. Don’t give others the power over your own life.
Aggressive and passive are the two dysfunctional behaviours that damage confidence and projects weakness. Confidence requires you to build personal standards and live by them.
Avoid being judgmental, criticise, gossip, be argumentative, opinionated, using swear words, labelling, sarcasm, mockery, threats, bribing, punishing, flattery, justifying, seeking permission and apologising for things you believe in. They are all signs of weakness and the opposite of assertiveness.
It is OK to believe in something and live by it, even if others do not. Live and let live! Your beliefs are valid even if you are the only one in the world that holds them, as long as you don’t try to force them on others.
Assertiveness requires developing clear boundaries between you and others and it is important to remember that your own best interest comes first! If you want to be assertive, develop your confidence. Value yourself. Care for yourself and be yourself!
~ Erin is the editor in chief and co-owner of Pick The Brain, a website dedicated to self-improvement with a focus on personal productivity, motivation, and self-education.
My biggest tip for being able to communicate assertively and effectively is to be prepared.
There is so much angst when trying to get your point across, in general, (especially if it is an emotional or passionate topic) that the ability to fall back on sound preparation will enable you to cut through the clutter and deliver your message as effectively as possible.
There’s simply no replacement for doing the upfront work – in all aspect of life.
~ Marco is a life coach working in Italy and a member of the department of education in Oxford University.
“Give up. (Your initial request)”
At the core of assertiveness lies our ability to ask. But what if they say no? Simple, give up. Old school assertiveness advised us to repeat ourselves like a broken record.
But classic persuasion tells us that once the other party has said that he disagrees – he will feel an incentive to be consistent and to keep on saying no. And he will also grow more and more annoyed with us. On the other hand, if we agree to put aside our initial request, the other party will feel an incentive to reciprocate and look for common ground.
So the question for ourselves becomes: what else I can propose so that my needs are met in a way that is acceptable for others?
Let’s make an example. You have regular meetings at your office with an important client who comes always very late. You ask him to be on time and he never does. You ask him for explanations of his 2 hours delay and he just says “There was traffic”. You start resenting him: “Who does he think he is? I don’t need his business that much!”.
But what do you really need? Do you need for him to arrive to your office on time? Not really. What you really need is not to waste two hours waiting for him. What you really need is to repair the relationship before it breaks.
So what can you propose? Well, why does he has to come to your office? After all, he is an important client. Avoid him the hassle of driving to your office and propose to have the next meeting in his office instead. That’s a nice little gesture. And it will make it oh so very difficult for him to be two hours late.
~ Patricia is the author of “Communication Toolkit for Introverts: Find Your Voice in Everyday Business Situations.”
My blogging and coaching niche is helping the more introverted, that’s about half of the population, in general, go from fear to remarkable in more life and business situations.
There are enough situations in anyone’s life to recognize asserting ourselves is essential to the process which assures us a more mutually agreed upon outcome instead of feeling more rejected or dejected.
Truthfully, for introverts, asserting can be energy-draining even though it doesn’t have to be.
Consider a situation of conflict – maybe someone isn’t getting back to you about a request in time allowed and agreed on – which could apply to business or general life.
We introverts energize in actions like planning things through when we can relate the facts, think through any possible resistance, and being ready with questions to broaden our understanding.
These inherent strengths can ignite our personal energy to boost our confidence and then we can more easily let the process work for us. Let’s not confuse asserting ourselves with dominating. Then we can act from our strengths.
Lara Heacock KindOverMatter.com
~ Lara is a Certified Life Coach and the leader of the Self-Kindness Revolution. Her mission is to help people live a life that feels good on the inside, not just one that looks good on the outside…because life gets better when you’re kind to yourself.
My top assertive communication tip is to drop the but. Often, we speak our mind and then weaken our point by adding a but.
Instead of saying, “I think we should increase the budget but I’m open to suggestions” try, “I think we should increase the budget. What suggestions does anyone have?”.
The second example is respectful to the audience without taking away the confidence in delivery.
Carrie Williams Howe Parent.co
~ Carrie Williams Howe, PhD. is the leader of an association of higher education institutions in Vermont, USA. She has a background in adult learning, leadership, and curriculum development and regularly facilitates professional development workshops.
Here’s my top assertive communication tip:
Name your Intention
If you want to make assertive communication a natural part of your repertoire at work or at home, make it your mantra.
Each time you go into a situation where you want to be sure to effectively advocate for yourself or your perspective without alienating others, say to yourself: “assertive communication, assertive communication.”
As you enter the situation you will remember how you want to handle it and catch yourself when you veer off track. The more you get used to this mantra, the more natural the habit will become.
Frank Buck FrankBuck.org
~ Frank is the author of Get Organized!: Time Management for School Leaders. He speaks throughout the United States and into Canada, helping busy professionals develop systems to increase productivity and decrease stress.
Assertive communication is not to be confused with “aggressive communication.” To be assertive is to be clear, clear in communicating situations and clear about responsibilities.
One of my favourite examples is constructing emails. I compose mine “backwards.” If an attachment is to be included, I begin with attaching it. This one step prevents the “Sorry, I forgot to send the attachment” email that so often follows.
Next, I write the body, front-loading it with the most important information. Third, I look at the message and craft a subject line that communicates the essence of what the recipient will gain and what he or she needs to do about it.
Clear and complete subject lines cause emails to be opened and acted upon. Nobody wants to be the bottleneck. But the reality we crave simplicity and tend to set aside confusion for “later,” whatever that means. Saving the addresses for last keeps me from hitting “Send” too soon.
In a world where we are overwhelmed with ambiguous “stuff,” clear, assertive communication is a breath of fresh air.
Kelli Cooper LiveLifeMadeToOrder.com
~ Kelli is a coach specializing in the law of attraction and conscious creation.
When it comes to communicating effectively and being comfortable expressing your point of view, my number one suggestion is not worrying so much how the other person receives the information–the view they may form of you, whether or not they agree,etc…
Everyone has their own ‘filter’ and we can’t control the responses, how they will regard us or guarantee they will ‘see where we are coming from’,etc….
Of course, this doesn’t mean totally disregarding ‘tact’ or considering ways to best express yourself considering the beliefs, experiences and the like of the person with whom you are speaking. These are very important.
I feel taking this into consideration breaks down some of the biggest barriers to expressing ourselves honestly and ‘speaking our truth’s worrying about what others will think of us, worrying they won’t agree, worrying we will ‘offend.’
And the second thing I would suggest is examining any lack of clarity you might have around your point of view and doing a bit of shifting on that before you engage in the conversation if this is something you are able to do.
The more clarity you have and the more confidence you have, the better the chance you will be heard; and the interaction will go more smoothly regardless of the nature of the conversation and how different the beliefs and point of view of the other person may be.
~Mike is an author, speaker, and productivity and time management strategist.
The assertive communication tip I use consistently is to express my boundaries in terms of time and attention to people.
Like habits and resolutions, sometimes you need to make boundaries known so that you feel compelled to stick to them so that your integrity and honor don’t suffer.
Another benefit of making your boundaries known is that others will see what you are willing and not willing to do, which can result in less time explaining those things to them.
It’s important to be aware of your body language. I’ve always had an acute understanding of how our body language can affect a message we are trying to send to someone. But after I took a few years of American Sign Language, I really started to understand what I was saying with my body, especially my facial expressions.
There is a fine line between arrogance and confidence, and almost everyone can pick up on either through your facial expressions.
The problem is that a lot of people are not aware of their facial expressions and what message they are sending. And that’s not good when you are trying to persuade, teach, or get along with someone.
If you record yourself and speak as if you were speaking with someone, such as a friend, you will get a better feel for how you come across when you watch the recording. You may find that your facial expressions are not as friendly, understanding, or confident as you thought they were.
Izuzu Nworgu PositiveVoiceBlog.com
~ Izuzu is a young and an ambitious blogger, writer and a student who is on a mission to inspire and empower people to live a truly meaningful, productive, positive, happy and simple life with her blog. She is passionate about learning new things that can take her to the next level.
Communicating assertively gives you the chance to respect other people’s feelings, needs, opinions, rights, actions, etc and at the same time, it gives you the opportunity to speak up appropriately which makes communication simpler and less likely to escalate to an argument or fight and less likely that either of you will be ridden over.
My best assertive communication tip is to stand up for yourself without being rude, inconsiderate or timid. Communicate your opinions confidently in a respectful and polite manner with a firm and calm tone.
Jane cooked dinner for her friends and during dinner, one of her friends said ‘this food tastes awful’
1. Passive response: I’m sorry you don’t like the food or she makes a sad face and says nothing.
2. Aggressive response: How dare you say such a thing? You have no idea of what it cost me to prepare this. You’re such an ingrate.
3. Assertive response: Oh! Really? What exactly don’t you like about the food?
1. Jane comes out as someone who is submissive and has no opinions.
2. She sounds rude and has no respect for her friend’s opinion.
3. Polite and respects her friend’s opinion.
It’s not always easy to communicate assertively especially when you’re in a demanding or oppressive situation but fortunately, you can learn this skill (communicating assertively) and make it a part of you.
Niklas Laninge Dailybbitsof.com
~ Niklas is a Psychologist, entrepreneur, learning, and education enthusiast. He runs dailybitsof.com a startup making learning fun, frictionless and bite sized.
Practice on saying no. I meet a lot of people who are afraid of saying no.
Try to work on saying no and pair your “no” with a clear explanation on why you have to decline the persons wish.
It could sound like this: “No John, I respect you but getting a wild peacock as an office-pet is a terrible idea”
Dragos Roua DragosRoua.com
~Dragos is a serial online entrepreneur and a personal development fanatic. He is a self-published author, with 9 titles on Amazon, Kindle and iBookStore.
There we have it. Fantastic tips and tactics to improve your assertiveness skills.
Thank you so much to all the experts that contributed to this roundup!
We’d love to hear which was your favourite tip.
One last thing. If you’ve genuinely found some useful tips in this we’d appreciate it if you’d help us spread the word and share this post.
One very last thing. We’ve recently started to offer team leader training courses. These are designed for people stepping up to their first management position and trying to understand communication, goal setting etc. If you’re interested you can find the details here – new team leader training course.
Finally, we’re written a few other articles on assertiveness that you might find interesting: