Many people are interested in increasing assertive communication skills to improve a number of areas of life. In my work, I commonly see individuals wanting to improve their relationships at work, romantic partnerships, and with family and friends. Assertive skills can also preserve self–respect while respecting others, can maintain confidence, reduce guilt about one’s decisions, improve conflict resolution, increase empathy and strengthen esteem in one’s own judgement. An assertive style demonstrates being self-assured and confident without being aggressive and is demonstrated by a balance of clear and direct verbal and non-verbal language with active listening, without being vague, vengeful, spiteful or threatening.
Assertive communication is different from passive, aggressive and passive-aggressive communication. When using passive communication, the individual does not stand up for him or herself, lets others take advantage of them, and often do not speak up when something is wrong. Alternatively, aggressive communication disregards the rights of others and often includes interrupting, raising one’s voice, name calling or insulting along with threatening body-language (like hitting a wall or slamming doors). Passive-aggressive communication can be confusing in that the individual may not directly say what he or she needs or express what may be wrong with their words, but will often be spiteful or try to get revenge by punishing others. These communication styles create a disconnect, tension and conflict with others.
Assertive communication involves respecting the feelings, needs, wants, and opinions of others, while accepting one’s own needs, allowing compromise in the process. The assertive communicator believes that he or she deserves respect, will not give others permission to take advantage of him or her, and is willing to speak up for what they need. Demonstrating assertive communication balances using words and behavior in a calm, direct and confident manner.
Verbal aspects of assertive communication include using a clear, welcoming tone of voice and statements that are constructed with specific, direct, and cooperative words. It excludes vagueness, raised or soft tones of voice, or insults. Non-verbal aspects of assertive communication include active listening (which involves absence of interruption, and provides reflective statements that demonstrate what one just heard the speaker say), welcoming and mirrored body language, and clear eye-contact.
There are many benefits of assertive communication, which can include improvements in emotional regulation, effective conflict resolution, strong relationships and self-confidence. If you’d like to learn more detailed steps, this website provides an overview with practice exercises. If your needs are more specific and you’re ready to begin applying assertive skills, contact me.