ASSERTIVENESS – How you can improve your communication skills

DID YOU KNOW – Being assertive is something you can learn! For many of us we have always seen this as a personality trait. Many times, around a Boardroom table I have heard my inner voice (who sounds a little green with envy) say “Gee she really has gumption”.  So imagine my delight when I learn that this is definitely something we can learn with a little practice.

Learning how to become more assertive can assist you in all facets of your life, both personal and professional, and is an invaluable skill to develop.

What is an assertive communication style?

An assertive communication style involves clearly and respectfully expressing feelings, ideas and needs in a way that is calm and controlled and does not impede on another person’s autonomy, feelings or needs. A person who is assertive is likely to feel confident and competent in expressing what they are trying to communicate and in turn are more likely to be listened to and responded to in a better way. Being assertive assists in maintaining healthy relationships and getting desired results from communication.

Assertiveness is key in

  • Making better and quicker decisions
  • Setting respectful boundaries
  • Being seen as someone who is reliable and has integrity


It is crucial to never confuse assertiveness with either;


An aggressive communication style can involve anything from somebody over-asserting themselves in a situation, to the point where they are disregarding the other person’s autonomy, to somebody being physically or verbally abusive. Although somebody may adopt this style due to wanting to be heard and to have control, this communication style can often lead to being isolated from others.

Passive Aggressive:

Passive-aggressiveness refers to somebody communicating in a conflicting way between passiveness and aggression. Somebody adopting this style may not want to address or discuss feelings of anger or frustration, so may come across as giving mixed messages or being indirectly aggressive. For example, somebody being passive-aggressive may say that they are not upset, however continue to make remarks to the other person to make them feel guilty or to annoy them as a way of expressing their anger. People usually adopt this style when they feel helpless or that they have a lack of power.


  1. Be clear about what you are wanting to say before a discussion – speak clearly and directly
  2. Be respectful of the other person – ensure you are actively listening to them and responding to their views
  3. Practice emotion regulation strategies such as controlled breathing to ensure you are in a calm state when you are communicating
  4. Understand you will not always agree with somebody. Sometimes you need to take a step back!
  5. Practice! Being assertive is a skill that will take time to develop


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