Be Assertive!

“It is a mistake to look at someone who is self assertive and say, “It’s easy for her, she has good self-esteem.” One of the ways you build self-esteem is by being self-assertive when it is not easy to do so. There are always times when self-assertiveness requires courage, no matter how high your self-esteem.”

Nathaniel Branden


“Those of us who grew up in dysfunctional families may have never learned to communicate effectively in relationships. We may be passive and not advocate for ourselves, aggressive and attempt to run roughshod over others, or passive-aggressive and smile while sabotaging others behind their backs. No wonder we have so many problematic relationships and feel so isolated! In order to build healthy relationships, we must learn to be assertive – that is, to be clear, direct, and respectful in how we communicate.


Let’s have a closer look at these four communication styles:

1. PASSIVE COMMUNICATION is a style in which individuals have developed a pattern of avoiding expressing their opinions or feelings, protecting their rights, and identifying and meeting their needs. Passive communication is usually born of low self-esteem. These individuals believe: “I’m not worth taking care of.”

As a result, passive individuals do not respond overtly to hurtful or anger-inducing situations. Instead, they allow grievances and annoyances to mount, usually unaware of the build up. But once they have reached their high tolerance threshold for unacceptable behavior, they are prone to explosive outbursts, which are usually out of proportion to the triggering incident. After the outburst, however, they feel shame, guilt, and confusion, so they return to being passive.

Passive communicators will often:

– fail to assert for themselves
– allow others to deliberately or inadvertently infringe on their rights
– fail to express their feelings, needs, or opinions
– tend to speak softly or apologetically
– exhibit poor eye contact and slumped body posture

The impact of a pattern of passive communication is that these individuals:

– often feel anxious because life seems out of their control
– often feel depressed because they feel stuck and hopeless
– often feel resentful (but are unaware of it) because their needs are not being met
– often feel confused because they ignore their own feelings
– are unable to mature because real issues are never addressed

A passive communicator will say, believe, or behave like:

– “I’m unable to stand up for my rights.”
– “I don’t know what my rights are.”
– “I get stepped on by everyone.”
– “I’m weak and unable to take care of myself.”
– “People never consider my feelings.”


2. AGGRESSIVE COMMUNICATION is a style in which individuals express their feelings and opinions and advocate for their needs in a way that violates the rights of others. Thus, aggressive communicators are verbally and/or physically abusive. Aggressive communication is born of low self-esteem (often caused by past physical and/or emotional abuse), unhealed emotional wounds, and feelings of powerlessness.

Aggressive communicators will often:

– try to dominate others
– use humiliation to control others
– criticize, blame, or attack others
– be very impulsive
– have low frustration tolerance
– speak in a loud, demanding, and overbearing voice
– act threateningly and rudely
– not listen well
– interrupt frequently
– use “you” statements
– have piercing eye contact and an overbearing posture

The impact of a pattern of aggressive communication is that these individuals:

– become alienated from others
– alienate others
– generate fear and hatred in others
– always blame others instead of owning their issues, and thus are unable to mature

The aggressive communicator will say, believe, or behave like:

– “I’m superior and right and you’re inferior and wrong.”
– “I’m loud, bossy and pushy.”
– “I can dominate and intimidate you.”
– “I can violate your rights.”
– “I’ll get my way no matter what.”
– “You’re not worth anything.”
– “It’s all your fault.”
– “I react instantly.”
– “I’m entitled.”
– “You owe me.”
– “I own you.”


3. PASSIVE-AGGRESSIVE COMMUNICATION is a style in which individuals appear passive on the surface but are really acting out anger in a subtle, indirect, or behind-the-scenes way. Prisoners of War (POWs) often act in passive-aggressive ways to deal with an overwhelming lack of power. POWs may try to secretly sabotage the prison, make fun of the enemy, or quietly disrupt the system while smiling and appearing cooperative.

People who develop a pattern of passive-aggressive communication usually feel powerless, stuck, and resentful – in other words, they feel incapable of dealing directly with the object of their resentments. Instead, they express their anger by subtly undermining the object (real or imagined) of their resentments. They smile at you while setting booby traps all around you.

Passive-Aggressive communicators will often:

– mutter to themselves rather than confront the person or issue
– have difficulty acknowledging their anger
– use facial expressions that don’t match how they feel – i.e., smiling when angry
– use sarcasm
– deny there is a problem
– appear cooperative while purposely doing things to annoy and disrupt
– use subtle sabotage to get even

The impact of a pattern of passive-aggressive communication is that these individuals:

– become alienated from those around them
– remain stuck in a position of powerlessness (like POWs)
– discharge resentment while real issues are never addressed so they can’t mature

The passive-aggressive communicator will say, believe, or behave like:

– “I’m weak and resentful, so I sabotage, frustrate, and disrupt.”
– “I’m powerless to deal with you head on so I must use guerilla warfare.”
– “I will appear cooperative but I’m not.”


4. ASSERTIVE COMMUNICATION is a style in which individuals clearly state their opinions and feelings, and firmly advocate for their rights and needs without violating the rights of others. Assertive communication is born of high self-esteem. These individuals value themselves, their time, and their emotional, spiritual, and physical needs and are strong advocates for themselves while being very respectful of the rights of others.

Assertive communicators will:

– state needs and wants clearly, appropriately, and respectfully
– express feelings clearly, appropriately, and respectfully
– use “I” statements
– communicate respect for others
– listen well without interrupting
– feel in control of self
– have good eye contact
– speak in a calm and clear tone of voice
– have a relaxed body posture
– feel connected to others
– feel competent and in control
– not allow others to abuse or manipulate them
– stand up for their rights

The impact of a pattern of assertive communication is that these individuals:

– feel connected to others
– feel in control of their lives
– are able to mature because they address issues and problems as they arise
– create a respectful environment for others to grow and mature

The assertive communicator will say, believe, or behave in a way that says:

– “We are equally entitled to express ourselves respectfully to one another.”
– “I am confident about who I am.”
– “I realize I have choices in my life and I consider my options.”
– “I speak clearly, honestly, and to the point.”
– “I can’t control others but I can control myself.”
– “I place a high priority on having my rights respected.”
– “I am responsible for getting my needs met in a respectful manner.”
– “I respect the rights of others.”
– “Nobody owes me anything unless they’ve agreed to give it to me.”
– “I’m 100% responsible for my own happiness.”


Assertiveness allows us to take care of ourselves, and is fundamental for good mental health and healthy relationships.”

(From The Four Basic Styles of Communication)


Here are 10 assertiveness tips and techniques that you can put into practice:

1. Clear Communication
When communicating your opinion, complaint, etc ensure that you are being direct, clear and precise.

2. Take Responsibility
Don’t shy away from the point you want to make or action you want to take. Commit to it and take full responsibility. For example, say “I think” rather than “we think”.

3. Don’t apologise when you don’t need to
Don’t apologise before of after you talk to someone about something as again this takes away any strength or emphasis from you.

4. Use strong verbal and body language
Use the correct tone of voice and body language when talking. For example, don’t talk into yourself or have a tremble in your voice. Maintain eye contact and use a solid strong voice but with normal volume.

5. Are you being listened to?
Check with people that they have listened to what you have said by encouraging them to summarise your opinion, complaint, request, etc. Don’t allow people to make excuses for having misunderstood and stick to what you’ve said.

6. Get out your comfort zone
Don’t avoid particular people or situations that you don’t feel confident in. In fact push yourself into as many of these situations as possible and practise your new assertive self. If there are certain people you find difficult to approach then walk up to them confidently and smile at them before you start talking.

7. Stick to the facts
Being assertive doesn’t mean making things up to support your opinions, complaints, etc. You should stick to the facts and not exaggerate. It’s good to be seen as objective rather than emotional.

8. Keep it objective
When you’re in a difficult situation with people don’t make personal references. For example, don’t say “I find you really annoying”, say instead “Please refrain from talking to me like that.”

9. Observe assertive role models
Watch assertive people and pick up words, tones and body language that you think makes them successful at being assertive. Keep a list of these attributes and add them to your portfolio.

10. Reward yourself
Each time you’re successfully assertive, note this down and reward yourself. Try and exhibit your new assertive behaviour so much that people start giving you feedback. This is your ultimate reward! Also, don’t get disheartened when you’re not successful. Just realise where you went wrong and correct it next time.

by Rebekah Fensome




24 thoughts on “Be Assertive!

  1. bkpyett says:

    An excellent post Otrazhenie, it is wonderful to share such knowledge
    as it will change the world!!

    • Otrazhenie says:

      Hopefully, it will. A good reminder for myself too. For a long time I was a very passive person to the extent that one of my managers totally banned me for using the word ‘should’ as in ‘I should’. That was a real eye-opener for me as I did not realise how much I was ‘addicted’ to this word. For the first couple of weeks it was a real struggle, because I could barely say a sentence without using ‘I should’.

      I’m still not as assertive as I would like to be, but am slowly getting there. However even now I can see how much my life change since I embarked on that journey towards assertiveness. I feel so much happier at home and at work – and others seem to be so much happier with me too.

      Assertiveness is a real life changer.

  2. malootka says:

    Reblogged this on truthionary.

  3. saskia says:

    Love this post and I hope it inspires a lot of people. If only more people would truly believe and understand your points ‘ I realized I have a choice’ and ‘ I am 100% responsible for my happiness’ , that would make life so much easier. All the energy wasting resentment because ‘ you made me feel this way’ could be turned into positive ‘i do not want to feel this way and therefore I will…’ . I will share your post with as many as can!

    • Otrazhenie says:

      Love your comment, saskia. That’s the main point – we can’t change others, but we can change ourselves and we can make ourselves happy no matter the circumstances. Glad that you want to spread this post. Have a wonderful week with lots of smiles 🙂

  4. satzie says:

    The way “assertiveness” is explained in that first picture is awesome. It clearly shows the difference between assertive, aggressive and passive.

    This is the first time I’m reading about assertiveness and I wasn’t clearly aware of what assertiveness means. And then in I stumbled upon this link and found it useful.

    It is surprising & shocking for me to realize how a dysfunctional family could also affect the communication skills & personality of a child.
    It is very sad that passive individuals are prone to be misunderstood due to their inability to express. I’ve misunderstood people often, unknowing their inability to express.or may be also due to my inability to understand. 😦

    The points under the “impact of passive communication” is awesome. I also feel it fits everyone. The points are so awesome, that I have saved it to be posted in my blog.

    I have sometimes felt the same, unable to open up, unable to express how I feel. I use to feel like something been stuck. Since I work a lot with sitting before computer, I learned some simple & safe neck exercises. Sometimes when I do such exercises, I use to feel like wanting to talk a lot, like opening up.

    Whether we are passive or aggressive or passive-aggressive or assertive, we all have such characteristics in us some or other times. On that basis, I found the points on all the four types very useful to understand the issues.

    And those tips to be assertive is very useful. I read the post around 3-4 times. I will re-read it tonight to make sure these points are remembered.

    Very good post Otrazhenie. 🙂

    • Otrazhenie says:

      Loved your point, satzie. In psychology, people rarely fit nicely in ‘labels’ and ‘classification boxes’. Usually, we all have a mixture of traits, but might be ‘leaning’ more or less to a certain type. Also, some people might use different communication styles depending on their relationship with a person they are interacting with. I’m still learning myself to be assertive enough, so I also keep reminding myself those points 🙂

      • satzie says:

        I’m so glad that you like my points, Otrazhenie.
        True, we might be leaning more or less towards certain type.
        WoW. I just missed realizing that it was marked as “Styles”. Thats double awesome insight.
        A style could be changed easily with practice, no exercise needed, no meditation on fifth chakra needed 😀
        And I’m awestruck with the efforts you make for improvement.
        My wishes are always with you. 🙂

  5. I struggled with passive aggressive behavior all through my childhood and teen years. When I entered college I was able to recognize that it wasn’t really “working” for me and made a conscious effort to be honest with how I was feeling and to say “no” when I needed too. It was hard, but I was able to change how I communicate. I feel like if people have the right tools, they can change too. Thanks for providing the tools.

    • Otrazhenie says:

      Loved your comment. Glad to hear that you managed to change your communication style. It is a hard work that also requires life-long ‘maintenance’ 🙂

  6. Ayobami says:

    Thanks for this wonderful post. Its worth making a wall paper out of the points.

  7. Ayobami says:

    Reblogged this on Fayobam and commented:
    Must Read

  8. katelon says:

    Great article. I used to be very passive and then, like the article states, when I would finally stand up for myself it was inappropriate and I’d feel shame. So I started the journey to learn how to be assertive and communicate in a healthy way. Life has brought me great teachers in this, with many aggressive people, so I could gain practice in being assertive. I still get a little nervous sometimes, about asking for what i want or stating my needs, but most of the time I do follow through.

    • Otrazhenie says:

      Loved your comment, Katelon. It does take a long time to develop assertiveness. I still get intimidated by some aggressive people. Luckily, I don’t meet them that often 🙂

      Have a wonderful weekend – hopefully, without meeting any aggressive individuals 🙂

  9. Great post with a lot of really helpful information.

    I grew up in a family that ran roughshod over my needs much of the time which makes it very difficult to state your own needs and get them met — as they just get ignored. My greatest challenge (despite people thinking I’m super-confident and bossy) is making sure this pattern does not continue in my work, a field in which many people are extremely passive in the face of authority.

    • Otrazhenie says:

      Glad that you found this post helpful. It is very hard to break the patterns developed during childhood. All the best in your ‘assertiveness’ journey both in your work and in your personal life 🙂

    • Otrazhenie says:

      Glad that you found this post helpful. It is very hard to break the patterns developed during childhood. All the best in your ‘assertiveness’ journey both in your work and in your personal life 🙂

  10. […] Otrazhenie Reflections: Be Assertive! […]

  11. […] Learn to be assertive rather than aggressive or passive-aggressive. […]

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