How to Become More Assertive

Assertiveness is a magical ingredient that can transform your interactions, relationships, and overall well-being. But what exactly is assertiveness, and why is it so powerful?

How to be more assertive
Photo by charlesdeluvio / Unsplash

In this article, we'll dive into the depths of assertiveness, exploring its essence, identifying different communication styles, and unveiling seven essential techniques to develop this invaluable skill.

By mastering assertiveness, you'll not only communicate more effectively but also build confidence and respect in both personal and professional realms.

Key Takeaways

  • Recognise Your Communication Style: Understand the difference between passive, aggressive, passive-aggressive, and assertive communication to identify areas for improvement. Aim for assertiveness, which balances confident self-expression with respect for others, making it the optimal style for healthy interactions.
  • Implement Assertiveness Techniques: Adopt practical methods such as utilising "I" statements for clear, non-confrontational communication, setting boundaries to protect your well-being, and practising assertive body language to convey confidence. Active listening is crucial for acknowledging others' perspectives while maintaining your position.
  • Navigate Conflicts and Feedback Positively: Embrace assertiveness to manage disagreements and criticism constructively. Stay calm, consider feedback as an opportunity for growth, and avoid defensiveness. This approach enhances personal development and strengthens relationships through respectful and open communication.

Understanding the Power of Assertiveness

Assertiveness is often misconstrued as being aggressive or domineering, but it's quite the opposite.

What does assertive mean? 

To be assertive is to confidently and respectfully express your thoughts, feelings, and needs.

It's finding that delicate balance between being passive and aggressive, where you stand up for yourself while also considering the rights and feelings of others.

The power of assertive people lies in fostering healthy communication, building self-esteem, and cultivating more substantial relationships.

When you want to become more assertive, you can assert your boundaries, negotiate effectively, and handle conflicts gracefully and tactfully. 

Identifying Your Communication Style

Before we delve into ways of developing assertiveness, it's essential to understand your current communication style.

There are four main styles: 

  1. Passive
  2. Aggressive
  3. Passive-Aggressive
  4. Assertive

1. Passive

Passive communication is like being a leaf caught in the wind, swaying wherever the breeze takes you.

It's characterised by a reluctance to assert oneself, often at the expense of personal needs and desires. People who lean towards passivity may find themselves constantly accommodating others, even when sacrificing their well-being.

For the passive communicator, saying "yes" when they mean "no" becomes second nature. They may agree to take on additional tasks or responsibilities, even when already stretched thin, simply because they need help to decline requests or assert their limitations. 

2. Aggressive

Unlike passive communicators who shy away from confrontation, aggressive individuals charge headfirst into interactions, prioritising their needs, thoughts, and feelings above all else. 

Aggressive communicators may use intimidation tactics, such as raised voices, harsh language, or even physical gestures, to assert dominance and ensure their message is heard. They have little regard for the feelings or perspectives of others, viewing the conversation as a battlefield where only the strongest survive.

They see disagreement as a personal attack and may respond with hostility or aggression, seeking to assert their superiority and undermine the credibility of those who dare to challenge them.

3. Passive-Aggressive

At first glance, these individuals may appear agreeable and accommodating, but beneath the surface lies a simmering resentment or anger.

Rather than addressing their concerns openly, they opt for subtle forms of rebellion, using sarcasm, backhanded compliments, or veiled insults to convey their displeasure. 

Their words may be sugar-coated with smiles and pleasantries, but a sharp edge lurks beneath the surface.

4. Assertive

Assertive communication represents the ideal middle ground between passive compliance and aggressive confrontation, where individuals confidently express themselves while respecting the rights and feelings of others.

Assertive individuals know their worth and value and are unafraid to assert their thoughts, feelings, and needs clearly and respectfully. They speak up for themselves without hesitation, knowing their voice matters and deserves to be heard.

7 Key Techniques to Develop Assertiveness Skills

If you want to build self-confidence and see how assertiveness can help, practice these seven essential techniques:

1. Start Small by Practicing Self-Awareness

Start by reflecting on your thoughts, feelings, and behaviours and identify situations where you tend to be passive, aggressive, or passive-aggressive.

Pay attention to the underlying emotions driving your behaviour.

Are you motivated by fear of rejection or conflict, leading you to default to passive responses? Do you feel a sense of anger or frustration bubbling beneath the surface, tempting you to lash out aggressively?

Or perhaps you're grappling with resentment or powerlessness, prompting you to resort to passive-aggressive tactics.

2. Practice Assertive Communication Skills

Assertive communication involves boosting your communication skills by expressing yourself clearly, directly, and respectfully.

Use "I" statements such as "I would" and "I feel" to say what you want without blaming or accusing others.

For example, instead of saying, "You never listen to me," which lacks assertiveness, try saying, "I feel frustrated when I don't feel heard."

3. Set Boundaries in Work and in Relationships

Learning to set boundaries is a crucial skill in developing assertiveness, as it empowers us to honour our needs and values while maintaining healthy relationships. Once you've identified your boundaries, communicate them clearly and assertively to others.

Remember that saying no is not selfish; it's an act of self-care and self-respect. By setting boundaries, you protect your time, energy, and emotional well-being, allowing you to show up more fully and authentically in your interactions.

4. Rehearse and Use Assertive Body Language

When engaging in assertiveness training, paying attention to your nonverbal cues is essential. Use assertive language, which can significantly impact how others perceive your message.

  • Maintain eye contact: When you make direct eye contact with someone, you signal that you are present, engaged, and confident in your message. It shows respect for the other person and conveys sincerity and authenticity. 
  • Posture: Stand or sit up straight, with your shoulders back and your chest open. This upright posture projects confidence and enhances your breathing and vocal projection, allowing you to speak with clarity and authority.
  • Gestures: Use open and confident gestures to emphasise your points and engage your audience. Avoid crossing your arms, as this can create a barrier between you and the other person, signalling defensiveness or resistance. Instead, keep your arms relaxed at your sides or use purposeful gestures to underscore your message.

5. Practice Active Listening, Especially in Difficult Conversations

Assertiveness is not just about expressing yourself; it's also about listening to others with empathy and understanding.

Practice active listening by giving your full attention, paraphrasing what you've heard, and asking clarifying questions. This demonstrates respect for the other person's perspective and encourages open dialogue.

6. Learn To Say No Without Being Aggressive

Saying no can be challenging, mainly if you're used to pleasing others or avoiding conflict. But learning to say no assertively without being aggressive is essential for maintaining your boundaries and preserving your time and energy.

Practice saying no politely but firmly, and remember that it's okay to prioritise your own wants and needs.

7. Stay Calm and Handle Criticism Gracefully

Constructive criticism is a natural part of life, but it can be challenging to receive, especially if you're sensitive to feedback.

Don't take it personally, and instead of becoming defensive or lashing out, approach criticism with an open mind and a willingness to learn and grow. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is assertive behaviour?

Assertiveness is a communication style that involves expressing your thoughts, feelings, and needs respectfully and clearly without becoming aggressive.

What are the next steps to become more assertive without being aggressive?

You can become more assertive by practising assertiveness skills, such as using "I" statements, asking for what you want, and standing up for your rights while considering the rights of others.

What is the difference between assertiveness and aggressive body language?

Assertiveness involves expressing yourself confidently and respectfully, while aggression is forceful, hostile, and often disrespectful toward others.

Why do some people struggle with being assertive when they need to talk in difficult conversations?

Some people struggle with being assertive due to a lack of self-confidence, fear of conflict, or past experiences that have shaped their communication style.

How can positive self-talk help with developing assertive communication?

Positive self-talk can boost your self-worth and confidence, enabling you to assertively communicate your thoughts and needs in various situations.

When should I start small and seek assertiveness training?

You may consider assertiveness training if you find navigating difficult situations challenging, asserting your needs in relationships, or communicating effectively in professional settings.

How can assertiveness benefit me both in work and in relationships?

Assertiveness allows you to communicate effectively, maintain healthy boundaries, and navigate conflicts with confidence in both personal relationships and work environments.


In a world filled with competing voices and conflicting interests, assertiveness can help guide us through the maze of communication and relationships.

By mastering the art of assertive communication, we can navigate life with confidence, integrity, and authenticity.

So, embrace assertiveness, unleash your inner strength, and watch as doors open, relationships flourish, and opportunities abound. 

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