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What Is an Assertive Communication Style? (With Examples)

Blake has worked in the mental health field since 2002 educating and inspiring hope on the journey toward recovery.

What Happens When You Are Assertive?

Some people might tell you that assertive communication isn't magical and that it doesn't always get you what you want. While it's true that you won't always get what you want, assertive communication is magical. Its magic is in its contagiousness. When you make the choice to be assertive, you will likely shock those around you who expect you to either behave aggressively or passively.

With time, though, your assertive behaviors will "rub off" on those around you. Your family will begin to get used to your new healthy way of communicating, and they will likely follow your better example. Your stress will be managed better as you learn to set boundaries and say no. Relationships and communication will improve over time, but don't expect it to happen overnight. It is hard work to communicate assertively.

Examples of Assertive Communication

"I would like you to read this information I wrote about assertiveness." This is an example of an assertive statement. Here are some more examples:

  • "Thanks for your suggestion. I'll take that into consideration"
  • "No, I am not busy on Tuesday, but I want to keep it that way."
  • "Could you tell me more information so that I can understand what you are trying to say?"
  • "I will have to get back with you about that."
  • "I think I understand what you are saying, but I am in disagreement."
  • "When is a good time for us to talk about something that has been bothering me?"

Speaking Up Appropriately

Almost anyone can stand to learn to be more assertive. Learning assertiveness will give you and those around you an easier time. Communication becomes simple, straightforward, and appropriate. Whether you have a tendency to communicate passively and let others walk over you, or you have a tendency to bully others with aggressive pushy communication, you are probably not the best communicator you can be. Assertiveness can allow you to practice active and appropriate communication.


How Assertiveness Helps

Unfortunately, there's no way to control how other people will decide to communicate with you. The good news is that you have the choice in how you communicate back. Accepting responsibility for your own communication is the first step in improving communication with others.

Assertiveness is one of the most important skills to master in order to decrease stress related to poor boundaries with others.. Learning to be more assertive has the potential to drastically improve relationships for anyone.

Communicating effectively is imperative to reaching goals when interacting with others. So I view assertiveness, aggressiveness, and passiveness as functions of working toward a goal. Assertiveness is the healthiest of these communication types and is the most likely to help you achieve your goals.

Although aggressive and passive behavior may temporarily allow one to reach a goal, assertiveness is better in the end. I define assertiveness as: actively and appropriately communicating one’s goal.

Think about how you let others around you know what your goals are. For example, if you want to go to bed because you have to take a test early in the morning, how do you let your friends or family know your goal? If you feel strained financially by your partner’s spending, how do you approach him or her to let them know your goal? How do you let your partner know you want sex more or less? These are questions to ask yourself to get headed in the right direction toward assertiveness.

We all use different communication styles at different times, but we may have a tendency to exhibit one style more than another. After a while this becomes habitual. Our behavior may be related to the context of the situation such as who is involved and the location of the interaction. For example, you may have a better time controlling your aggression at a church function than at home.

So if assertiveness is actively and appropriately communicating one’s goal, then the other styles must be something else. Passive means inactively or ineffectively communicating one’s goal. Aggressive means actively but inappropriately communicating one’s goal. Therefore assertiveness and passiveness mainly differ in whether the person takes an active role or not. And assertiveness and aggressiveness differ in how the action toward a goal is carried out.

Examples of Different Communication Styles

Here is one situation with three possible responses. The goal in the situation is to keep a partner from spending too much money outside the budget.

Aggressive: “You idiot, I can’t believe you bought all that crap. You always mess things up. You’re selfish.”

Passive: “Oh well, it isn’t important.” (Or doesn’t bring the issue up at all)

Assertive: “I would like to know a good time we could talk about the budget. I am concerned.”

The Benefits of Communicating Assertively

Arguing is not an issue between people using assertiveness. The statements are not offensive and many times non-debatable. “I” statements that start with “I feel.., I would like… I am worried about…” are not arguable because no one can argue against you “feeling” a certain way or “thinking” at certain way.

These "I" statements make for great conversation openers because blame is avoided, and may allow the other person to save face or take responsibility before becoming emotional. If you are used to arguing with someone and suddenly try this, you may get quick improvements in communication. If the other person becomes aggressive or passive you can continue with “I” statements. For example, “I will continue this discussion when we both agree not to name call.” Or for the passive person, “I realize that you are not ready to talk with me and I respect that and I know I can’t make you. I will be ready when you decide to talk.”

Keep in mind you don’t have to agree. It is assertive to say, “I disagree.” If you are unsure what to say, the best assertive response is usually, “I will have to get back with you about that.” This is a great statement for those who have difficulty saying no. This gives you time to think about any responsibility you may take on if you say yes.

Patients sometimes ask me “What if someone is beating you up, you can't get away, and you have to be aggressive?” I respond, “Assertively hit them back.” What I really mean is by definition assertiveness involves appropriately and actively communicating one’s goal. If you are getting abused with no way to avoid the situation your goal should be to protect yourself. Do just that and get away when possible. In this way you have not become aggressive, only appropriately defending yourself and setting boundaries. Exceptions for just about any behavior are possible, but I find that with practice verbal assertiveness usually avoids escalation.

Assertiveness Quiz

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. Which of the following statements are assertive?
    • You stupid jerk! Stop tapping your pencil!
    • I would really like to talk to you about the phone bill.
    • Where did you hide the remote this time? In the couch again?
    • You can have it. I'll just have some milk instead of icecream.

Answer Key

  1. I would really like to talk to you about the phone bill.


No one cares on June 14, 2020:

I am passive are you saying that I am wrong because I'm not I am unique

Diarsha Naidoo on May 19, 2020:

Being assertive does not mean that a person is bossy or dominating.

Assertiveness can also be described as being forthright. Which of these

statements is assertive?

a. “Whatever you decide is fine with me”

b. “Thank you for your ideas, but I think it’s best if we stick to the policies”

c. “No, I don’t see how that could work. My idea is best”

d. “Umm, err… I don’t know. What do you think?”

Qazi InamulHaq on April 20, 2020:

Assertive is very good communication skill by using this skill we develop bette engagements to other people .overall relationships will be strong .

Sheeba Zoonain on December 29, 2019:

I need a example of assertive paragraph

Shruti on September 10, 2019:

Plz u can send me assertiveness based on dialogue writing today itself...

Lulu on April 25, 2017:

I need your help. I am not an assertive person and I try to avoid conflict as much as possible. A subordinate of mind constantly underminds me in front of the team. I try to stand up for myself, but even she doesnt let me talk. How nice someone like me work on becoming assertive?

Blake Flannery (author) from United States on September 19, 2013:


You're right that there are no guarantees that your conversation partner will react in a healthy way no matter what you say or how assertive you are.

If you are worried about the feeling derailing the conversation, I suggest making a simple request as you suggested and adding an explanation. The explanation doesn't have to be complicated, but it serves the purpose of demonstrating respect. So, "When is a good time to talk?" as you suggested would become, "When is a good time to talk? I have something important to discuss."

I think it is desirable to have the other person curious about what you want to talk about. If the person asks, then tell the person enough so he or she can evaluate whether it's a good time to talk now.

marine123 on September 19, 2013:

Thanks Blake, assertive communication is essential to healthy relations with family, friends, colleagues...It gets things done respectfully.

My question is whether including a feeling in a statement derails the conversation. In the example: "When is a good time for us to talk about something that has been bothering me?", the person may get focused on your being bothered and start feeling uneasy, possibly get defensive or have an urge to accommodate. If you say directly: "when is a good time to talk" or "when is a good time to talk about x", the focus is on setting a time.

I guess it depends on context. What are your thoughts?

Moses on April 10, 2012:

You have just saved me Blake. This is the very thing i needed to improve my way of approaching people and communicate appropriately and effectively.

GOD bless YOU

TheToddMan on December 11, 2010:

Blake, I respectfully disagree with people not being able to argue against what you think or feel. Most conflicts have their root in our beliefs about "how things should be".

I've been told "I shouldn't feel that way," "I have no right to feel that way," or asked "Why on earth would you think that?"

Real assertive behavior doesn't start with me proclaiming how I feel about something. It starts with me seeking to understand someone else's behavior or feelings by understanding their motives.

Dr. Steven R. Covey wrote in "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" - seek first to understand then to be understood. I prefer, "seek first to understand, then to understand some more." I find when I do this with others, I rarely feel the need to be understood.

Blake Flannery (author) from United States on September 16, 2010:


Neil Sperling from Port Dover Ontario Canada on September 16, 2010:

I don't wish to bring up the phone bill..... so stop tapping your pencil you are disturbing my thoughts. LOL

Cheeky Chick on November 15, 2009:

Blake, you must be the master of assertiveness, considering the work you do. As a mother, I have learned to be assertive, but it did not come naturally to me. It is something I think about and work on every day.

Thanks for your article. It was helpful and well written.



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