What Is an Assertive Communication Style? (With Examples)
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.