Assertive Communication: Healthy Communication for Lower Stress

Updated on January 22, 2018
Blake Flannery profile image

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

Test Your Assertiveness Skills

Take the following communication quiz to test your assertiveness. Assertiveness will help you prevent and resolve conflict, actively communicate your needs, and protect yourself from aggressive communicators. Assertiveness is a valuable professional or business skill as well as a personal asset.

Assertiveness will help you to control your own communication with others. You will find that you will get what you want more often with assertiveness. That control of your own behavior will increase your effectiveness to communicate what you need at the right time, in the right way, to the right extent.

Assertiveness Quiz: How Do You Communicate?

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Why Assertiveness Is The Best

No one is totally assertive all the time. There may be times when you need to "act" aggressive. In reality you are really sticking up for yourself, which is part of being assertive. There may be times when you need to "act" passive. In reality you are really choosing your battles and staying flexible when you know it's not worth a fight. The patterns you form are what you want to fix. For example, if you notice that you tend to be aggressive in certain situations, then you need to work on that specific problem by replacing the aggressive response with a more appropriate assertive response.

In order to distinguish between the communication styles, it is easy to point out what it wrong with each negative communication strategy, and then define assertiveness.

Assertiveness Looks Appropriate

Don't forget body language, eye contact and tone of voice.
Don't forget body language, eye contact and tone of voice.

Characteristics of Each Communication Style

  • Aggressive - Using inappropriate hurtful behavior when working toward your own goal at others' expense
  • Passive - Inactively working toward your goal. Not active at all or ineffective when communicating
  • Passive-Aggressive - Deceptively manipulating others or harming others indirectly
  • Assertive - Appropriately and actively working toward yours and others' goal.

How to Speak Assertively Using "I" Statements

If you want to improve your assertive communication there is one simple rule of communication you can follow to help you change your language. Even though it would help to eliminate your awful cussing habit, that's not what I mean by "language."

The use of "I" statements in your speech will revolutionize your communication if you do not use these statements now. Attempt to omit the word "you" from your speech, especially if things get heated. And for those of you who aren't saying enough. Start using "I" statements to allow yourself to be heard. Here's the step by step process:

  1. I think/feel ___________.
  2. I want you to know that ________________.
  3. I would like for you to _________________.

A real example of assertive "I" statements might look something like this:

  • "I think we need to talk. I want you to know that I am not happy about our overspending this month. I would like for you to talk to me before making large purchases."

Watch how this can be much more aggressive by simply using the word "you" too much.

  • "You are ridiculous. You make me so mad when you run up a credit card bill like that. You need to get another job if you want to be spending money like that."

Watch what happens when you decide to use neither assertive "I" or aggressive "you" statements and you react passively.

  • "Whatever. It's no big deal. Who cares. It's my fault. There's nothing I can do about it."

Another Popular I Message Formula

Another popular I message formula works like this:

  1. "I think/feel (insert emotion)"
  2. "When _________________"
  3. "Because _______________"
  4. (Make a Request)

Here's an example of this assertive I message formula in action:

Let's say your spouse is not looking for a job aggressively and you would like him or her to start working a little harder.

"I feel overwhelmed when I am the only person in the family who is making money because I know I have to work a lot of overtime to make ends meat.  Could you keep me posted on your job search and let me know if there is any way I can help you find a job."

Put Assertiveness Into Practice

Practice these "I" statements until you get the hang of them and they become natural. You must remember to be genuine when speaking with others or it doesn't really matter what you are saying. How you say it will always be the stronger message. After a while you will find yourself handling difficult people with patience that you thought you would never have. Something happens when you change your language that allows you to take responsibility for yourself while refusing to take responsibility for others' actions. That is what assertiveness is all about.

Assertiveness Tips

  • Stay active
  • Stay open
  • Stay firm and warm
  • Stay flexible
  • Listen to others
  • Make requests
  • Set boundaries
  • Compromise if necessary

Questions & Answers


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      • B. Leekley profile image

        Brian Leekley 5 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

        Up, Useful, and Interesting. I took the quiz, and it accurately concluded that I am too passive. I'll try this I statement technique and see what happens, if I can get up the nerve.

        A compatible technique is that taught by Marshall Rosenberg at the Center for Nonviolent Communication. To help people to express and clarify their feelings and needs, their website at cnvcDOTorg has a feelings list and a needs list.

      • jpcmc profile image

        JP Carlos 6 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

        Being clear with whatyou want is important. When every detail is important, we can't just leave it to chance that the other person understands (or not). Being assertive helps clarify information. however, many misunderstand being assertive as aggressive. You clearly pointed out the difference.