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Effective Communication Skills: Assertive Communication

Updated on May 3, 2013
Effective communication isn't written in stone. It is a fluid, ever-changing exchange between two or more people.
Effective communication isn't written in stone. It is a fluid, ever-changing exchange between two or more people. | Source

Effective Communication Opens Doors

Effective communication can open doors for you, both in the business world and in your personal life. Knowing how best to get your message across to someone else is an invaluable tool. Deliver your message in the wrong tone of voice or the wrong type of statement and your listener may only really "hear" the delivery of the message, not the message itself.

Whoever the speaker is, s/he is engaging the audience, evidence of effective communication.
Whoever the speaker is, s/he is engaging the audience, evidence of effective communication. | Source

Four Basic Communication Styles

There are four basic communication styles: passive, aggressive, passive-aggressive, and assertive. The use of the first three styles often results in unintended outcomes -- especially for the speaker.

Passive Communication Style: The passive communication style is one where the speaker's true thoughts and feelings are negated. The passive communicator doesn't believe he is worthy of being important and usually has low self-esteem. These type of communicators are often apologetic. They avoid eye contact and may have a slumped posture.

Aggressive Communication Style: The aggressive communication style features a speaker who is fully able and willing to share his thoughts and feelings, but does so regardless of the effect those messages have on his listener. This style of communication is forthright to the point of being tactless and direct. In aggressive communication, the speaker may try to manipulate the listener with guilt or intimidation. Many of this speaker's sentences feature "you" statements, often placing blame.

Passive-Aggressive Communication Style: The passive-aggressive communication style is a combination of the first two styles. The speaker avoids confrontation by speaking in vague terms or saying what the other person wants to hear. This communication style features someone who tries to manipulate to get what he wants rather than saying what he wants or feels. Sarcasm is a tool in passive-aggressive communication.

Assertive Communication Style: The assertive communication style employs direct, honest statements. These statements are said in a tactful manner, being sensitive to the feelings of the listener. The assertive communicator is self-confident and willing to compromise. Because an assertive communicator stands up for himself in a non-confrontational manner, he is not easily manipulated by others.

How to Become an Assertive Communicator

Like so many things in life, first you have to recognize that the manner in which you communicate presently isn't as effective as you'd like it to be. You may have recognized your communication style or styles in the explanation of ineffective communication styles. If so, you're not alone.

There are many avenues available for assertiveness training.

Check your local colleges or universities for assertiveness training or courses in interpersonal communication techniques. Some employers provide assertiveness training; if so, be sure to avail yourself of this available avenue. There are many self-help books available on the topic -- and likely a number of e-books too.

If you are a person who is passive by nature and find yourself unable to use even the most basic of assertive communication techniques, you may consider obtaining counseling to help boost your self-esteem. As you develop a better self-image, your ability to speak out for your thoughts and beliefs will become easier -- and that's assertive communication.

Basic Assertive Communication Techniques

If you've not been an assertive communicator up until now, chances are you will be a little self-conscious initially until this new communication style becomes familiar to you. That's to be expected. My best advice to you: Fake it 'til you make it. It works.

* Sit and stand straight, shoulders back and head erect. You can practice doing this when no one is around. The more you practice the more natural these mannerisms will become. You are not going for a stiff look, you want to portray a look of self-confidence.

* Make eye contact during conversation. Don't stare, but don't avoid looking at the other person or people to whom you are talking.

* Become an active listener. Assertive communication is about mutual respect for all parties in the conversation. Let the speaker know you are paying attention to what is being said by nodding your head slightly now and then.

* Speak in an average conversational volume. Enunciate your words. Mumbling or speaking too softly send the wrong message to your listener.

* Take ownership of what you're saying by using "I" statements: "I think" or "I feel"

* Seek a win-win completion to a conversation. An assertive communicator is willing to compromise when applicable.

* It's not only okay to say "no" to a request, it is necessary for your self-esteem to protect your time and energy. If you're asked to do something you don't want to do, simply say "no." You don't need to provide an explanation for your decision.

* Say what's on your mind, but do so in a diplomatic way. You want to protect the feelings of others just as you want them to do in return.

Assertive Communicators Are Active Listeners

Being an effective communicator is as much about listening as it is about speaking. You have to be able to understand what the other person is saying -- and perhaps, leaving unsaid -- before you can respond appropriately. The way to be a good listener is to be an active listener.

Active listening requires you to focus on both the speaker and the spoken words. The speaker's body language will provide some important clues to the intent and meaning of the spoken word.

Being an active listener means that you aren't already thinking about how you're going to respond to the person talking. You can't concentrate fully on the conversation when you are planning ahead. This may take some practiced effort on your part because many of us are ready to respond before the person talking has even finished his/her sentence.

Make eye contact at intervals with the speaker; neither stare or become involved in any other activity while the person talks. Eye contact demonstrates interest; sitting or standing quietly while the other person talks demonstrates both respect and interest in the message.

Don't change the subject before acknowledging what the other person has just said. Doing this shows that you didn't give the conversation any importance -- and by association -- you didn't give the speaker any importance.

To ensure you've understood the message of the other person, you might say something such as, "It sounds to me like you are saying..." or "Did I understand you correctly when you said..." Repeating back to the speaker shows that you were listening and gives both of you the opportunity to clear up any misunderstandings of the message.

Showing respect for the speaker is likely to result in the speaker having respect for you and your message. This is a win-win situation.

Your ears are only one tool to use in active listening.
Your ears are only one tool to use in active listening. | Source

Become a Better Listener

You can use what you've just learned about the various types of communication styles to aid your understanding of the people with whom you talk. You now know that assertive communication is the most favorable type to promote understanding of the message, but those you speak with may utilize other communication styles.

Now you should be able to determine if the speaker is a passive communicator. If so, you will know that determining exactly what that person thinks or feels about the subject at hand may be difficult. In order to draw them out, you can ask them specifically what his/take is on the matter. Knowing that you value their opinion may draw the passive speaker out -- or it may not -- but you have shown them that you care about what they have to say.

You should also be readily able to recognize an aggressive communicator. You know you will have to keep yourself from reacting emotionally to their manner of speaking and listen for the message. As an assertive communicator, you can respond with "I" statements to let the speaker know how they are making you feel if the situation is appropriate for that. If not, you will at least have opened yourself up to receive the message by understanding the person's communication style.

If you are engaged in a conversation with a passive-aggressive communicator, you'll know to look for sarcasm and other manipulation tools in this person's speaking style. As with the passive communicator, you can show you value the message the speaker is trying to deliver and may be able to draw them out by asking questions designed to show your intent.

One thing is certain, you can't change the way other people communicate, but you can train yourself to be a better listener based on your knowledge of communication styles.


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    • L.L. Woodard profile imageAUTHOR

      L.L. Woodard 

      6 years ago from Oklahoma City

      Wheelinallover, thanks for sharing a practical application of the importance of understanding the different communication styles. I think this is valuable info.

      Thanks for SHARING.

    • wheelinallover profile image

      Dennis Thorgesen 

      6 years ago from Beatrice, Nebraska U.S.

      Effective communication is important to those who are in business. I spend sometimes hours a day on the telephone or on other voice communication systems.

      Our corporation uses the tell don't sell approach so being assertive, not aggressive helps. Being a good listener is the most important part. Listening teaches us several things. Some people we cut conversations short and will try another time if they are passive aggressive or aggressive.

      Passive speakers unless we can draw out a passion we just speak for a short time and let them go their merry way. Passive speakers who don't become passionate have no value to us. Passive aggressive and aggressive do if we can channel their thoughts the right way. Assertive speakers are the best in business. With those we spend a lot of time speaking and listening.

      Voted up and interesting and SHARING with our twitter followers. The majority of them are newer to business and this can really be of help to those who read it.

    • L.L. Woodard profile imageAUTHOR

      L.L. Woodard 

      6 years ago from Oklahoma City

      Brett, thanks for your input. Someone long ago offered me the advice to "fake it 'til you make it." At first I was doubtful, but once I put it to work, I found it most useful advice.

      Thanks for SHARING.

    • Brett.Tesol profile image

      Brett Caulton 

      6 years ago from Asia

      This is excellent advice! Your statement "Fake it 'til you make it." is so true. At 23 I got promoted to being a bank manager and was suddenly in charge of people almost twice my age. Hence, although I was not exactly unconfident, I couldn't afford to come across as unsure on issues. Being assertive, but fair, to staff and customers worked very well for me.

      SOCIALLY SHARED, up and useful.

    • L.L. Woodard profile imageAUTHOR

      L.L. Woodard 

      6 years ago from Oklahoma City

      Thanks for the read and your kind comments, Suzettenaples. I'm happy you found the information useful.

    • suzettenaples profile image

      Suzette Walker 

      6 years ago from Taos, NM

      What a wonderful and informative hub. This is so relevant and needed today. So many people have no idea how to communicate with others and this spells it out and is quite an engaging hub. I like the video and the list of web-sites to research communication skills. Very well researched and well-written. Voted up and interesting!

    • smiileyfacexo profile image


      6 years ago from New Zealand

      I really like this hub. This is useful for anyone. I've learnt this before but have forgotten the different communication styles. This hub reminded me to perfect assertive communication skills. Thanks! I am now following you =)

    • L.L. Woodard profile imageAUTHOR

      L.L. Woodard 

      6 years ago from Oklahoma City

      Jessi10, it is pretty amazing, isn't it, that there are so many thing that can affect how your message is received -- and how you receive the messages of others.

      Thank you for the read and for SHARING.

    • L.L. Woodard profile imageAUTHOR

      L.L. Woodard 

      6 years ago from Oklahoma City

      Alocsin, I'm glad this hub provided you with a new way of thinking about communication. I think it's something that a lot of take for granted, once we learn to talk. But being an effective communicator is so much more than putting the right words together.

      Thanks for SHARING.

    • Jessi10 profile image

      Jessica Rangel 

      6 years ago from Lancaster, CA

      Interesting take on Communication. Who knew there were so many ways to talk and pay attention to how you talk. Voted up and sharing!

    • alocsin profile image


      6 years ago from Orange County, CA

      I've never thought of communication in this way before. Voting this Up and Interesting. SOCIALLY SHARED.

    • L.L. Woodard profile imageAUTHOR

      L.L. Woodard 

      6 years ago from Oklahoma City

      Jangaplanet, that's a good observation that people react differently to assertive communicators. I think, too, that when people who have formerly been passive or passive-aggressive communicators become assertive in their communication styles it may initially take others aback.

      Thanks for the vote and thank you for SHARING.

    • Jangaplanet profile image

      A James Di Rodi 

      6 years ago

      Interesting and very informative article. People react differently to assertive communicators, and Body language communicates a lot more than words. This is great info, and even more useful to anyone who is trying to understand the importance of assertive skills in building a career as well.

      Up and SHARING

    • L.L. Woodard profile imageAUTHOR

      L.L. Woodard 

      6 years ago from Oklahoma City

      @MissDoolittle I wish you success in becoming more assertive. It will benefit not only you, but the people around you. I'm glad you found the information useful.

      @KatrineDalMonte I appreciate the read, the comment and the vote. I feel some success in having provided new information.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Very informative, I have learnt something new today! Voted up! Thanks :-)

    • MissDoolittle profile image


      6 years ago from Sussex, UK

      This is a great hub. I like that you've explained the four different types of communication styles, because I didn't know them. It made understanding the tips on becoming assertive easier to understand.


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