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Assertive Communication Skills. When and How To Stand Up For your Rights

Updated on September 2, 2012

Learn to avoid heated arguments by learning to communicate using direct and complete messages.

Learn to avoid arguments
Learn to avoid arguments | Source

In the video below, "TheInternetTherapist" describes forms of communication that can be counterproductive to getting your point across

Assertive communication is about expressing your feelings, thoughts, and wants in a way that allows you to stand up for your rights without infringing on the rights of other people.These skills are not something we are born with. Like any other social behavior, assertive communication skills have to be learned, and practiced.

Nobody is always an effective communicator. You may be more assertive with strangers,or casual acquaintances, but find it harder to do so with loved ones and co-workers.There are times when it is good to be aggressive in your communication. For example, if your life or property is in danger, it might not be the best time to practice assertive communication.

There are also good times to be more passive, such as when you are being reprimanded by your boss. You can learn to choose when it is best to assert yourself, and when it is best to use other forms of communication.Learning these skills takes time and practice, but learning how to use assertive communication effectively is well worth the time and effort involved.

The steps to assertive communication are as follows:

Identify Your Communication Style

Use the following examples of common communication styles to identify your own.

Passive Communication Style:

I talk softly. I rarely stand up for my rights. I usually try to avoid conflict and arguments. I don't usually get rejected directly, but people take advantage of me because I have am afraid to say no. Then I am angry and resentful, and my needs are not met.

Aggressive Communication Style:

People will never push me around. I always get my way even if I have to hurt or offend people to get it. I use my position, power, and harsh or manipulative words. I don't care if I offend people. I speak in a loud voice. I can be abusive, and I really like to get even with people.

Passive Aggressive Communication Style:

I protect myself by avoiding problems and try not to take any risks. I'm sly,sarcastic,and subtly insulting. I deliberately ruin other peoples plans or projects. I talk about other people in negative ways. I dress however I want to regardless of the situation. I often fail at school or work. I feel like a victim and never like to take responsibility. I feel jealous and resentful of others achievements.

Assertive Communication Style:

I often get what I want without offending other people or making them angry. I am clear and direct when I communicate, and I'm able to express my thoughts, feelings, and wants directly. I am honest, and show my confidence without being aggressive about it.

Identify Your Problems Solving Style

You may have no problem with general communication, but tend to be passive or aggressive when it comes to solving problems. Use the examples above to identify what communication style do you use while problem solving.

Learn Your Legitimate Rights

You learn a set of rules or beliefs early in your life that effect your behavior. These are a set of rules about "good" and "bad" ways to act, as they were taught to you by your parents and other role models.

These beliefs may have helped you get along with the people you grew up with, they are not set in stone, and you can decide to behave differently now.

Some Common Distorted Beliefs About Human Rights

It is not right to put your own needs first

If you can't convince others that your thoughts and feelings are right, they must be wrong.

You should never change your mind.

people only criticize you if they don't like you

Please Be Aware That You Have The Right To

Put your own needs first

Have your own opinion

change your mind

hear what others have to say, but continue to make your own decisions

Learn the Responsibilities of Effective Communication

Some of these responsibilities include:

Assessing your true feelings without exaggeration or minimizing ; expressing your feelings appropriately without insulting someone else.

Replying as soon as possible, and without taking an unreasonable amount of time.

Thinking through your opinions and realizing others can disagree with them.

Learning from mistakes, rather than punishing your self or others because of mistakes.

Acting in a responsible manner as much of the time as possible.

Feeling appropriate anger and happiness, and to share these feelings with the people involved assertively.

Not imposing your personal beliefs or standards on others.

Thinking through your responses before answering a question.

Respecting commitments to other people as well as to your self; allowing good enough time to fulfill all promises.

Talking about your needs and, if you can, working out a compromise.

Making sure that the way you express your feelings does not infringe on the rights and responsibilities of others.

Avoid labeling or making unfair judgments on yourself or other people.

Learn to Use Assertive Communication

Now you can begin learning how to express yourself in a way that doesn't violate the legitimate rights of your self or others, by using ā€œIā€ statements, (whole or "four part" messages) thinking through responses, and using correct assertive body language.

Whole messages("I" Statements)

There are four parts to a whole message.

1. Feelings

This can be the hardest part of assertive communication. Some people don't want to know how you feel and will avoid listening because they feel frightened or threatened. Because of this, you may have learned to keep most of your feelings and opinions to yourself, but sharing your feelings allows others to have more understanding. Sharing the way you feel will give others the opportunity to behave in a way that meets your needs.

Some examples of feeling statements are:

"I feel disrespected when you insult me."

"I feel scared that I may get laid off during the meeting with my boss."

"I feel loved when you hug me."

2. Observations.

This is simply sharing what your senses tell you. An observation should always be a FACT that can't be argued.

Some examples of Observation Statements Are:

"I would like to join a support group."

"I heard you say I was an idiot."

"My lamp is broken."

3. Thoughts

It is important to share your beliefs and theories that are related to your feelings and observations. Other people need to know that you have attempted to make sense of the situation.

Some examples of Belief and Theory Statements are:

"I think it is hurtful to call me stupid."

"I think counseling might help me."

"I think school could challenge me."

4. Needs

You know what you need better than anyone. One of the most common distorted beliefs is "If you loved me, you'd know what I want." Many of us have been raised to think that it is not right to ask for anything. You may feel angry for having to ask. But it is important that you express your needs with other people. They can't read your mind.

Some Examples of Need Statements are:

"I need some time to think about this."

" I would appreciate it if you wouldn't insult me ."

"I need some quiet so I can concentrate on finishing my book report."

Learn How to Put a Whole Message Together

The proper format for assertive communication using whole messages is this:

"I feel ____________________ "(emotion)

"when______________________" (situation}

"Because___________________" (reason)

"I need___________________" (request)

Here is an example of this:

" I feel irritated right now because there is too much going on in this room for me to concentrate on my book report. I need you to play in the other room please."

This may seem very unnatural at first. Generally people are not raised in an environment where "I messages" are commonly used. Assertive communication skills take practice, and will not work on every person in every situation.

But the more you practice, the more natural it will become, and the you will begin to see an improvement in the amount of successful resolutions to your daily situations.

Body language

Keep in mind that HOW you express yourself is just as important as what is said. If you were to shout while using the above example, you would be speaking aggressively rather than assertively.

Things to remember when practicing assertive communication skills:

1. Maintain good eye contact. Try not to keep looking down or away , or stare so much that the person feels intimidated.

2. Keep good posture and distance from the other person. Try to stand up straight rather than slouching or hanging your head. Also make sure you are not standing too close to them , as this might make them feel threatened. also try to make sure you are standing still and not pacing around, swaying back and forth, or backing up as this will make them feel that they are superior to you.

3. Try to naturally and briefly open your arms and use other hand gestures to emphasize your words. This gives other people a sense of warmth and openness.

4. Keep a level tone of voice that can be easily heard. Shouting at a person will make them feel threatened, and whispering or mumbling will make you seem submissive. So speak clearly and loud enough to be heard.

5.Keep facial expressions that fit the message you are trying to convey. Saying one thing and meaning another, will give the other person a mixed message and will cause them to not trust you.


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    • zionsphere profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Oregon

      Thank you CyberShelly, I was hoping that I had laid it out in a way that was easy to understand. I'm glad that I accomplished my goal. :)

    • CyberShelley profile image

      Shelley Watson 

      6 years ago

      This is excellent information, and laid out in a way that everyone can understand. Well done article, thank you! Up, interesting and shared.

    • jiberish profile image


      9 years ago from florida

      Excellent! I have gone thru some extensive training while I was a corp trainer, and these were all addressed. Thank you for sharing!

    • Veronica Allen profile image

      Veronica Allen 

      9 years ago from Georgia

      This is excellent information that we all can use in our daily lives. Whether it be at work, play or home, or with our children, significant other, boss, aquaintances or the people we come in contact with on a daily basis. Thank you for placing it in a format that is easy to understand.


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