How to Communicate in an Assertive Manner

Speaking assertively is not magic. It is a technique that you can practice by yourself or with close ones to provide feedback. This article provides some tips to being assertive through communication.


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    Use the word I. Avoid using You, as this stops you from allowing control of the listener. Using omniscience removes control of the speaker, you, because "You" is only used to express indecisiveness.
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    Maintain eye contact. You should be staring at your listeners' eyes when speaking. Averting your eyes constantly or having no eye contact altogether will show timidness or discomfort.
    • Eye contact should not be a 'staring contest'. Breaking eye contact during unimportant parts during a conversation presents a natural environment with you and your listener. Staring without natural break in the eye contact may be interpreted as hostility.
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    Have a good posture. Think of yourself stretching from your head to your toes, sitting or standing. Pay attention to the neck, shoulder and upper back regions. Keep your back upright and your shoulder pushed back naturally. You should not be tense, but you should be mindful of your body and its composure.
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    Express body language. Make gestures that give a sense of warmth and openness on your behalf—open palms, circular arm movements, smiles, wrinkles of the nose, hugs, etc.
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    Avoid ambiguity. Explain yourself thoroughly and try not to create obscure responses.
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    Remember that silence is a tool, not an enemy. Learn to be comfortable with silence and use pauses. This is also useful for public speaking.
    • If you tend to say Umm, You know, Like, Yeah, or elongate the last word preceding an unintended pause, practise using pauses instead of muttering. People who subconsciously say auxiliaries tend to dislike silence.
    • Speak clearly. Mumbling, muttering, and circular sentences do nothing to further communication.
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    Use appropriate language. Do not swear or talk rudely. Obscenities do not show assertiveness—it shows crude behaviour and irresponsibility of your understanding.
    • This method of understanding propriety is called savoir-faire.
    • Be careful about the tone of your voice. Keep it moderated.
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    If you feel tears or anger coming on, breathe very deeply from the stomach—you should be able to see your stomach rise out and pull back in. This deep breathing will calm you in as little as four to five breaths.
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    Be mindful of your voice. If you are too soft, the other person will think you are trying to hide yourself and may ignore you. If you are too loud, the other person may become scared or intimidated by your voice. The person you are speaking to may even get annoyed and retaliate, or interpret hostility, which is more aggressive than assertive.
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    The most important thing is to believe that you are responsible for yourself. No one else is responsible for your behaviour and your personality.
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    Express your emotions clearly. Focus on how you feel.


  • If you have been in the habit of constantly seeking other's approval, then you might not overcome this habit overnight but if you keep working at it, eventually you can. After confrontations, look back on earlier ones and compare your reactions to contrast them - it may still feel just as threatening but it's heartening to see progress in how well you behaved. Breaking the "people pleasing" habit is not usually a simple all-or-nothing decision.
  • Don't yell or say things you'll regret later. This may seem like an easy option at the time but memories linger and it achieves nothing more than agitating and angering both parties. Assertiveness is about conveying your wants and needs without raising your voice.
  • You should care if you offend someone. You should care for others' feelings but in a positive way, not in a way which weakens you. There is no problem if you hesitate to say something because you do not want to hurt the listener, but if your hesitation is due to fear and not because of genuine sympathy for the listener, then you need to work on overcoming this negative trait within you.
  • Many of us try to seek people's approval in our actions, speech etc. Before we do something or say something, we try to think whether the other person will get angry at us or not. We try to avoid saying things that can earn the wrath of others, even if that is the right thing to say or do. When we let go of this habit, we will not only be able to freely express our thoughts, we can also become more assertive. We will say and do things without worrying what others will think of us, and it can help turn us into a more charismatic person.
  • If the conversation becomes too heated, ask for time-out or a break. Explain that it has nothing to do with the other person, it is just that you feel confused, tired or need time to reflect and that you will resume the conversation later.
  • Learning assertive communication takes time. Don't give up, just keep on practicing in everyday situations - supermarket queues are excellent!

Assertiveness Cheat Sheets

Assertiveness Tips and Tricks

Sample Assertive Responses

  • If you are someone who keeps your emotions repressed and your body muscles take the full brunt, it is important to exercise and stretch those muscles to stop this. You will stand taller, breathe better and feel stronger if you do this and exercise helps to free your emotions.


  • If you suffer any form of violence, seek immediate professional help or a refuge/shelter. Violence is not communication; it is domination.

Things You'll Need

  • Time to practice breathing and speaking clearly in front of a mirror
  • Family or friends you can trust to practice with
  • An open mind and a courageous heart

Article Info

Categories: Speaking and Listening Skills