Communicate assertively. How to speak up without being an ASS****

Communicate Assertively. How to speak up without being an ass****!

Definition of Assertive Communication
What happens when we lack assertiveness in communication

Not saying what you mean

Ever had such thoughts in your head, where you weren’t able to say what you wanted to say due to fear of not being helpful, not wanting to disappoint or maybe you are afraid of confrontation with a pushy person? Your instinct and knowledge tell you that it is a bad idea, but you still agree with the other person.

It can be stressful and frustrating if we don’t learn how to deal with it and the issue revolves around assertive communication. Before we start deep-diving into the definition of assertive communication, let’s look at what different communication outcomes arise from such situations:

Passive communication – “You Win – I Lose.”

To illustrate passive communication, I’m going to give you an example:

Definition of non-assertive communication
Are you ready to tell your partner you can’t afford that big holiday?

Your partner wants to spend on this luxurious holiday. Unlike you, she’s not really across the expenses. You know that you can’t afford it and do not want to take a loan, but are too afraid to tell her as she doesn’t take disappointment too well. You pretend that all is well and agree with it. At the detriment of your financial and mental well-being, you take on a loan to help fund the holiday. 

Passive communication involves one convincing themselves that they are being kind and to SUCK IT IN. Guilt usually sets in, and one can feel powerless, sometimes stressed or depressed. Lack of boundaries is associated with Passive non-assertive communication. In our example, your partner has no clue about the situation and your unwillingness to take a loan. It can also up with a sub-optimal decision making that is not only bad for you but can also affect the group. 

Aggressive communication – “I Win – You Lose! Ass****!

Aggressive Communication

Ever encountered someone rejecting you abruptly with no explanation whatsoever. It seldom feels good to be on the receiving end of such a response. In some instances, they can be hostile and unfriendly and in the most extreme situations, downright nasty and rude. 

When we take such a position in articulating how we feel, we can be perceived as an ass**** and inflexible. It is associated with rigid boundaries and alienates others and gives rise to future discussion challenges. 

Stressed out passive communicators can sometimes explode into negativity end up becoming aggressive if they keep bottling up their feelings. This happened in my early career as a data analyst. I was pounded with requests to deliver reports, and I didn’t have the stomach to tell my pushy colleagues NO. Unfortunately, it ended up with me telling someone off and resulted in some unhappiness and tension. The outburst did not benefit me and could have been managed much better if I had been more assertive at the start.

Benefits of Assertiveness Communication Skills

So, what are the benefits of developing assertiveness in our communication?

It is the middle ground which seeks to deliver an “I Win – You Win” situation.  Winning in assertive communication is about:

  • all parties being heard and respected
  • Identifying and helping others understand your boundaries with clarity
  • open discussions that lead to better decision making for all 

Organisations seek assertive individuals

Many organisations seek assertiveness in employees to ensure ethical and sound decision making in an environment with competing goals and agendas. (i.e., a department that minimises risk vs a sales department with revenue maximisation goals) 

Assertiveness Health benefits

Assertiveness leads to better mental health and good relationships

Assertiveness also prevents relationships from reaching boiling point and provides indirect health benefits such as less stress and less guilt. You will feel much better when you are heard, and your concerns are addressed.

Useful tips and resources for Assertive Communication

Identify and set your boundaries

Identify and let others know what you will accept and not accept in a way that you are not rude

If your boundaries are valid, BE CONFIDENT.

Display good body language

Empathise with the other person’s needs

Don’t always assume people are trying to SCREW you. Suspicion and paranoia create roadblocks for effective assertive communication. Put yourself in their position. Would you ask for the same thing?

Be flexible and offer options

Appear reasonable by providing other solutions. Very few of us like rigid responses. It can appear like you are not trying to help. Have you experienced customer service where you were only given one-word answers? How did you feel?

Keep your cool, be calm when communicating.

No matter how crazy or unreasonable the ask is, keep calm and cool. Hostilities will likely result in the other person putting up a wall to defend themselves, which creates challenges for meaningful discussion. 

Does being an introvert stop me from learning assertive communication skills?

Of course not! Here’s a tip. Learn how to project your voice and practice adopting right body language. Your voice can calm the nerves and instil self-confidence. The right body language can help develop your presence and cultivate a warm environment for discussion.

In a group conversation, make a conscious effort to make a contribution

Challenge yourself to be more proactive. Even if you get differing opinions or suffer criticism, don’t get discouraged. Get your brain to be comfortable with speaking up.

Finally, have faith in your intuition and have conviction in your ideas. Your opinions are valuable, and with the right delivery of your message, you will likely find RESPECT and UNDERSTANDING from those that matter.

Recommended videos on Youtube

Adam Galinsky provides tips on how to speak up for yourself

Some great tips on how to be more assertive.

Entertaining keynote on good body language and why it works. When we seek to be assertive, good body language gives your confidence and creates a warm environment.

Recommended Reading

Not Nice: Stop People Pleasing, Staying Silent, & Feeling Guilty … And Start Speaking Up, Saying No, Asking Boldly and Unapologetically Being Yourself


The Art of Saying No

Easy to read with useful tips and thoughts on how to say no to others. You can read it for free on Kindle Unlimited.

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