Being assertive without appearing aggressive

Being assertive without appearing aggressive

What is assertive communication and how does it differ from aggressive communication?

Assertive and aggressive communication approaches are different ways people communicate their views to others. Assertiveness is the skill of putting views forward directly and confidently, while an aggressive approach can make other people feel threatened. The benefit of using assertive communication is achieving respect and being heard. Alternatively an aggressive approach tends to create rifts and mistrust between people.

Women historically have been encouraged to be meeker and milder than men and society often has a lower tolerance for aggressive women compared to aggressive men. This has possibly contributed to women struggling to assert themselves at home, work and in the wider community and to fall back on more ‘passive-aggressive’ relational styles. A passive-aggressive communication style includes avoidance of all confrontation and saying one thing while feeling another, for example, ‘I’m fine’ when they are angry or upset. While aggressive approaches disrespect the other person, ultimately passive-aggressive approaches disrespect your own needs over time.

Below are some tips for all genders on communicating assertively.


How to communicate assertively

To avoid passive – aggressive or aggressive approaches and communicate assertively try the following approaches:

  • Be friendly
    • Smile
    • Use a light and friendly tone of voice
    • Make eye contact to build trust and rapport
  • Take a team approach
    • Listen to the other person point of view
    • Instead of aiming to ‘win’ the conversation or argument, try to collaborate to find the best parts for everyone’s ideas
    • Avoid being defensive and acknowledge the limitations of your own ideas
    • Wait your turn to speak: frequently speaking over other people can appear aggressive
  • Use an approach based on facts
    • Build your argument based on factual information
    • Research your facts so you can appear confident
    • Don’t insult the other person or call them names
    • Avoid resorting to statements like ‘because it just is!’ or ‘because I said so’. Such statements tend to invalidate your whole argument
  • Express your needs and feelings
    • Stay calm
    • Use ‘I’ statements, not ‘you’ statements to express your feelings. For example, instead of saying ‘You have no idea how I feel! You’re being selfish!’ Try saying ‘I could really do with your help on this task’
  • Learn to be comfortable with saying no
    • Firmly saying no is often the best way to demonstrate your assertiveness. If your boss or your partner asks you to do something that you don’t have time for, calmly say no and explain your reasoning. Don’t change your mind


When to seek help with assertiveness skills

Many people struggle to assert themselves on occasion, however, if it is frequently impacting upon your life then it may be time to seek help. If you struggle to communicate your views and feelings and find yourself passively accepting situations or resorting to aggressive approaches and would like to discuss this further then call Dr Julie Hannan now on 07530 854530. For more information on Midlife issues please visit