The Importance of Using Assertiveness Effectively as a Communication Style

The definition of Assertive is ‘having or showing a confident and forceful personality’. Do not be put off by the word forceful. Assertiveness is not being bossy. It is merely an effective communication style that means you can express yourself effectively and stand up for what you feel is right. Being bossy, suggests a lack of respect for the thoughts and beliefs of others. Assertiveness is a respectful communication style (MAYO CLINIC, 2017).

The definition of Anger is ‘a strong feeling of annoyance, displeasure or hostility’. Anger is an emotional response. We therefore tend to react without being conscious of the impact our anger has on the receiver. Anger communicates a message in a way that is not as affective as being assertive as it dismisses the needs, feelings and opinions of others. The message, therefore, is rarely heard. 

Consider my last post: “The Science of Stigma – Human Competition – PART 5”. Anger stems from a sense of competition. It is the sense that someone else’s opinion is wrong while your opinion is right. Competitive behaviour means people are unwilling to admit they are wrong. A power struggle ensues that results in demands that the other party admits they are at fault. It is important to understand that admitting mistakes, conveying an apology and stepping down from the power struggle is not any form of defeat (Koga and Kishimi, 2018). 

I have offered a brief look at anger and compared it to assertiveness as a  communication style. However, there are two other methods of communication that are worth considering – passive and passive-aggressive behaviours. Both, also try to communicate a message, but fail to deliver it as clearly as being assertive.

Passive communicators are often shy and too easy going. They avoid conflict and often say things like, “I will do what you decide”. Being passive means you find it hard to say no, so you can be easily forced to do things that put you out – that you don’t want to do. This can result in an angry reaction towards the person who has asked you to do something, that you would otherwise would not have done, and also towards yourself for not being able to stand up for what you believe in. By being passive you give others the license to neglect your own wants and needs.

The final communication style is being passive-aggressive. Being passive-aggressive is an indirect communication style, which often results in resistance to requests and demands through procrastinating and stubbornness (Cherry, 2018). Wikipedia defines Passive-aggressive behaviour as “characterised by indirect resistance to the demands of others and an avoidance of direct confrontation.” (, n.d.). Being passive aggressive can damage relationships and results in a lack of mutual respect which can mean it is hard for the individual to get his/her needs and goals met (MAYO CLINIC, 2017).

Being assertive can help avoid people walking all over you whilst it can also help prevent you from steamrolling others. To become more assertive you can focus on using more “I” statements. By saying things like “I disagree”, rather than “you’re wrong” you sound less accusatory. It can result in a lot more cooperative form of communication. You can also consider practicing saying no, rehearse what you want to say, use body language and keeping emotions in check.

It is worth practicing to become more assertive, because you can learn to express your needs and feeling more effectively. You will find you get more of what is rightfully yours as a result.


Cherry, K. (2018). How to Understand and Identify Passive-Aggressive Behavior. [online] Verywell Mind. Available at: [Accessed 19 Feb. 2019]. (n.d.). Passive-aggressive behavior. [online] Available at: [Accessed 18 Feb. 2019].

Koga, F. and Kishimi, I. (2018). The Courage To Be Disliked: How to Free Yourself, Change Your Life and Achieve Real Happiness. George Allen & Unwin.

MAYO CLINIC (2017). Being Assertive: Reduce Stress and Communicate Better. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 18 February 2019].

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