By Coby Cushenberry, LMFT

Because we live in a society, we will all inevitably find ourselves at odds with someone. Whether that be a spouse, friend, coworker, or boss, the ability to communicate effectively is crucial to ensuring our needs are met. 

You may find communication challenging and uncomfortable, and sometimes your attempts to discuss your needs might even end in disaster. 

To help improve your communication skills, we offer this introduction to assertive communication — finding ways to communicate that benefit all parties. 

When you use assertive communication, you respect the needs, boundaries, and autonomy of others while also respecting your own needs, boundaries, and autonomy. 

In other words, it’s speaking with the dignity of both yourself and others in mind. When we can do this, we are more successful in advocating for our best interests without ostracizing ourselves from others or escalating an issue to conflict. 

What does not constitute assertive communication? The common misconception is that assertive communication requires excessively rigid boundaries, a demanding tone, hostile language, or taking an insensitive, uncaring position. 

This is not true. 

This type of communication is often referred to as aggressive communication and is generally unproductive. It is possible to advocate for yourself without disparaging, intimidating, or undermining others. 

Furthermore, assertive communication is not passive-aggressive communication. 

Passive-aggressive communication is characterized by a passive resistance rather than open communication. Examples include sulking, complaining behind someone’s back, or deliberate disrespectful behaviors. 

Follow these guidelines for assertive communication to help you succeed in sharing your needs and to improve your skills in communication.  

  1. Respect yourself. The first and most important step to assertive communication is recognizing that you, along with everyone else, deserve to be heard. 
  2. Respect others. When we can approach others about our needs with respect, we create a space where they are more likely to listen to us without becoming defensive.
  3. Use non-threatening, solution-oriented language. It is possible to get your point across without resorting to undermining others. “Let’s work together to clean up this room, and then we can talk about ways to keep it clean.” 
  4. Reflect the need of the other person while also stating your own needs. “I do understand the budget restraints you’ve brought up. I also feel my efforts are worth just compensation.” 
  5. Maintain your boundaries in a respectful manner. “I know your project has a tight deadline. I will be happy to work on it during business hours, but I will not take away from my personal time to do so.” 

When you use these guidelines, you will be better positioned to advocate for yourself through difficult discussions. You will feel more secure in holding boundaries and more willing to flex when you know that you won’t be taken advantage of. With a little practice, you can tackle even the most challenging conversations with confidence! 

We can help you thrive. Start today.