How to Feel Comfortable Communicating Assertively

by | 6 June 2023 | Authority, Body Language, Building Confidence, Client Skills, Communication

Assertive communication – some people want it, some people fear it, other people overdo it! Life is too short to not speak up and be heard or to be so focussed on exerting control that you damage relationships along the way.

It’s important to speak up, but how can we do it in a way that (1) feels authentic and (2) maintains relationships and encourages others to actually listen? The good news is that communicating assertively – like many other aspects of communication – is a skill that can be developed.

From coaching a multitude of clients, we notice 3 common barriers to assertive communications.

  1. A fear that being assertive will be mistaken for aggression
  2. A fear that you might say something ‘wrong’ in speaking up or look ‘stupid’
  3. At the other end of the spectrum, the inability to stay level-headed when communicating or consider the other person’s point of view.

There is one golden rule to help us communicate assertively that overrides all of the barriers. It brings the role of RESPECT into the equation.

Firstly, you have to respect YOURSELF – that you have a right to voice your opinions. My rule is that if you’ve been invited to a meeting then you have the right to speak up! What you say doesn’t have to be ground-breaking – you could simply ask a clarifying question for example. It helps your brain realise that no-one is judging you in the way you dreaded.

You also have to respect OTHERS – if you develop and deliver your message with true respect to the other party, then communicating assertively becomes comfortable and, more importantly, impactful.

Assertiveness is sharing your thoughts and feelings openly in a non-offensive and non-destructive manner. You can be still assertive and build great relationships as well as a reputation for fairness!

Here are three top tips to help communicate assertively:

  • COOL DOWN YOUR MESSAGE, REMOVE THE JUDGEMENT – Your aim is to keep the other person open to your message. The last thing you want to do is to trigger a defensive reaction. A great technique is to use ‘I’ statements rather than ‘you’ statements, such as ‘‘I think’, ‘I feel’ or ‘In my opinion’. For example, ‘I feel overwhelmed by the volume of work I have right now’ rather than ‘you’re giving me too much work’.
  • SET YOUR BODY LANGUAGE – Body language and tone are as significant as your message. Get yourself into a calm state before relaying your message. Emotions will ‘leak’ out of your body if you feel highly charged about what you’re saying. Maintain an open posture, make eye contact, and use a calm and composed tone. Non-verbal cues should align with your assertive words to reinforce the respect in your approach.
  • LISTEN WELL AND SHOW EMPATHY – Assertive communication is still a conversation. It includes listening to the other person’s point of view and acknowledging their emotions. Staying open and curious and with a genuine desire to understand is typically well received by the other person. You can demonstrate you’re listening with phrases like ‘I hear what you’re saying’ or ‘I can see your perspective’, even if you don’t entirely agree. Another benefit is that when a person feels like they’ve genuinely been heard, they are more likely to want to reciprocate and listen well to you!

Remember you can’t control the other person or make them listen but you can set the right environment for them to stay open to you. Assertive communication is an ongoing skill to master and takes practice. It also requires a healthy dose of self-awareness. Proactively reminding yourself that assertiveness is all about respect can’t fail to help you.


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