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Assertiveness: Learning to be assertive


Assertiveness is often considered the middle ground between passivity and aggression, an ideal balance when expressing your opinion and engaging with others positively. Sometimes it can be difficult to to know when to assert yourself. Is it your place to talk? Is there something you haven’t considered? Are your ideas helpful? There are indicators of assertiveness that you can learn and apply to yourself and others in order to have more productive discussions and debates, whether at work, at home or in public.

Thinking before speaking

Be measured and calm in approach. Reacting impulsively and overemotionally carries you over into the aggressive side of arguing. Aggression doesn’t only provoke others in the wrong way, but it also hinders your arguing skills. You will more likely start speaking incoherently with jumps in logic and limited vocabulary. Consider very carefully what your point of view is and what conclusions you have come to through your opinion. Think of phrases which best communicate these conclusions clearly and demonstrate what outcomes you want because of them. If you have time to plan – for example, before business meetings – use it. Remember that arguing is pointless if there is someone who doesn’t understand another’s point of view.


It is impossible to assert yourself when you don’t completely understand why you have to. Listen to other people very carefully. Take in their ideas, manner of speech and figure out what they ultimately want from this interaction. It’s not passive to let other people assert themselves. If you truly pay attention you will be able to express properly what you don’t agree with by targeting what they’ve said directly. Not letting other people speak shows you are not only unfair and unwilling to cooperate, but also uninformed on certain details which leaves your argument weaker and more likely to fall apart.

Body language

You are communicating with more than your words. Have a strong, confident stance; keep your posture straight, don’t break eye contact and keep to small hand gestures. You don’t want to appear intimidating or, conversely, timid. Don’t shrink into yourself or lean away from somebody as it represents the effect their words are having on you – they are making you back down. On the other hand, don’t make violent gestures or lean in too much. A good stance shows good self-esteem and a readiness to talk with others. The social indicators matter.

Assertiveness is not passive-aggression

A trait many people deem to be a great annoyance is passive-aggression. It causes people to be distrusting of you, frustrated at your lack of openness, and to view you as petty and sly. Whilst assertiveness falls in between passivity and aggression, it is not synonymous with passive-aggression. One negative trait gets masked under another negative trait, which isn’t a positive thing. Assertiveness is about being honest and straightforward. It gets to the root of problems as quick as possible, where as passive-aggression causes them to grow until they come to a head. Be mature.

Being assertive is a valuable skill for all walks of life. It can be a big difference in how things proceed and what direction your life will head. It’s about clearing the air and making effective decisions, removing the drift in limbo through stale relationships, stagnant careers or policies coming to a standstill. It causes action. If you need a few actionable tips on being more assertive and improving your overall communication skills then visit our expert Video Moods series to watch at your convenience.


This article was contributed by Pink Moods.

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