Assertive Communication Skills: The Guide To Developing Them

Nowadays, being assertive is among the most wanted behavior types in the business, work and social life.

From all ways and styles to communicate and express thoughts, assertive communication skills are the most effective!

Why? Because it involves a huge range of benefits and the most important of them is that you act in your best interests and goals with respect to yourself and other people.

This is the communication style and skill mainly associated with managers, leaders, professionals, and with any individual who has confidence, charismatic and trustworthy personality.

On this page:

What is Assertive Communication? Definition and Meaning.

Let's define it:

It is a communication style and way of behavior in which people clearly expose their opinions and thoughts, and advocate for their needs in a calm and positive way.

Being assertive means you are able to state your point without upsetting others or yourself. You are open, clear and honest. You can control your emotions and you speak in a calm and positive way.

Assertiveness also includes confidence, willingness to achieve compromise and taking responsibility for your actions and choices.

It not only allows us to achieve effective communication but It gives us a more positive approach to life.

Assertive Communication Skills and Examples

Assertiveness means much more than expressing ourselves and our points of view. It is an ability we must develop especially if you want to achieve effective business or social communications.

Assertiveness is a complex of skills, behavior characteristics and body language knowledge. Let’s see what they include exactly.

1.Being Able to Communicate Openly and Honestly

No matter in what business you work and operate, the ability to communicate openly is crucial for business and career success.

You can’t be a good communicator without being open and honest.

Why are honesty and openness are crucial?

Because an honest communication is based on trust. Its foundation is the trust!

If you want to have assertive communication skills, you have to start with being open and honest with your colleagues, co-workers, team members, competitors, staff, and every other individual and entity.

And if you are a leader or manager, you should definitely know that true leaders never disgrace their honesty by cheating and playing manipulative games.

Honesty is the key not just because of moral principles, but because it is the only way to show who you are and what you believe.

Honesty goes beyond not lying to the people you communicate with. It’s about the ability to admit your mistakes and confess when you’re wrong.

Done in the right way, this kind of openness leads to trust and loyalty. The people you communicate with, know they can trust you and know that you appreciate the relationship.

Examples of communicating honestly and openly:

  • “I am really sorry, but I won’t be able to help you with your IT project Wednesday afternoon, as I have an another appointment at this time.”
  • Try to add phrases that show honesty such as “In my experience…” or “Personally, I’ve experienced…”, “I sincerely wish… “

2.Show Respect To Others

Ways to Show Respect To Others Infograthic

Respect is absolutely essential for assertive communication style!

Respect is a key factor in building good relationships. It is about to show how much you value the others!

Assertive communication skills require speaking with other people without violating their rights and feelings. Moreover, it requires esteem, respect, and appreciation to them.

No matter, with who you are communicating with (business partners, team members, family, friends), it is vital to show that you respect them.

There are so many ways to show it:

  • Listen with care without interrupting to what the another person has to say.
  • Not only listen but truly seek to understand the other point of view.
  • After that Respond.
  • If you don’t understand, ask questions to clarify. It shows your care and interest.
  • Do not judge – do your best to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. When someone says something that sounds negatively to you, try to understand instead of passing judgment.
  • Be approachable when someone wants to tell you something and to give you a feedback.
  • Never express negative emotions such as pride and anger.

Examples for an honest but respectful approach:

  • “We felt disappointed when you were late for the meeting” In this way you’re open your feelings instead of judging with phrases such as, “I felt angry to you when you didn’t arrive on time.” Non-accusing speaking is very important for maintaining a good relationship and communication.

Unfortunately, showing our respect attitude is often something we don’t think about.

Why?

For most of us, the lack of showing respect isn’t a thing we purposely do.

In real life, it’s so much easier to see the absence of respect in others, than to see when your behavior is not respectful. Isn’t it?

Naturally, we do not tend to notice our own behaviors mistakes!

However, it doesn’t mean we can not learn to be respectful. It doesn’t mean we can not develop a great respectful and open behavior.

Furthermore, nowadays it is a must for every aspect of our life. It is a must for every employee, for every leader and professional, for every family member, and for every real friend.

You need to make sure you always show you respect in business and personal communications. No excuses!

3.The Ability to Communicate Clearly

Ways to Communicate More Clearly

Here, your main goal is to achieve an assertive communication with words designed to be clear and concise.

Might be this is one of the most important problems when it comes to communications. Actually, a lot of business people struggle with how to communicate clearly.

The ability to be able to express your thoughts and feelings in a clear way with the right words is crucial in business (not to mention how vital they are for managers and professionals).

If you do not have these assertive communication skills, it can cause miscommunication and misunderstandings. They will probably make people do other things than what you wanted and expected.

And since you have a lot of communications every day (you write emails, going to meetings, have phone calls, give presentations, debate with your partners… and so on), miscommunication can lead to real disasters.

Frankly speaking,  your ability to get what you want depends on how well you express your intentions and how well you talk and write.

Ways to Communicate More Clearly:

  • Define your main goal. What are the main ideas you are trying to express or the message you are trying to say? What do you most want people to understand? What are you trying to accomplish? Clarifying your main focus allows you to avoid side issues and things that can complicate the situation. If you’re not sure what you want to say, then your audience won’t be sure either.
  • Use short and more direct sentences. This is a school lesson that I am sure you know. There is always a way for things to be said more shortly.
  • Listen more than you talk. The communication is always a two (or more)-way conversation. In addition to that, it is almost always a bad idea to try to dominate conversations. Try to really hear and understand that others have to say. Ask yourself if you really understand them.
  • Cut the jargon and the words that mean nothing. Is much more clear to say “My schedule is full.” instead of “My schedule is full of many things that I have to do”.
  • Ask yourself, “Does what I’m talking make sense? When all of the parties in a conversation are able to say they understand, a clear communication has been achieved.

Example for a clear business email:

Diana,

I have been asked to schedule a 20 minutes conference call for you and Mr. Smith. Mr. Smith’s schedule is full this week so we are looking into the beginning of next week. Would you be available Monday, June 1st from 2-2:20 PM or Tuesday, June 2nd from 8-8:20 AM. If not, please suggest another time.

Regards,
Silvia

4.The Ability to Control Your Emotions

In our hectic day, controlling emotions is one of the most challenging goals.

Limited time and resources, always in a hurry, a new department manager, a customer snaps at you unfairly, you are overload but your boss gives you more work ..and…so on… and you should be patient, calm and control your emotions.

Yes. You should!

The are always sources of stress and negative emotions.

The ability to control emotions is one of the most valuable skills that a person can possess in the business and personal life! When it comes to assertive communication skills and style, it is a must!

The most valuable and successful people in any organization are those who are good at handling emotional situations.

You can’t achieve effective communications (and you can’t achieve something else) until you learn how to manage your emotions. And you definitely can learn it!

Tips and ways to control and cope with negative emotions:

  • Think before react. One of the most effective things you can do is to stop yourself and look at the situation. Try to look in an objective way. Many times we first react and after that think! This is where poor communications start. If you feel upset and angry in a particular situation, please do not explode. It would not help you! Instead, start to think which is the best reaction and behavior you should show.
  • Find positive things in the situation. It might sound to you such an impossible thing in many situations but think again. Think in a different way, search for another perspective and you will find the positive. Example: The presentation of your competitor is better than yours – this is an unpleasant situation. However, you learn a lot from it – this is the positive thing, the good thought.
  • Always look ahead. What’s happened has happened, you can not turn back the time! Sometimes we are so angry that we momentarily forget that there is a future. Impossible, right? There will be always a future. So, try to see the big picture and go ahead.
  • Get to know yourself. Learn to analyze your own behavior and emotional changes. The first step to emotional control is to know what you are facing. Observe your feelings and try to understand why they exist. Admit to yourself your feelings. Coping with your bad emotions isn’t about pretending they do not exist. If you are angry, sad, greedy and etc., explain to yourself exactly how you are feeling. Be honest with yourself and accept the truth as to why you are feeling in this way. Do not be scared to admit that you are jealous or anxious because your co-worker has a promotion instead of you. Admitting your bad feelings mean you are ready to take actions to change them and to do something about it. This is a great base for an open assertive communication.
  • Use the situation as motivation. This is a very good approach to deal with hard situations and to control your emotions. See each problem as an opportunity to growth and develop. Life is an endless process of learning. You have a lot of perspectives and opportunities. Learn to see them in the hard times.
  • Surround yourself with positive people – this always help. Positive people have a lot to show. They are people who can control their emotions. You can learn a lot of them for developing assertive communication skills.
  • Smile! Even if you about to cry, smile instead. You might be surprised how a forced smile can make you feel good.
  • Take a good self-care! Healthy and balanced diet, sports and vacations are things that naturally can help you get rid of bad emotions. Just relax!

5.Being Able to Admit Your Mistakes and to Apologize

This is one of the assertive communication skills that can make things beautiful!

Do you know that admitting you were wrong makes you look awesome! It doesn’t make you look weak, it makes you majestic!

Why?

Because it takes courage!

The courage to admit your failure and your mistakes, the courage to accept circumstances and to take responsibility, the courage to apologize!

Any person on this Planet makes mistakes! However, not any person admit them!

If you want to achieve effective and assertive communications, no doubt you must have the courage to admit and to acknowledge!

It will show your audience you are a person who deserves trust and you are taking responsibility for your actions!

What will happen if you don’t apologize when you’ve made a mistake?

  • You will injure your relationships with colleagues, friends, and family.
  • You can destroy your reputation.
  • You limit your opportunities.
  • Other people may not want to work and communicate with you.

It isn’t easy to apologize, but it’s a very important way to maintain a healthy relationship.

Tips and ways to apologize:

  • Use words that express remorse. Examples: “I’m sorry,” “I apologize”, “I deeply regret what I did.” are phrases that show you sincerely want to apologize and your intentions are not to hurt someone. Be honest and make the apology from your heart!
  • Offer an explanation. Explanation helps the person understand how the mistake happened. Clarify the cause of your mistake. Keep the explanation clear and short or it may turn into lame excuses.
  • Offer to correct the mistake. If you know how to correct the mistake, do so. If you do not know, ask the person about ways on how to fix it. Example: “If there’s anything that I can do for you, please just let me know.” If the apology is to customers, for resolving the situation can help giving a discount, or shipping the next order for free, and etc.
  • Act quickly. Take actions to the apology as quickly as possible. People are more likely to listen to your explanation if you apology it as soon as possible.
  • Assure the person that you will do you best not to repeat the mistake. This will help people to understand that you really didn’t intend to do the mistake.
  • Move on after apologizing. If your apology is accepted, then you need to keep moving. It will not help anybody if you stick to the problem. Sticking to the problem will only accelerate it.

6.Willingness to Achieve a Compromise

Assertive communication is all about achieving a balance and compromise. A healthy relationship means that the both parties win.

On the top of that, the compromise is one of the best ways for conflict resolutions.

By its definition, compromise is a settlement of differences between the parties, an agreement by concessions on both or all sides. It is one of the best techniques to achieve a “win-win” solution in negotiations and communications.

Being assertive definitely includes being willing to achieve a compromise. Assertiveness is based on compromised solutions where all the parties are equal.

No matter if it is a business or personal field, a truly assertive personality promotes and maintains communications and relationships based on tolerance and equal rights.

And as any other part of effective communications, it is no so easy to achieve a compromise. However, there is ways and tips to help you:

  • See things from the other’s point-of-view. The first step to compromise is to put yourself in your partner’s shoes. Try to truly understand their needs and feelings. This is the best way to find a compromise that works for you both. “What can I do to help make this compromise good for you?” is a great example that shows you really value your partner’s needs and you really want them to be happy with the compromise.
  • Listen. There is no way to truly understand your partner’s feelings without listening. And listen carefully. It is very important for others to feel like their point of view is being heard. Ask questions to help you understand such as: “How can we do the things better?”, and “Help me understand more about your position.”
  • Make sure what you’re asking is achievable and reasonable. What do you want to achieve exactly? Do you want other people to compromise something very important or crucial for them? In this case, the compromise may be impossible.
  • Calm down. Compromises sometimes might be very emotional and frustrating. If you speak in a calm and open way, you definitely have much better chances to reach a win-win solution and to reach a real assertive communication.
  • Present your side with facts and examples. This will help the other side see your point of view and understand your needs better. Show clearly and openly why you want that and what the benefits would be for you.
  • If it possible, suggest more than one possible compromise. It will help to find something that really works for the both parties. More alternatives mean more chances and creative approaches to the situation.
  • Remember both of you need to give up something, not only one of you. That is the proof for balance! Be prepare to give up something and after that ask the other part to give up something too.

7.Assertive Non-Verbal Communication Skills

The above skills are a great way to start an assertive communication.

However, you can say the right things with the right words, but if your body language shows something different from your words, there won’t be an effective communication.

Body language is about communications without words!

If you want to send the right message, every aspect of your behavior should prove your statement.

You can manage your body language signals so they show confidence and assertiveness.

How to be assertive without saying anything?

The answer requires you to make the appropriate use of your body language.

  • Posture – open and relaxed posture that display balance. Assertive postures Do NOT include hunching shoulders, hiding you face behind your hair, tilting your head to one side or clasped hands behind your back. Instead, it includes holding your back and body straight, your head high (in line with your spine), relaxed shoulders and keeping your weight balanced on your both feet.
  • Voice –  medium pitch and volume. Do not whisper and do not use very loud voices! Speak slowly and calmly.
  • Eye Contact – maintain positive eye contact. Not only does appropriate eye contact shows your confidence and positive attitude, it also helps you understand what the other person is really meaning verbally. The eyes can express everything from happiness, interest, to pain. Looking someone in the eye during conversation also shows you are paying attention to them and you are truly interested in what they want to express. It shows you listen!
  • Gestures – use open and rounded gestures. Using open arm gestures, and showing the palms of your hands means you have nothing to hide. They are signals of credibility and honesty. Open gestures have a positive influence. Do not cross your arms, and do not keep them hidden or held close to the body. Do not rub your hands together, drum your fingers, play with your jewelry, and etc. The last ones are nervous gestures and they never can be a part of assertive communication skills.
  • Smiles that show empathy but do not overuse them. Smiles are a vital facial expression. They show interest, empathy, and willingness to understand others. They create a pleasant and positive atmosphere. When you smile at people, they almost always smile to you in return. Smiles can, however, be overused.
  • Distance – leave enough space. If you stand very close to someone, they may feel uncomfortable.
    Roughly said, a distance of between 1.5-2.5 meters is acceptable for most business situations.

Conclusion

The most healthy and powerful communication style! This is assertive communication!

The real winning in business and personal life is when other parties also win! This is what assertive communications are about!

Communicate honestly, be open, be positive, be willing to compromise and always respect others and yourself! This will lead you to the true success and personal development.

What do YOU Think?
Share your experience! … Provide your communication techniques and tips.

An Infographic in PDF for Free Download: Assertive Communication Skillsassertive communication skills infographic

About the Author Marin Valchev

Marin Valchev, PMP is an IT Project Manager with more than 10 years of experience. He implements cutting-edge technology in a wide-range of Financial and TELCO companies in Europe, Asia, and Africa. Marin shares his knowledge of software, analysis, project management and other business areas.

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