Assertive Communication

Troy Todd, Ph.D., BCN

Effective communication is often difficult to accomplish, especially if we have not practiced it well throughout our lives. In concept, assertive and tactful communication is very easy to comprehend. It is likely easy to recognize when it is used in communication towards us. The characteristics of assertive communication can be understood to have four parts:

  • Honest (you honestly communicate how YOU feel)
  • Appropriate (your communication is appropriate to time, place, and the person you are addressing)
  • Respectful (you use words, body language and tone that are respectful to the person you are addressing)
  • Direct (you directly state what your needs are)

Some of the less assertive and tactful forms of communication have some of these characteristics, but not all; this makes them more agitating to the one being communicated with, and therefore less effective. Passive communication is usually Approprate in time, place, and perhaps the person addressed, and usually is respectful to them, but lacks the honesty of your actual opinion and directness of being clear of your needs.

Aggressive communication is usually honest regarding your feelings (but may be communicated as the fault of the person being addressed), and directly communicates your needs. However, it is usually not appropriate to time and place and does not respect the person being communicated with.

As you try to improve the effectiveness of your communication, you are also developing respect for yourself and those around you. As you talk to others, try to think of their positive characteristics, as well as yours; this will help you choose respectful words and tones. Practice using the term “I” when talking. Try to convert all sentences into ones that have to use “I”; this will help you express yourself more accurately and allow the person to whom you are speaking understand you as a person.

Other things you can do to make sure your communication is more effective is to keep your voice steady and calm throughout your conversation, look into the other person’s eyes in an open way, practice a neutral posture, being cautious that gesticulations are respectful and inviting. Before you talk to the person, try to understand your feelings regarding the subject. Try to describe your feeling in a single word. Then, use this word in the first sentence of your communication with the other person.

If you are communicating with the person to correct them, tell the person directly what you think about their behavior without accusing them, then explain to them how you feel when they act this way, emphasizing how their behavior effects you and your relationship with them. Finally, tell them what you would prefer them to do instead.

It will take a while for you and the other person to get used to this new, more respectful way of communicating, but as you do, you will get your needs met more directly.