Assertiveness: The Subtle Art of Communicating Your Needs

Last Update on October 25, 2023 : Published on July 15, 2020
How To Learn To Be Assertive

“Assertiveness is your ability to act in harmony with your self-esteem without hurting others”

That is a beautiful quote that gives a clear idea of what assertiveness is. It is one of the most important soft skills that make sure that you are neither nurturing a dormant personality or an anger-ball one. Assertiveness offers you the best of the two worlds, making sure that your needs are met and so of the other person.

So, why wait any further? Let’s learn everything about assertiveness now…

But, wait! Before we understand what assertiveness is altogether let us take a small example under consideration.


A friend of yours took a charger out of your bag without asking you.

Now you aren’t really happy with this action and you want to communicate with him. So, which of three options will you choose to communicate your feeling?

Option A: You will be upset but, will choose to stew over it rather than communicating about it.

Option B: You will walk to him and confess that you didn’t like this act of him and convey that he should seek permission next time.

Option C: You will give an outrageous response.

If you choose option A, you are reacting passively thus never being able to communicate your needs.

If you choose option B, you are practicing assertiveness.

If you choose option D, you are letting aggression take control of you.

And clearly, option B is the best choice to make.

Why Assertiveness Is A Better Choice?

Well, it is quite simple,

  • When you choose passivity you clearly are disrespecting your own self-esteem and limiting your rights.
  • When you choose aggressiveness as you tend to disrespect the other person’s self-esteem and needs.
  • But, the way of assertiveness ensures that yours and the other person’s self-esteem are equally respected and so are your needs. Thus, being the best option to communicate.

That’s not it there are other benefits as well that are associated with assertiveness, such as:

  • It increases your confidence and respect.
  • It improves your relationship.
  • It makes you more calm and relaxed.
  • It puts your anxiety and stress at bay.
  • It lets the feelings of resentment flow away.

Am I An Assertive Person?

Certain key characteristics are at the heart of being assertive. This includes:

  • Being able to project self-confidence.
  • Taking setbacks, feedbacks, criticism, and rejections with a strong head (being resilient).
  • Believing in self, in your opinions, ideas, and feelings.
  • Expressing oneself without harming other people’s respect.
  • Respecting the preferences and viewpoints of others.
  • Being honest with oneself and others.

If you tick at least 3 or all of these characteristics of an assertive person, congratulations this skill is blooming in you.

Additionally, to check how assertive you are on a scale of 0 to 100, you can take a quick assertiveness test here.

Barriers to Being Assertive:

With assertiveness being the best way to communicate your needs, why do people often fail to put it into action? The answer lies in this quote:

“Assertiveness is not what you do, it is about who you are.”

So, there might be certain aspects of your personality that can be holding you to be assertive this includes barriers like:

  • Lack of self-confidence while communicating your opinions or needs to others.
  • Or the opposite case of being overconfident could also be a barrier to being assertive.
  • Being overly focused on meeting one’s needs, clearly rejecting that of others.
  • Poor listening skills.
  • Focused on pleasing others and valuing their needs over self.
  • Constant worries of being judged by others.

Barriers to Being Assertive

How To Learn To Be Assertive?

You can jump off these barriers and learn assertiveness. All you have to do is believe in yourself, set your mind ready to switch. Below we are suggesting you 5 ways that will help you be more assertive:

1. Know Your Wants and Needs

If you are aware of your wants and needs you can understand when they are not being met thus, letting assertiveness take control over it. We all have basic needs and being aware of them is crucial because only then you will be able to communicate it. Pay clear attention to what is important to you.

2. Say “Yes” to Feedbacks

Feedbacks open doors of growth and insights, it helps you explore the unexplored. To be assertive you mustn’t be hiding away from feedback, rather you are actively seeking for them. Remember, self-confidence is a huge aspect of assertiveness, and feedback helps to build on that. In fact, if you are not getting feedback that often… go and ask for it!

Say “Yes” to Feedbacks

3. Respect Other Person’s Need

Of course, assertiveness means communicating your needs subtly and respectfully but then listening to other people’s needs is equally important. For that, you have to listen to them and their needs actively. Don’t cut them in between or overrun through their script. However, to make sure that you both are on the same page you may rephrase what they are trying to communicate.

4. Stick by the Assertiveness Communication Code

Yes, there is an assertiveness communication code as well that you can follow. Here is what it talks about:

  • Use “I” statements. It helps you to convey your needs clearly and directly.
  • Say “No.” It will help you set boundaries.
  • Be clear. Running around the bush won’t help, be clear with your needs.
  • Have confidence. Doesn’t double guess your decisions, be confident while conveying them.
  • Stay calm. Remember, you don’t want aggression to take over so do stay calm!

5. Use the LADDER mnemonic

This technique works best when you are willing to communicate with someone over a particular topic and you want it to flow. LADDER is a mnemonic that is used for a step-by-step way to learn assertive communication. This is how it works:

L: Look at your rights and needs, and understand your feelings about the situation.

A: Arrange a meeting with the other person to discuss the situation.

D: Define the problem specifically. Example: “I know you love Thai food, but we’ve eaten at (the place name) the last 2 times and I would like to go someplace new.”

D: Describe your feelings so that the other person fully understands how you feel about the situation. Example: “I feel hurt when you ignore my wishes about where we eat.”

E: Express what you want clearly and concisely. Example: “I would like to go to a pizza place tonight.”

R: Reinforce the other person by simply explaining the mutual benefits of adopting the site of action you are suggesting. Example: “We both love pizzas and we might catch up with our old friends there.”

Need to be communicated!

Exercises To Build Assertiveness:

To make assertiveness a part of your life we are also suggesting practical and doable exercises that will get you going…

1. Role Play

Assertiveness is understanding the needs of both the person and there is no better way to achieve it then to have a role play. To amplify its impact we should suggest you make a little arrangement. This is referred to as perspective-taking activity. You have to put two chairs facing each other. Now while sitting on the left chair think you communicate your needs. As soon as you shift to the right one you take the perspective of the other person under consideration and communicate on that basis. You will keep switching between the two chairs and learn to take the perspective of another person on one hand and convey yours on the other. Good luck!

2. Sentence Formulation

Think of a situation, any situation in your head (you may even pick the example presented above). Now build on sentences that are assertive in nature and work to communicate your message assertively.

Example: in the situation presented above here are some sentences that can help you communicate your needs with assertiveness:

“If you need anything please let me know, I will help you. Thank you.”

“Hey, can you please ask next before taking my earphones? Thank you.”

Similarly, there are various other sentences through which you can let assertiveness take charge of communication.

Now, think of any scenario in your head and formulate 2-3 assertive sentences that will help you communicate your needs.

3. Practice Non-Verbal Communication

So far we have discussed assertiveness in terms of verbal communication. But, not to forget there is another end to communication and that is non-verbal communication. Assertiveness too can be demonstrated through non-verbal channels of communication. Research shows that an assertive person maintains eye contact and has a good body posture. You too can work on your non-verbals and communicate assertiveness.

  • Maintain eye contact while communicating. Giving a message that you are confident.
  • Lean a little forward while listening to someone’s opinion. Giving them a message that you are valuing their opinion.
  • Nod your head. Giving a message that you are actively listening to them.
  • Have subtle and non-aggressive facial expressions. Giving a message that you have assertiveness skills within you and you are in a relaxed mood.
  • Watch your tone and make sure you are polite. Giving the message that you are not disagreeing with them.
  • You really don’t have to do all of this overnight! Take your time, take one step at a time, and you will see assertiveness coming effortlessly from you.

Best Books to Build Assertiveness

If you wish to read more on assertiveness and make it an inevitable part of your lifestyle here are 5 best books on assertiveness for you to read:

1. Assertiveness Training – Mastering Assertive Communication to Learn How to be Yourself and Still Manage to Win the Respect of Others.

Author – Zac M. Cruz

Buy here.

2. Assertiveness In Communication – Talking With Authority 101

Author – Grace Gulliver

Buy here.

3. How to Ask for & Get What You Want! – Assertiveness Training

Author – Fenton Deutsch, Mitchell F Deutsch

Buy Here.

4. The Little Book of Assertiveness – Speak up with confidence

Author – Nathalie Martinek

Buy here.

5. Assertiveness – How to Stand Up for Yourself and Still Win the Respect of Others

Author – Judy Murphy

Buy here

Video on Building Assertiveness:

If you want a quick understanding of the concept of assertiveness here are some video links for you to refer to:

1. How to speak up for yourself | Adam Galinsky

2. Assertiveness scenarios: 10 examples

3. 6 Ways How to Be Assertive in ANY Situation

4. Being Assertive

It is time for you to work on your communication style now. Let us make a way for assertiveness!

Show them what you believe in…

About The Author

Anjali Singh
Anjali Singh

Anjali Singh is a content curator in the field of Mental Health. She is currently done Ph.D. in Psychology. Her aim is to light up the world with positive vibes through her words, her idea of life is ‘Grow through what you go through’. Apart from this, she is a big-time pet lover.

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