Assertiveness Skills

What is assertiveness?

Assertiveness is the ability to state positively and constructively our rights, needs or concerns while respecting the rights, needs or concerns of others.

  • An assertive tone is clear, calm, and direct
  • Assertiveness can invite discussion, work towards resolution or be a clear statement of “no.”

What are some of the benefits?

When you use direct, open, and honest communication in relationships, you can:

  • feel more in control of life
  • improve ability to make decisions
  • improve quality of relationships

How does assertiveness contrast with other styles of responding?

  • Passive: accepting what is said or done even though it is contrary to your needs, rights or feelings, such as saying “yes” when you really mean “no.”
  • Aggressive: forcing your thoughts, desires or feelings onto others regardless of their needs, rights or feelings.
  • Assertive: clearly and honestly expressing your thoughts, ideas, and concerns while being respectful of the needs, rights and feelings of others.

Examples of assertive language:

  • Assertive: “I would prefer not going to that restaurant. I would be happy with several others such as……….”
  • Passive: Say nothing and go (feeling resentful), or make an excuse not to go
  • Aggressive: “that restaurant doesn’t have anything I will eat and it’s inconsiderate of you to suggest going there.”
  • Assertive: “Before we move on to the next point, I have a comment to add to our current discussion.”
  • Passive: “I don’t suppose anyone wants to hear what I have to say? “ (or say nothing and feel ignored)
  • Aggressive: “You’re going too fast and you need to listen to what I have to say.”
  • Assertive: “I would really like to keep our shared living space free from clothes and clutter. I would appreciate it if you would put your personal belongings in your room or the closet.”
  • Passive: say nothing and feel resentful or tell a friend, “my roommate annoys me and never picks up his/her stuff.”
  • Aggressive: “You really annoy me leaving your stuff all over. Pick it up and put it in your room!”
  • Assertive: “It is my observation that you have had a lot to drink tonight and I am concerned for our welfare if you drive. Either I can drive or we need to call a cab.”
  • Passive: say nothing and be a passenger with an intoxicated driver, risking your well-being.
  • Aggressive: “You’re drunk and there’s no way I’m riding with you!”

Roadblocks to assertiveness:

  • Fear of harming others
  • Fear of rejection
  • Feelings of shame

These roadblocks are based upon a belief that other people’s needs, opinions, and judgments are more important than your own.

In other words, assertiveness allows you to:

  • Ask for what you want
  • Say “no” to what you don’t want
  • Be respectful of others
  • Be respectful of yourself

To make an appointment with the UW Bothell Student Mental Health Counseling Services call (425) 352-3183.