Assertiveness Skills

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 or for more information on counseling services return to the web page



Did You Know?

Nine out of 10 of UW Bothell's 18,000 alumni live and work in the state of Washington.