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I’ve had several conversations with people struggling to become more assertive in their communication. I’ve compiled some information on the topic to explain the difference between passivity, assertiveness, and aggression.

Assertive communication is based on finding a BALANCE. This requires you to be upfront about your wants and needs while being considerate of the wants and needs of others. Aggressiveness, on the other hand, is based on winning. This suggests that you do what is in your own interest disregarding the rights or others. Taking what you want without asking. A passive response is saying that other people’s rights matter more. Aggression is behaving as if your rights matter more than others. Assertiveness is mutual respect.

Passive ------------------------------------- Assertive ---------------------------------------Aggressive

Assertiveness has a close relationship with SELF-CONFIDENCE. If you understand who you are and believe you bring value to others, you are on the road to becoming more assertive. Assertive people generally find the following to be true:

• They get to a “win-win” more easily by finding value in their opponent and quickly coming to common ground. • They solve problems by feeling empowered to do what it takes to find the solution. • They aren’t as stressed out. They don’t feel threatened, victimized, and recognize their personal power. • They get stuff done. Because they know they can.

DEVELOPING ASSERTIVENESS is a skill that comes more naturally to some than others, but is a skill to be learned nonetheless.

Here are some VALUES to consider: • Understand that your rights, feelings, thoughts, needs, and wants are just as important as everyone else’s. Not more important. Not less important. • Recognize your rights and protect them. • Believe you are deserving of respect at all times. • Stop over-apologizing. What are you truly taking ownership for? • Acknowledge the right to ask for more information or say “I don’t understand”. • Do not wait for someone to recognize what you need. • People are responsible for their own behavior (including how they respond to your assertive statements). You can only control yourself. • Allow anger, but always be respectful. • Accept compliments with grace. • Know your limits. • Allow yourself to make mistakes, be responsible for them, and ask for help. • Remember your right to refuse requests without feeling guilty or selfish.

TECHNIQUES: • “I” statements (“I feel”, “I need”, or “I want” to convey basic assertions). Taking responsibility instead of blame-shifting. • Empathic Assertion. This recognizes how the other person is feeling, but still allows you to express what you need. “I understand you are having a hard time working with her, however, I want you to have this project done by Friday. Let’s come up with a plan to get it done.” • Ask for more time. If you are caught off guard or feeling too upset to think clearly about your response, be honest and ask for time to compose yourself. • Change verbs. Won’t, not can’t. Want, not need. Choose to, not have to. • Broken record. Keep restating your message. The other person will eventually get that you mean what you’re saying.

SCRIPT: 1. Explain the event. Be specific about what the situation or problem is. 2. Express your feelings. Describe how you feel by saying “I feel _______ when you ______.” 3. Your needs. What do you need that person to do differently? What needs to change? 4. Consequence. Describe positive outcomes that could happen if your needs are fulfilled.

Assertiveness is a skill that can be learned. This skill comes more naturally to some than others due to personality or temperament, how communication has been modeled for someone in their relationships, or personal values that need shifting. To get your wants met and reap the benefits or clear communication, I encourage you to start exercising your assertiveness muscles.

*Information found on and

Heather Lokteff, christian counselor lake oswego, beaverton
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