Assertiveness and the value of communication

Charles McCarthy
Assertiveness and the value of communication

Perhaps you have heard of the word assertiveness and are not sure what it refers to, or perhaps this is the first time you have heard it. Either way, it is certain that it is having an influence on your life, either by its presence or by its absence..


  • What is assertiveness?
  • What is not assertive?
    • Submissive or passive behavior
    • Aggressive behavior
  • What is assertive behavior?
  • What is assertiveness for?
  • What erroneous beliefs make it difficult to practice assertiveness?
    • So how can I start practicing assertiveness? (²)
    • References

What is assertiveness?

Assertiveness is one of the cornerstones of the psychotherapy process, and an obligatory stop on the road to well-being..

It has to do with communication skills and with recognizing one's own value and personal rights. We all have the right to defend our opinions, to ask for what is necessary and to say "no".

Thus, we could say that assertiveness is the ability to assert one's own rights, respecting ourselves and others (¹). That is, when we are assertive we can clearly express our needs without attacking others.

All of us can develop this capacity, which will make our lives more satisfactory and will free us largely from frustrations and resentments..

What is not assertive?

A submissive or passive attitude is not assertive and an aggressive attitude is not. What are both?

Submissive or passive behavior

A person who usually behaves in a submissive way tends to express himself with phrases such as:

  • "Alright… "
  • "It doesn't matter" (When it does)
  • "Nothing happens ..." (When it does happen)
  • "As you want ... I don't care ...".

At the same time, he will constantly ask for forgiveness or give justifications or explanations that have not been asked of him..

With regard to non-verbal behavior, the person hesitates when speaking, leaves sentences unfinished or is not heard well due to the low tone of voice. They may make little eye contact or, on the contrary, try to please by paying excessive attention to the interlocutor.

With all this type of behavior, the person is transmitting that he is placed below his interlocutor and that he is not going to defend himself. You are trying to avoid conflict (position of inferiority).

Aggressive behavior

On the contrary, it is sometimes confused with the assertive when thinking that you have the right to say everything you think without calibrating if you disrespect the person in front of you. It is characterized by phrases like:

  • "Because of you… "
  • "You always… ." or "You never ..."
  • "Are… "

Orders and interruptions are constant.

Non-verbal expression involves a high tone of voice, threatening or sharp gestures, invasion of personal space, fixed gaze. The aggressive person places himself above his interlocutor (position of superiority).

What is assertive behavior?

The assertive person places himself in an attitude of equality with respect to others, and manifests himself directly without disrespecting others (as was the case with aggressive behavior), or disrespecting himself by ignoring his real needs and feelings (as was the case with submissive behavior).

Non-verbal behavior is safe and consistent with the message that is being given. The gaze remains but not threatening. The tone of voice is firm and clear, but not aggressive.

What is assertiveness for?

Assertiveness is the communicative style that underlies a healthy self-assertion in the world. Thus, it serves to:

  • Be able to make decisions according to one's own values.
  • Being able to say "no" without feeling guilty.
  • Improve self esteem.
  • Express wishes, feelings and opinions.
  • Create bonds in our life where we are treated and treat others with respect and dignity.

You may also be interested in our article on assertive communication.

What erroneous beliefs make it difficult to practice assertiveness?

There are thought patterns that we must detect and discard, such as:

  • I have to be there to attend to what everyone needs.
  • It's wrong to say no.
  • I always have to be right.
  • I can not "look bad" with anyone.
  • I can't make mistakes.
  • If I avoid a problem it will go away.

So how can I start practicing assertiveness? (²)

  • Make requests clearly. Example: “Please, can you…?”; "I can't do it, so I ask you not to insist".
  • I-message: The behavior of the other is described clearly without judging him, and then a feeling that it produces in me and its consequences are described. It ends with a proposed solution. Example: When ______ happens, I feel _______ and that is why I do ______. Why not ______?
  • Empathic assertiveness: It is about taking into account the feelings of others and your own. Example: "I understand that you ______, but I______."
  • Faced with criticism: Admit a criticism if it is the case, but separating it from the fact of being a good or bad person. Example: "I may have been wrong, but it does not mean that I am _____."
  • Technique to process change: Shift the focus of the discussion towards the analysis of what happens between the two, as if we were seeing each other from the outside. Example: We are getting off topic, why not _____ ?; "We are both very tired".

In short, from an assertive behavior we can express ourselves respecting others and making ourselves respect!!


(¹) (²) Castanyer, O. 2018. I want to learn to love myself with assertiveness. Desclee de Brouwer. Col. Serendipity.

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