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Assertiveness: More honest and balanced relationships

Assertiveness is sometimes referred to as “balanced self-determinism.” It refers to the approaches you can use to communicate your needs and ideally have them addressed, while not overlooking the needs of others.

Assertiveness helps you:

  • express yourself in an honest and direct manner.
  • acknowledge and give time for other views and positions.
  • adopt a relaxed approach.
  • feel good about the way you express yourself and treat others.

Assertiveness is not:

  • avoiding stating your point of view or being apologetic about it.
  • over-valuing your concerns and under-valuing others.
  • expecting your point of view to dominate the outcome.
  • expecting to control or influence the other person.
  • only used in situations of conflict.

Steps Toward Assertiveness – Communication Guidelines

1) Body language

  • Watch your body language to ensure that you are not coming across antipathetic.
  • Try to relax your body and face.
  • Be mindful of your voice level.
  • Make soft eye contact (no staring).
  • Self-soothe before you start (breathe deeply, think calmly).

2) Timing

  • Be flexible about when to discuss your concerns.
  • Read the situation and improvise as needed.

3) Investigate the situation

  • Do your homework and check out the facts as much as possible. Many misunderstandings are based on wrong assumptions.

4) Use “I” statements and focus on the activity, not the person

  • Avoid blaming, for example, “I find it difficult when this happens” not “When you do this you make me feel terrible!”

5) Take responsibility for your feelings and express them

  • “When this happens, I feel overwhelmed.”

6) Take responsibility for your perceptions

  • Describe the situation as you see it.
  • Have a frank discussion about your assumptions.

7) Win/Win

  • Find some truth in what the other person is saying or find something positive to say.

8) Be clear and precise

  • Briefly describe the issue.
  • Keep to the core issues. Stay on point and do not divert to other issues.
  • Practice what you are planning to say with a trusted friend. Edit what you say and obtain feedback on how it sounds. Avoid gossip or complaining to other colleagues.

9) Try to understand what your employer/colleagues want from you

  • Ask them what they want and how they see the situation.
  • Actively seek specific information; do not assume you have the whole picture.

Other helpful links

Stress and Worry: Your self help guide from NHS Foundation Trust (PDF; 200kB)

Stress Resources from the Here to Help website