How to master Assertive Communication

Many a times we women are unable to assert ourselves properly in a workplace. Ironically, we seem to do a very good job at home though. Assertive communication is expressing positive or negative intentions with others in a straightforward, honest and direct manner. This is a difficult skill to champion. But let’s explore some ways to learn how to master the art of assertive communication.

There is a very thin line between being assertive and being aggressive and one can cross that line very easily. Hence, having a few tips under your belt always helps one to assert themselves correctly at a workplace. I remember myself being in such situations in the past, when I could not communicate assertively and in the bargain lost many opportunities and my confidence. Today I wish, back then I had the tools to communicate more assertively. Contrary to many beliefs that assertive communication can cause enmity, conflict, and confrontation, it actually yields long-term relationships that are based on mutual respect. It is a behavior alteration. Learning to say “no” when required, communicating your thoughts in the right manner and in turn creates time for better work.


In order to explain the concept better, I will take the below example and expound the four main points and approach for assertive communication.

Example: Your subordinate at work clearly defies and delays your request to take on a task in the new project that you asked weeks ago.

1. Approach with facts and avoid being judgmental about the behavior displayed:

Always communicate the behavior that needs to be changed with facts rather than emotions. We know that when we allow our emotions to run wild, we can be rude, regret what we have said and most importantly sound judgmental and unprofessional.

Improper Response: “I have asked you to do this many times in the past but seems like you do not understand what I am saying and purposely not doing as asked”.

Assertive Communication“I have assigned you an important task for the new project a few weeks ago, but I have noticed that little progress has been made. Are there any issues or problems that I can help you with? I would like to hold an open and honest discussion.”

  1. Accurately communicate the effects of the behavior displayed:

Newton’s Third Law of Motion states, every action has an equal and opposite reaction, this proves that every behavior has an effect for the better or worse. Being able to show the person the impact of their behavior supported by facts and data is more effective than exaggerating the consequences and being emotional.

Improper Response: “Do you know what this can do to the team and the overall success of the company. We can lose a million dollar client only because of you”.

Assertive Communication: “The completion of the task assigned to you plays an important role in the success or failure of the entire project. It also reflects upon the overall capability of the team. Hence, it is not just the company but also the team depends on you”.

  1. Start with an “I”:

Usually when you start the sentence with a “You”, it looks like a personal attack. The person gets defensive and cease to listen. However, when you start your sentence with “I”, it shows that it is your observation and allows the communication to be more unbiased. We must ensure that the communication does not become a blame game.

Improper Response“You should get cracking on it and I don’t want to hear an excuse”.

Assertive Communication: “I would like you to let me know if something is obstructing you from completing the assigned task and we can work as a team to resolve the same. ”

  1. Communicate your feelings:

Assertive communication is a powerful tool to communicate how you feel in a professional and an unprejudiced manner. It is hard for us to really curb our feelings when we are angry, frustrated or upset, but important to do so nonetheless.

Improper Response“Your behavior is improper rude and undermines my authority as your Manager, which is very disrespectful”.

Assertive Communication: “When you choose to ignore the task assigned it affects the entire team and makes me feel undermined and disrespected”.


As the corporate world evolves and moves more towards open communication, agile workspaces and building flat organizations, the need for assertive communication becomes more and more essential. However, this art cannot be mastered in a day or even weeks. It is a slow progress and requires much patience and practice. But once we know how to assert ourselves in situations as required, we realize that it has great benefits. It helps to reduce anxiety, awkwardness and protects us from being taken advantage of. I feel the later is much relevant today. Just because we are too afraid to say “no”, we get taken for granted and loaded with unnecessary work that is not in our purview.

Communication is key to the success of any relationship. Hence, mastering this art will help you in all spheres of life. An important survival tool to succeed in the corporate jungle.

You may also want to read other article written by the same author ‘Career tracking while on a career break‘, ‘Career restarting for a woman on a career break‘, ‘Is returnship right for you?, ‘Five things to consider before a career break‘, ‘5 reasons why working moms are highly productive‘, ‘4 Questions to know yourself better and find a suitable career path‘, ‘5 most frequent challenges that women entrepreneurs face‘ , ‘Financially Stable and how?’ ,  ‘Be aware of your emotions and its effects on you‘ , ‘How to be your own goal keeper‘ , ‘What is the best way to say No to Office House Work‘ , ‘ Finding your work life balance‘ , ‘Six top challenges women leaders face at work‘  .

About the author:

The first time Susan Kutar (Tamang) realized that words could touch lives, she wanted to be a writer and blogger. She has 9 years of experience in Human Resources and Talent Acquisition. She likes to write about topics that impact people, which is educational and leaves the reader with something to mull over.

(The author is a guest blogger at Her Second Innings. The opinions expressed are those of the author.)

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