Workshop on Assertiveness

How to Be More Assertive

Being assertive is a matter of practicing certain communication skills and having the right inner attitude.

Some people are naturally more skillful when it comes to being assertive. Others need more practice. But everyone can improve.

Here’s how:

Start by considering which communication style (assertive, passive, or aggressive) comes closest to yours. Then decide whether you need to work on being less passive, less aggressive, or simply need to build on your naturally assertive style.

To work on being less passive and more assertive:

  • Pay attention to what you think, feel, want, and prefer. You need to be aware of these things before you can communicate them to others.
  • Notice if you say “I don’t know,” “I don’t care,” or “it doesn’t matter” when someone asks what you want.Stop yourself. Practice saying what you’d prefer, especially on things that hardly matter. For example, if someone asks, “Would you like green or red?” you can say, “I’d prefer the green one — thanks.”
  • Practice asking for things. For example: “Can you please pass me a spoon?” “I need a pen — does anyone have an extra?” “Can you save me a seat?” This builds your skills and confidence for when you need to ask for something more important.
  • Give your opinion. Say whether or not you liked a movie you saw and why.
  • Practice using “I” statements such as: “I’d like…” “I prefer…” or “I feel…”
  • Find a role model who’s good at being assertive — not too passive and not too aggressive. See if you can imitate that person’s best qualities.
  • Remind yourself that your ideas and opinions are as important as everyone else’s. Knowing this helps you be assertive. Assertiveness starts with an inner attitude of valuing yourself as much as you value others.

To work on being less aggressive and more assertive:

  • Try letting others speak first.
  • Notice if you interrupt. Catch yourself, and say: “Oh, sorry — go ahead!” and let the other person finish.
  • Ask someone else’s opinion, then listen to the answer.
  • When you disagree, try to say so without putting down the other person’s point of view. For example, instead of saying: “That’s a stupid idea,” try: “I don’t really like that idea.” Or instead of saying: “He’s such a jerk,” try: “I think he’s insensitive.”
  • Find a role model who’s good at being assertive — not too passive and not too aggressive. See if you can imitate that person’s best qualities.

Even naturally assertive people can build and expand their skills. To work on improving a naturally assertive style:


  • Find role models who are good at being assertive — not too passive and not too aggressive. See if you can imitate their best qualities. (You’ll notice this is the same tip we give for helping with a style that’s too passive or too aggressive. That’s because we never stop learning!)
  • Notice where you’re best at being assertive. People behave differently in different situations. Many people find that it’s easy to be assertive in certain situations (like with friends) but more challenging in others (like with teachers or when meeting new people). In tougher situations, try thinking, “What would I say to my close friends?”

When you speak assertively, it shows you believe in yourself. Building assertiveness is one step to becoming your best self, the person you want to be!


My friend keeps borrowing my books and never returns them.

Aggressive Response

Your response:

I will never lend you another one!

Positive outcome:

I would not lose my books.

Negative feelings:

I feel bad that I might hurt my friend’s feelings or even lose a valuable relationship over a simple book.

Submissive/Passive Response

Your response:

I will ignore it. It’s only a book.

Positive outcome:

I keep my friend happy. He has the book and won’t hear a complaint from me.

Negative feelings:

I lost my books which costs me. I also need them as reference but now I cannot use them.

Assertive Response

Your response:

I lend you several of my books and I am happy to lend more to you. I understand that you may not have had enough time to read them. I use many of them as reference and I need them back. I appreciate if you can return them soon after I give them to you.

Positive outcome:

My friend now understands that I need the books back and I will get to keep my friend.

Negative feelings:

I feel good now but I understand being assertive requires courage, planning and skill.


Scenario 1 Angry Film

Mark is taking a DVD back to a shop – Audi is the shop assistant. It was a present for his partner. A surprise. When they tried to play it kept freezing. Mark is aggressive rather than assertive. The solution to this problem is that when Mark is assertive rather than aggressive he is more likely to get a positive outcome.

Suggestion: We’ll play this first as aggressive  and then let participants explore how assertiveness can be more effective.

Scenario 2 Appraisal

Dan is Nina’s line manager. He is carrying out an annual appraisal, checking to see how things are going for Nina. Nina is very shy, friendly but giving short one word or short phrase replies. Nina is bored in her job and also feels that she’d like some more career opportunities. Dan knows that Nina is excellent at her job and this is an opportunity for her to say exactly how she’s like to develop in her career in the Arts Centre where they work. But Nina is reluctant to express what she wants. She’s done that in the past in other jobs and been disappointed, and also told off when she questioned things.

Scenario 3 Two’s a crowd

Ian and Megan are co-workers designing a web page in an IT Department for their company. They are discussing various colour schemes and animations for a client. There is a brief sheet but the brief is very open to their creative flair. Ian keeps interrupting Megan, not really listening to her ideas as much as she should. He isn’t nasty – he is just over-enthusiastic and not very skilled at working with another person. Megan finds it hard to be heard and gets frustrated.


Scenario 4 It’s a gas

This scene is done on the telephone. Neil is freezing cold. His heating has packed up. He lives alone. Neil is calling to get his central heating fixed – he is in a scheme which he pays for once a year. He wants them to visit at a time to suit his diary as he works every day. He is very good at asserting that he is cold and wants his heating fixed but is not good at asserting that it must be at a time to suit him. The discussion seems to result in the appointment getting further and further in the future. Neil has never called before for a problem and pays a lot for the service. But he gives too much away on the appointment time. The scene ends with him putting the phone down saying: “They are coming in 9 days time. 9 days? I’ll have to phone again”

Scenario 5 Upward Feedback

Debbie has come to see Cliff, a manager – not her line manager, but Cliff is above her. Debbie wants to give Cliff some feedback about how she felt he undermined the team meeting they were all just part of. She felt he made several sexist comments,. None about her personally, and also wasn’t listening to the concerns of their fellow team members about the new printing equipment being brought in that they would all have to use in their printing firm. She just wants to give Cliff the feedback and initially he tries to play it all down.

Scenario 6 Mutual Anger

In this scene both are being aggressive. Steve and Hilary are partners. They are arguing about the state of their flat. Neither has tidied for a week and the flat is a real mess. Both blame the other for being insensitive to the heavy workloads each has at work.  Steve is a manager of a mail order gift firm and it is busy coming up to Christmas. Hilary works as a graphic designer and they have several major clients putting on the pressure. They are both being aggressive rather than assertive with each other. Neither is being heard.



Feedback in small groups

What have you learnt fromt his activity?

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published.