Stress Management Management Techniques Learn Assertive Communication In 5 Simple Steps By Elizabeth Scott, PhD Elizabeth Scott, PhD Twitter Elizabeth Scott, PhD is an author, workshop leader, educator, and award-winning blogger on stress management, positive psychology, relationships, and emotional wellbeing. Learn about our editorial process Updated on February 12, 2020 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Carly Snyder, MD Medically reviewed by Carly Snyder, MD Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Carly Snyder, MD is a reproductive and perinatal psychiatrist who combines traditional psychiatry with integrative medicine-based treatments. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print Klaus Vedfelt / The Image Bank Assertive communication can strengthen your relationships by reducing stress from conflict and providing you with social support when facing difficult times. A polite but assertive "no" to excessive requests from others will enable you to avoid overloading your schedule and promote balance in your life. Overview An understanding of assertive communication can also help you handle difficult family, friends, and co-workers more easily, reducing drama and stress. Ultimately, assertive communication empowers you to draw necessary boundaries that allow you to get your needs met in relationships without alienating others and without letting resentment and anger creep in. This helps you to have what you need in relationships while allowing your loved ones to have their needs met too. Although many people equate assertive communication with conflict and confrontation, assertiveness actually allows people to be closer. Assertive communication does take practice. Many people mistake assertiveness for aggressiveness, but assertiveness is actually the balanced middle ground between aggressiveness and passivity. Aggressiveness leads to hurt feelings and fractured relationships. Passivity leads to stress and resentment, and sometimes even lashing out in the end. Understand Passive-Aggressive Behavior Improve Your Communication Style Learning to speak assertively enables you to respect everyone's needs and rights—including your own—and to maintain boundaries in relationships while helping others feel respected at the same time. These steps can help you to develop this healthy communication style (and relieve stress in your life in the process). Press Play for Advice On Communicating Better Hosted by Editor-in-Chief and therapist Amy Morin, LCSW, this episode of The Verywell Mind Podcast, featuring best-selling author Celeste Headlee, shares how to have better conversations. Click below to listen now. Follow Now: Apple Podcasts / Spotify / Google Podcasts 1. Be Factual About What You Don't Like When approaching someone about a behavior you’d like to see changed, stick to factual descriptions of what they’ve done, rather than using negative labels or words that convey judgments. For example: Situation: Your friend, who habitually runs late, has shown up 20 minutes late for a lunch date.Inappropriate (aggressive) response: "You’re so rude! You’re always late."Assertive communication: "We were supposed to meet at 11:30, but now it’s 11:50." Don’t assume you know what the other person’s motives are, especially if you think they’re negative. In this situation, don't assume that your friend deliberately arrived late because they didn't want to come or because they value their own time more than yours. 2. Don't Judge or Exaggerate Being factual about what you don't like in someone's behavior, without overdramatizing or judging, is an important start. The same is true for describing the effects of their behavior. Don’t exaggerate, label, or judge; just describe: Inappropriate response: “Now, lunch is ruined.”Assertive communication: “Now, I have less time to spend at lunch because I still need to be back to work by 1:00.” Body language and tone of voice matter in assertive communication. Let yours reflect your confidence: Stand up straight, maintain eye contact, and relax. Use a firm but pleasant tone. 3. Use “I" Messages When you start a sentence with “You...”, it comes off as a judgment or an attack and puts people on the defensive. If you start with “I,” the focus is more on how you are feeling and how you are affected by their behavior. Also, it shows more ownership of your reactions and less blame. This helps minimize defensiveness in the other person, model the act of taking responsibility, and move you both toward positive change. For example: You Message: “You need to stop that!”I Message: “I’d like it if you’d stop that.” When in a discussion, don’t forget to listen and ask questions. It’s important to understand the other person’s point of view. 9 Ways to Be a Better Listener 4. Put It All Together Here’s a great formula that puts it all together: “When you [their behavior], I feel [your feelings].” When used with factual statements, rather than judgments or labels, this formula provides a direct, non-attacking, more responsible way of letting people know how their behavior affects you. For example: “When you yell, I feel attacked.” 5. List behavior, results, and feelings. A more advanced variation of this formula includes the results of their behavior (again, put into factual terms), and looks like this: “When you [their behavior], then [results of their behavior], and I feel [how you feel].” For example: “When you arrive late, I have to wait, and I feel frustrated.” Or, “When you tell the kids they can do something that I’ve already forbidden, some of my authority as a parent is taken away, and I feel undermined.” Try to think win-win: See if you can find a compromise or a way for you both to get your needs met. In the case of the always-late friend, maybe a different meeting place would help them be on time. Or you can choose to make plans only at times when your schedule is more open and their lateness won't cause you as much stress. Communication Skills to Strengthen Any Relationship 5 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Eslami AA, Rabiei L, Afzali SM, Hamidizadeh S, Masoudi R. The effectiveness of assertiveness training on the levels of stress, anxiety, and depression of high school students. Iran Red Crescent Med J. 2016;18(1):e21096. doi:10.5812/ircmj.21096 Oana J, Ionica Ona A. Assertiveness in self-fulfillment and professional success. interpersonal dynamics in the didactic relation. Psychol. 2019;10:1235-1247. doi:10.4236/psych.2019.108079 Yamasaki K, Nishida N. The relationship between three types of aggression and peer relations in elementary school children. Int J Psychol. 2009;44(3):179–186. doi:10.1080/00207590701656770 Dijkstra MT, Homan AC. Engaging in rather than disengaging from stress: Effective coping and perceived control. Front Psychol. 2016;7:1415. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01415 Rogers SL, Howieson J, Neame C. I understand you feel that way, but I feel this way: the benefits of I-language and communicating perspective during conflict. PeerJ. 2018;6:e4831. doi:10.7717/peerj.4831 By Elizabeth Scott, PhD Elizabeth Scott, PhD is an author, workshop leader, educator, and award-winning blogger on stress management, positive psychology, relationships, and emotional wellbeing. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Speak to a Therapist for Stress Management Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.