Q&A: What Is Assertive Communication?

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated August 30, 2021 | Published January 3, 2020

Updated August 30, 2021

Published January 3, 2020

Related: Assertive Communication: Speak Up for Yourself to Advance Your Career

In this virtual workshop, Emilie Aries, founder of Bossed Up, provides tips for strategically asserting yourself in your job search and workplace.

Assertive communication is the ability to express yourself honestly and openly while also respecting and valuing others’ opinions. It is an important skill to have in the workplace because it allows you to give constructive feedback while still being respectful. Communicating this way helps maintain working relationships, where each person defends their views fairly.

In this article, we discuss what assertive communication is and how to use it successfully in the workplace.

What is assertive communication in the workplace?

Assertive communication is the ability to express your ideas directly and honestly. Having this skill enables you to boldly and clearly state your views, feelings and thoughts in the workplace. Using assertive communication successfully allows you to stand up for your rights while still listening to the opinions of the person you are communicating with, being mindful of their rights and feelings.

It is important to be tactful when expressing your thoughts and feelings, but you should also be direct, respectful and honest. In assertive communication, both individuals are of equal importance regardless of workplace hierarchy.

Related: Communication Skills: Definitions and Examples

When should assertive communication be used?

There are many advantages to using assertive communication, and more and more workplaces are practicing it. Before deciding to use it, however, it is important to assess how it may impact workplace harmony and relationships. If you want to use assertive communication, gauge each situation first to make sure it will be well received.

Using this communication skill can help you successfully deliver your message because it allows you to clearly express yourself while developing mutual respect for others.

Assertive communication skills

Using assertive communication gets easier the more you practice. Below are skills you as an employee can use to gradually develop this tactic in your workplace:

Clarity

When communicating with other employees, be clear when sharing your opinions and expressing your feelings. Clarity helps make you more decisive when decisions have to be made quickly.

Listening

Taking time to listen to counter-opinions allows for productive conversations in the workplace. While engaging other employees in discussions, attempt to listen to them without interrupting. This shows you respect what they have to say.

Voice

As an assertive communicator, using a normal and calm voice makes coworkers feel respected and dignified, even when you have contrary opinions or viewpoints.

Posture

When you practice assertive communication, relax, stand tall and make eye contact with the other employee. Such body language exudes sincerity and shows you take each other seriously.  

Honesty

Communicating assertively requires honesty. It is important to express your feelings and opinions truthfully but politely so that the person you are communicating with understands your concerns.

Facts

As an assertive communicator, it is your role to ensure that any discussion you have with coworkers is driven by facts. Guiding a conversation this way helps you focus on the topic and achieve your goals through constructive feedback.

Related: Nonverbal Communication Skills: Definition and Examples

How to improve assertive communication skills

It’s beneficial to practice assertive communication on your own or in real-life situations to use it more effectively and successfully. Here are some tips to help you become a better assertive communicator:

  1. Gauge your personality to determine how you act in the workplace and then decide if being more assertive when communicating would improve your experience conversing with others.

  2. Rehearse what to say in advance. Practice a typical scenario you anticipate might require assertive communication so you are prepared when a similar situation occurs in the workplace. 

  3. Continue practicing by acting out a typical workplace scenario with a friend. Do this until you are confident that you can communicate productively and positively. Request their honest feedback on your progress so you can continue to improve. 

  4. In the workplace, controlling your emotions is important when you assertively communicate. Self-control allows for a free exchange of opinions and ideas and helps all participants feel like they are heard. 

  5. Practice maintaining proper posture with your friend or in front of a mirror. An upright posture with a forward lean while maintaining eye contact is ideal during assertive communication.

  6. Ensure you keep a neutral and positive facial expression when you are communicating with work colleagues.

  7. Practice minimizing hand motions and gestures to keep the focus on the conversation. 

  8. To build up your confidence as an assertive communicator, practice using it on workplace peers or colleagues. As your confidence grows, you will be able to try it in more challenging workplace scenarios. 

  9. Time yourself when you practice communicating assertively to remain focused on your message’s intention and maintain its value. For instance, if you are in a hurry, it may be beneficial to consider other methods of communication.

  10. When you are engaged in assertive communication, present your side of the discussion coherently to ensure that your words achieve their intended purpose.

Related: How To Communicate Better With Coworkers

Benefits of assertive communication

Though assertive communication can be challenging, there are many benefits to using it effectively:

  • An assertive communicator understands their feelings and can control their temper while firmly standing by their opinions and rights.

  • Communication assertively creates honest relationships and interactions in workplaces, homes, and social gatherings.  

  • This style of communication improves your self-esteem because it teaches you how to confidently express yourself and make choices.

  • Job satisfaction increases in workplaces where employees feel more confident that their voices are being heard.

  • Assertive communication minimizes workplace collaboration challenges, as it allows for a more straightforward exchange of ideas and viewpoints.

  • Communication this way fosters teamwork and job collaboration in the workplace since each employee feels their input is valued.

  • Problem-solving and decision-making skills improve in the workplace when solutions are discussed more clearly and efficiently.

  • Assertive communication helps employees set healthy boundaries when interacting with their colleagues in the workplace.

Techniques used in assertive communication

To use assertive communication successfully, there are techniques you can practice in the workplace while engaging other employees. Here are some for you to consider:

Fogging

When fogging, you take criticism with ease without being defensive or anxious. You politely acknowledge the truth to the criticism, but it does not change your opinions. Fogging allows for an amicable resolution of issues in a composed way.

Negative assertion

You look honestly at your behavior and personality to try and see yourself the way others do and then accept them as part of who you are. Acceptance of both your positive and negative traits will help you react to comments more thoughtfully. Negative assertion allows you to better understand yourself and to acknowledge the truth others share with you.

Repeated assertion (broken record)

In this technique, you remain composed and firm in your decisions, regardless of several attempts to get you to accept different viewpoints and opinions.

Workable compromise

It’s beneficial to compromise with another person if it does not affect your self-respect or conscience. For instance, if a coworker is busy but was supposed to meet with you, you can both agree to meet up later after they have finished with their immediate commitments.

Negative inquiry

This technique enables you to deal with negative criticism from those close to you. The main goal is to figure out for yourself if the criticism is constructive or not. If it is, you can decide whether to take their suggested advice. If it is not constructive, you can do nothing while still not taking their comments personally.

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