What difference can being assertive make?

When you are assertive, you are communicating your thoughts, feelings and beliefs in an open, and honest way. It is based on the idea that your needs, wants and feelings are as important as those of others. Whilst being assertive can be difficult at first, and there is no guarantee that it will get you “what you want”, it is a middle ground, which increases your chances of having your needs met. It allows you stand up and express yourself directly when you need to.

Remember, you don’t always have to be assertive, and it is your choice when it will be most helpful to you.


  • Sarcastic or condescending
  • Talking fast, or abrupt
  • A firm voice or cold, harsh tone
  • Use of threats or put downs "Don't be so stupid!" "You better watch out!"
  • Offensive or hurtful remarks
  • Opinions expressed as facts
  • Getting too close
  • Pointing, fist clenching
  • Crossing your arms
  • Scowling
  • Jaw firm and body tense


  • Long or rambling sentences
  • Hesitant, pausing
  • Frequent throat clearing
  • Apologising often or filling in words "maybe, um, sort of"
  • Soft tone or monotone
  • Apologies "I'm so sorry to bother you"
  • Qualifiers "I might be wrong"
  • Self-dismissal "It's not that important"
  • Averting your gaze
  • Looking down
  • Slouching
  • Wringing hands
  • Crossing arms for protection
  • Lip biting


  • Firm relaxed voice
  • Fluent, few hesitations
  • Steady even pace
  • Middle tone, rich and warm
  • Not too loud or too quiet
  • Using "I" statements "I like, I want, I don't like"
  • Co-operation "What are your thoughts on this?"
  • Expressing opinion "My experience is different."
  • Constructive criticism "I feel upset when you interrupt me."
  • Exploring solutions "How can we get around this?"
  • Receptive listening
  • Direct eye contact
  • Balanced, open body posture
  • Smiling when pleased
  • Frowning when angry
  • Jaw relaxed