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Assertiveness Page Title
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Nelson Mandela on release from prisonTo be assertive is not, as some people imagine, to be overbearing and aggressive, but to be straightforward, open and honest. It means that you relate well to people, able to express your needs freely, take responsibility for your feelings and stand up for yourself when necessary. In conflict situations you seek, where possible, to reach a 'win-win' outcome, in which the needs of all parties are fully acknowledged.

In order to appreciate the nature of assertiveness it may be useful to examine various forms of non-assertive behaviour. There are three primary types, as follows:

  • aggressive behaviour    This may occur where a person is trying to impose their views inappropriately on others, and it may be accompanied by threatening language and an angry, glaring expression.
  • submissive behaviour    This is the opposite of aggressive behaviour. Here the person acts like a doormat, downplaying their own needs and willing to fit in with the wishes of others in order to keep the peace at any price. It may be accompanied by general passivity, nervousness and a lack of eye contact.
  • manipulative behaviour    This typically occurs where a person seeks to ingratiate themself with another through flattery and other forms of deceit. It may be accompanied by cloying over-attention and a simpering, smarmy voice.


Assertiveness is a vital life-skill which can be learnt, developed and practised. Attending workshops can be extremely valuable, especially where you are given an opportunity to use role play to explore your response in various inter-personal situations. Assertiveness links closely with self-esteem and body language, and so it is important to build on these ideas too. See also Transactional Analysis, which is a valuable tool for self-development and gaining autonomy.

Further Information

For further information on assertiveness see:

Assertive Communication - 6 Tips for Effective Use
Assertiveness Skills: Four Styles of Communication (North Dakota State University) - Assertiveness Training Websites
Stand Up for Yourself - Be Assertive (University of Maryland)
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Page last modified: 17 July 2012
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