Online College Courses for Credit

3 Tutorials that teach Assertive Communication
Take your pick:
Assertive Communication

Assertive Communication

Author: marlene johnson

At the end of this tutorial, the learner be able to apply the skill of assertive communication appropriately.

See More
Fast, Free College Credit

Developing Effective Teams

Let's Ride
*No strings attached. This college course is 100% free and is worth 1 semester credit.

37 Sophia partners guarantee credit transfer.

299 Institutions have accepted or given pre-approval for credit transfer.

* The American Council on Education's College Credit Recommendation Service (ACE Credit®) has evaluated and recommended college credit for 32 of Sophia’s online courses. Many different colleges and universities consider ACE CREDIT recommendations in determining the applicability to their course and degree programs.


Video Transcription

Download PDF

Healthy relationships depend on good communication. And the way we state our own needs when we're communicating to another person is really important in that communication. So I'm Marlene, and I want to talk to you about how we state our own needs. I want to talk to you about assertiveness.

Now, assertive communication is different than aggressive communication. When a person communicates es in an aggressive way, that person is stating their own needs, but it's all about them. And it's typically disrespectful to the other person. And it can be off putting. It comes across as abrupt and arrogant.

For example, when someone is speaking aggressively, they might say something like, I want to go to the early movie. Let's go now. We don't need to eat. Well, OK, maybe you don't want to eat, but what about the rest of us? It's what I want, now, and it's not taking into consideration the other person. It comes across that way.

Now, assertive communication is the opposite. Assertive communication is a way of stating your own need but still being open to others' needs and being open to the fact that others may differ, being respectful of the way you state it, but not sacrificing what you want just to accommodate the others.

Now, this is very important. It's important to you, the speaker, to be assertive, because when you're not, when we're not assertive, it means we're not taking care of our own needs. And when we don't take care of our own needs, we can become resentful. And we can end up becoming tense around somebody or acting out in other ways simply because we don't feel satisfied. We don't feel like our needs have been met.

So it's important for us personally to be assertive about what we want. It's also important to others. Other people appreciate it when you speak up in a respectful way and tell them what you're really thinking and feeling. People are open to that kind of respectful communication.

So how does it work? What does an assertive statement look like? There really are three parts to it. And I have them here. An assertive statement has three elements to it. Empathy and validation is the first. Now, empathy is a portion of a statement that shows that the speaker is aware of the listener's perspective and attitude and is taking that into consideration. Then the statement of the problem, what is that is at issue here for you, the speaker? And then a statement of what you need, and the statement of what you need is the desired outcome that you would like from this.

So here would be an example of an assertive statement that combines all three of these aspects. You might say something like this at work if you're leading a project. You know, I know, I understand everybody here has been really working hard. I appreciate the effort you've been putting in. But we still have people who are out sick. We don't have enough people on the team. So I'm going to need you to put in a few more hours for the rest of this week so we can finish the deadline.

OK, so you've established appreciation for the fact that they're working hard. That would be the empathy and validation. It can go a long way in getting people to do more when they know that you really understand their feeling, you validate them. Then there's a statement of the problem. We have people out. We don't have enough people on this particular project. And so the statement of what you need, what I need is for you to pitch in and put in a few more hours so we can make it to this deadline. So that would be an example of an assertive statement combining those three elements.

Now, when can you use assertive statements? I just gave you an at work example. But you can use them anywhere, at home, at work, in conflict, wherever conflict might come up, home, work, school, whenever you know you have a position-- an interest, not a position, but an interest at stake. And you don't want to sacrifice that. You want to communicate that to the other person at the same time that you recognize their interest. So any time that it's appropriate for you to speak up about your own interest or need. And that could be in a variety of situations. Using an assertive statement can be a very positive thing to do.

Now, there are times when just saying this once is not enough. You oftentimes have to be iterative, which means you need to do this again. And there are some helpful techniques that you can use if in particular the situation, the conditions, the conversation is longer or more difficult. One of them is defusing. I'm going to write that down here.

You may have heard that term, defusing. This is taking the time to let somebody calm down, particularly if they're very upset about something and they've come to you and they're right in the middle of this emotion. Defusing allows that person to get calm. And you want to do that before you make the statement again. Perhaps you've made a statement and they're upset, they're still upset. So give a person time to calm down.

The second tip here is something called fogging. So what is fogging? Well, fogging allows you to deflect some negative criticism by accepting just a little bit of it, but still standing up for your right to choose, or do, make your own decisions here. So for example, someone might say, you know, why are you always shopping in that more expensive grocery store? You could save money if you shopped elsewhere. Why are you always shopping there?

You might say, yeah, I'm probably spending a little bit too much here. I could probably get some things cheaper elsewhere. But I like to buy my vegetables here, because I know that they're always fresh. So I'm going to continue to shop here for that. So you've acknowledged the fact that they have a point. You could be saving money shopping elsewhere. But you're standing up for your right to make your own decisions about where you shop. So that's fogging.

Now, there's another technique here. And that is shifting from talking about the content to the process. So I'll just write process here. There may be times when you are talking about a particular content and you feel like the person's trying to avoid you. They're not engaging. Maybe you notice their eye contact, they refuse to make eye contact. They're nervous. They're fidgety.

So shifting from the content at hand to the behavior that you're seeing can be very helpful here. You seem uncomfortable. I notice that you don't want to look at me when I say that. So now we're talking about the process, how we are communicating with one another instead of what we're communicating about.

Then the last technique is something called the broken record. A broken record, this comes from years ago when people used to have record players, but a record which would repeat over and over again. And this is repetition of a simple statement of one's need or goal. So there's times when just simply saying it again, like a broken record, is very effective.

I need you to do your homework before you can go out. I understand, but I need you to do your homework before you can go out. Or we need to meet these deadlines. We've don't have enough people in the office, we need to meet the deadline. So you're stating the need. And you may be using all three of these elements in one way or another. But you are stating the need over and over again to come back to that.

So these are all techniques that you can use in assertive communication, particularly if the conversation is long or difficult, or if perhaps it's become heated. So thank you for joining me today, and I look forward to next time.

Terms to Know
Broken Record

An assertive communication technique involving repetition of a simple statement of one's need or goal when in conversation.

Content to Process Shift

In assertive communication, shifting the topic of communication to the listener's behavior at a particular moment. Generally used when listener is using words or actions to try to avoid engaging with speaker.


In assertive communication, taking time to allow a person to become calm (generally after a provoking event) before starting/continuing communication.


In assertive communication, a portion of a statement intended to show that the speaker accepts (though does not necessarily agree with) the listener's perspective or action.


In assertive communication, a technique used to deflect negative criticism by accepting some of a person's statement of criticism but declaring/implying one's right to choose one's own behavior/action.

Statement of Problem

In assertive communication, a statement of what the speaker finds undesirable or problematic.

Statement of What You Want

In assertive communication, a declaration of the speaker's desired outcome or desired action from the listener.