group talking

Assertiveness Skills: the Unsung Hero of Relationships & a Good Life

Assertiveness is an approach to interaction and self-expression that is direct and clear. In its purest form, assertiveness is a communication style of simplicity that is free of negative energy, and founded in compassion. Read more…



This essay defines assertiveness and explains how anyone can use the skill to improve their life and their relationships. It makes clear the value of assertiveness as an essential communication skill. 

Click on the image to read it.


See more articles at the bottom of this page about other skills that will help you learn assertiveness.

Assertiveness is the most important of the Relational Skills


Assertiveness is one of the most misunderstood of the relational skills. Consequently, assertiveness is not given the attention and praise that it deserves. The truth is that it’s a profoundly powerful skill that can transform lives and relationships.

Why is Assertiveness So Important?

Assertiveness is the ultimate manifestation of adulthood. It is the communication modality of mature, confident adults.

I’m not sure which comes first – if one is trained in assertiveness skills and that training and practice is what facilitates a strong adult position…or if one must first be a responsible, confident adult who is far more inclined to be assertive.

group meeting around a table

Relational skills are interdependent. Assertiveness, self-awareness, personal boundaries, and emotional management, augment each other

Speak Up and Stand Firm Without Being Aggressive


group sitting close together in deep discussion

Assertiveness Will Help You Be Firm But Respectful

Some of us (mostly women) believe that expressing a strong opinion and standing firm is a form of being mean. But it’s not.

If you feel solid in your stance and wish to stick to it, learning assertiveness skills will build your confidence and help you stand firm without behaving aggressively. 

Assertiveness is How We Honor Ourselves

Sticking with our convictions is how we stay true to ourselves.

But being assertive also honors others. Once we refine the skill and learn to express ourselves directly and authentically, it is a gift to others. We don’t beat around the bush, speak in vague language, or engage in manipulative double-speak.  We respect others and speak with integrity and compassion.

doctors around a conference table

Assertiveness is the Remedy for Aggressive Behavior


Isn’t Assertiveness the Same as Aggression?

No, this is a common misunderstanding.

Assertiveness is Never Aggression

Aggression is not a more extreme version of assertiveness. If you behave aggressively, being hostile and offensive, you are not being assertive — you’re being aggressive. And yes, there can be a fine line but once you learn assertiveness skills you likely won’t cross that line, because you won’t need to.

Aggression is behavior that offends and violates. Aggression is a form of violence – verbal, emotional and physical violence are born out of aggression.

Assertiveness is behavior that is direct, clear and respectful. Assertiveness is honest yet considerate, and peaceful. While assertive communication may be firm and unapologetic, it is not harsh or unkind. However, it can sometimes be perceived as harsh simply because it’s straightforward in a manner of which we are unaccustomed.

While a clean, authentic message may be more direct than we are used to, a truly assertive expression will not be discourteous.


woman standing facilitating a meeting of four others
group talking

Assertiveness Can Help with Anger Issues

Some of us have “anger issues” that show up as aggressiveness.

Some of us have “anger issues” from trying to suppress our anger, pretending we don’t feel it. Though that’s rarely considered an anger issue.

If it sounds counter-intuitive that assertiveness is a remedy for aggressive behavior, you likely share the misunderstanding of many, that the term assertive is interchangeable with the term aggressive. 

Once you learn and practice the skill you’ll experience and appreciate the difference.

man and woman standing in conference room in confrontational stance
man at desk speaking assertively to woman

Is the man in this photo being assertive or aggressive?

It’s difficult to tell if this man is simply expressing himself frankly or if he’s chastising this woman.

It would depend on what he’s saying and his tone of voice. His hand gesture could be interpreted as intimidating, but if we were able to listen in, we might find out that he’s her boss but is presenting a message with a calm and curious tone, offering guidance to this woman on how to handle her difficult co-worker.

Then again he might be a bullying co-worker or boss who is being hostile.

Learning Assertiveness Will Increase Your Confidence 

Working with a skills coach or taking an assertiveness training course will increase your confidence. 

If you are already a confident person, you will be well equipped and may not need assertiveness training as much as others. You will, however, benefit from refining those skills.

Who doesn’t want to be more confident? We’re talking about authentic confidence, not the bluster or bullying that many mistake for confidence. A confident person does not need to bully. They are self-assured and competent. They know that they can effect change in their life when needed and therefore don’t feel the need to throw their weight around. They communicate authentically – directly but with compassion. They are mature adults. The kind of person who is an effective and well-liked leader.

group meeting around a table

Articles About Assertiveness



collage of people dealing with personal boundaries

Boundaries for Personal & Business Settings

A topic that often comes up for coaching clients, is boundaries. That’s because coaching, whether personal or professional, is about relationships and relationships are managed effectively or ineffectively in direct proportion to the health of our personal boundaries. Read More…


conference table full of professionals and a woman with a megaphone

Why Your Organization Needs Rebels with Dissenting Opinions

Organizations that don’t seek opinions from quiet members or encourage the expression of diverse opinions or dissent will not thrive. At best, they maintain the status quo and grow stale. At worst the desire to “get along” keeps people passive, resulting in poor decisions. Read more…


laptop with two fists viewed from above and crumpled paper

Conscious Anger: Understanding the Mystery Emotion

We can learn to understand our emotional triggers and how to manage aggressive behavior. We can increase self-awareness and gain the interpersonal skills essential for resolving difficulties with others and deepening our relational capacity. Read More…


Conflict Resolution for Individuals & Organizations

Got humans? There will be conflict. If there isn’t, someone’s not expressing their needs. Differing opinions can make us nervous, but if we keep an open mind without getting defensive, we have the opportunity to see an issue from a different perspective. Read More…