Montana State University
Academics | Administration | Admissions | A-Z Index | Directories

Montana State Universityspacer Mountains and Minds
MSU AcademicsspacerMSU AdministrationspacerMSU AdmissionsspacerMSU A-Z IndexspacerMSU Directoriesspacer

Contact Us
Counseling & Psychological Services
Montana State University
P.O. Box 173180
Bozeman, MT 59717-3180

Tel: (406) 994-4531
Fax: (406) 994-2485
Location: 211 Swingle
> Counseling & Psychological Services
Counseling Services

Cummunicating Assertively

How you interact with other people in your day-to-day life can often be a source of considerable stress. One way to reduce that stress is to learn how to be assertive so you can stand up for your rights and not bully or be bullied by others.

What is assertiveness?

It can be defined as standing up for your personal rights, expressing your own thoughts, feelings, and beliefs in a direct and honest way without violating the rights of others. The ultimate goal of being assertive is communication and mutuality, to get and give respect. Communicating assertively does not only include what you say, but also what your body says through non-verbal communication. Examples of assertive non-verbal behaviors are direct eye contact, strong posture, clear/firm audible voice, gestures, and facial expressions used to emphasize (not to intimidate or to hide).

Assertive Communication: Your Rights and Responsibilities

  • You have the right to be treated with respect
  • You have the right to act in ways that promote your dignity as long as others’ rights are not violated in the process
  • You have the right to say “no” and not feel guilty about doing so
  • You have the right to take time to slow down and think, you don’t have to make decisions immediately or give someone an answer right when you are asked
  • You have the right to change your mind and make mistakes
  • You have the right to feel good about yourself

Why would people NOT act assertively?

One reason is that people often mistake assertion for aggression. Aggression also involves standing up for your rights but you end up violating someone else’s rights in the process. Often times people mistake passivity for politeness, such as not asking a guest to leave when you really have other things you need to get done. People may not believe or accept their personal rights and therefore not believe they have the right to be assertive and say “no.” Another reason why someone may not act assertively is that he/she feels deficient in skills needed to act assertively. Figuring out what keeps you from acting assertively all the time or in particular situations can help you have more fulfilling interactions with other.

Assertiveness Tips!

  • First, know what you want
  • Don’t bring up important issues during high stress periods in the day
  • Don’t confront the other person with a preset judgment that he/she is wrong or false
  • Focus first on the person with the concern
  • Address one issue at a time
  • Say precisely what you mean
  • Practice active listening
  • Use “I” language – for example, “When you (specific behavior), I feel/think (specific thought/feeling); SO I would like (new specific behavior).” You can use this script whenever you are trying to communicate your rights assertively.


View Text-only Version Text-only Updated: 12/17/08
© Montana State University 2005 Didn't Find it? Please use our contact list or our site index.