First Psychology Assistance


Often in the working environment there are people who find it hard to say 'no'; who lose their temper when people disagree with them; or who feel guilty for expressing their opinions. These people would often benefit from developing their assertiveness skills.

What is assertiveness training?

Assertiveness training is not, as is commonly believed, about teaching people to be more aggressive so they can get their own way. In fact it is more about learning to communicate thoughts and feelings even when someone is behaving aggressively.

Assertive communication is vital to a solid working relationship as it allows each employee to express their feelings and opinions openly and honestly without fear of reproof. Such an environment also fosters respectful listening to the feelings and opinions of others and encourages team unity and trust.

Types of communicator

There are three main types of communicator:

The passive communicator - Passive communicators tend to submit to the dominance of others. They may be reluctant to share their own opinion, especially if they feel it differs from the dominant view. They will put their own views aside to avoid making a fuss. You can spot them in the workplace using phrases such as, "I don't mind", "sorry" or by mumbling what they are saying. Passive communicators often have low self esteem and think their opinion is less important than that of someone else. Their body language may be introverted and they may avoid eye contact.

The aggressive communicator - Aggressive communicators are the complete opposite to this. They lack respect for the view of others and dominate social interactions. Their body language may be imposing - they may intrude into the personal space of others - and their voice and speech may be loud, rapid and overwhelming. Aggressive communicators do not like their opinion being challenged and will become more aggressive in instances where this occurs.

The assertive communicator - Assertive communicators acknowledge the rights of everyone, including themselves, to express their thoughts and feelings openly. They will let others express their own thoughts unhindered.

Assertive communicators do not yield to the manipulation or intimidation of others, are able to ask for what they want without aggression or hostility, and do not feel guilty for saying 'no'. They are able to make their own decisions and accept criticism.

The negative impact of unassertive behaviour at work

There are many negative effects of unassertive behaviour in the workplace. The unassertive communicator will say 'yes' to the unfair requests of others, often taking on tasks they are too busy to do then feeling overloaded and resentful. They may suffer from anxiety, worrying about things they have done in previous situations. They may experience social isolation due to such anxiety, or because they have been overly hostile towards others. Unassertive communicators may also suffer from low self-esteeen and depression.


Learning and practising assertiveness techniques can help unassertive employees resist manipulation, cope with criticism and be more assertive. Practice is essential to becoming more assertive!

Practising body language techniques in a mirror can also be helpful. Relaxing the shoulders, standing up straight and maintaining eye contact keeps the posture open and helps retain a calm, clear voice.

Role play with friends can be useful for practising difficult situations. For example, people who have problems making certain requests at work could practise using 'I' phrases with a friend - for example, 'I think...', 'I feel...' to get a feel for taking ownership of personal thoughts and actions.

Take your time To retain self control in an intimidating situation, it is often helpful to take a step back and reflect on personal thoughts rather than simply going along with a more dominant view.

Repetition - repetition can be a helpful technique in instances when it feels nobody is listening, or if someone is avoiding an issue. Learning to calmly repeat a request until it is acknowledged can be go a long way to feeling heard.

Accept criticism - it can be hard to acknowledge weaknesses in front of colleagues at work, but sometimes doing so can take the pressure off and can help the team focus on finding a solution to an issue.