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Assertive Communication: Making Yourself Heard

Updated: Mar 3, 2022

Last month, we explored active listening as a way of making our conversation partners feel heard.

This month, let us focus on making ourselves heard. Growing up, many of us have learned that it is preferable to be silent, un-quarrelsome, and not make trouble. As a result, we may have a tendency to avoid conflict or confrontation; and when we find ourselves in tense situations, we may not be quite sure how to assert our needs and reality without causing things to escalate. This can lead to arguments and emotional turmoil that reinforce our beliefs that we either should have remained quiet or that we need to always be opinionated and vocal to fight hard for our rights. To prevent this, non-offensive, assertive communication can help us to set our boundaries and negotiate conflict with greater confidence.

In its essence, assertive communication is the clear, direct expression of our personal viewpoints in ways that show respect for both our rights and the rights of the other person. The end-goal of such communication is to find mutually beneficial resolutions. When using assertive techniques, we take responsibility for our thoughts, feelings and actions, and withhold blame toward others. In doing so, we are setting our boundaries without accusation, which is likely to facilitate someone else hearing us without feeling attacked. We often interpret situations according to our pre-existing beliefs and emotions. Assertive communication asks us to step back and examine a circumstance objectively without immediately reacting to what we assume may be the motive of our conversation partner.

Here are some key elements of assertive communication that can help us to diffuse tense situations and make ourselves heard:

Assertive communication works best together with active listening. Making the other person feel heard is likely to enhance their willingness to hear our view without getting defensive. Sometimes, an acute conflict situation can get quite heated and before we know it, aggressive or hurtful words may be thrown around. It can be effective to step back, focus on our breathing, and explore in ourselves why we have become so distressed or angry. What was the trigger? Which deep-rooted feelings has this trigger evoked? Often our anger is driven by fear of abandonment, rejection or other forms of loss. We cannot control the behaviour of others, we can only control our own reactions. Assertive communication urges us to take this responsibility and form mutually-respectful relationships in which both parties aim get their needs met.

For more information or to book a consultation with psychologist Dr. Esslin Terrighena, please contact (852) 2521 4668 or

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