What is assertiveness?

Assertive communication means expressing your opinions openly.  Being assertive is an alternative to being either passive or being aggressive.  If we are passive, e.g. we don't speak up for ourselves, we are not being fair to ourselves.   If we are aggressive, e.g. we speak over other people, we are abusing the rights of other people.

The benefits of being assertive

If we do not express our opinion, over a period of time, we can become increasingly angry and frustrated.   We feel unable to influence things around us.  This can lead to us feeling bad about ourselves (a loss of self esteem).  Our relationships can also suffer because we are not communicating our feelings to others. 

When we are assertive it is more likely that we will achieve what we want.  This is because we are making our wishes clearer to those around us. Even if being assertive does not lead to our ideal outcome at least we are able to walk away knowing that we tried our best. 

Women and assertiveness

Many women can find it difficult to express their opinions confidently. There can be a number of reasons for this including living in situations where it would be unsafe to do so.  One reason, however, why confident and assertive communication can be a challenge for many women is because women are socialised to be more aware of and concerned with approval from other people. This can make it harder for women to recognise and voice their own needs.  Understanding this can be an important first step in learning how to become more assertive and communicate with greater confidence. 

A book which many women have found useful is  A Women in your Own Right by Anne Dickson.  Although it was written many years ago, women today are still finding it relevant and helpful.

You can learn to be more assertive

Being assertive is a skill which can be learnt (See External links section below).  There are techniques that can help with this - and the key thing is practice.  

It is easy to avoid situations that make us uncomfortable.  However, over time this leads to a gradual loss of confidence. By setting yourself targets and working on them you can learn to become more assertive.    Relaxation techniques can help reduce any feelings of anxiety you get as you do this.  This can help you complete your targets.   

Centre for clinical interventions

The CCI has a comprehensive online assertive course.  The course has different modules so you can focus on specific areas and develop your skills step by step. 


Self esteem 


Books that can help