Getting Your Point Across Without Hurting Others: Quick Read on Assertive vs. Aggressive Communication

Dr. Susan Cain Training & Development Leave a Comment

By Shelby Hammel, I/O Psychology Masters degree Candidate

Below you will find some tips for communicating effectively without being aggressive. When we communicate assertively, we are clear about our opinions but are also open to others’; respect is critical.

There are four styles of communication – please look at the chart below and think about your own communication style. Of course, there are occasions when specific styles can come in handy. However, assertive behavior builds trust and continuity.

It is important to build social ties at work and research points to the need for close and collaborative relationships. However, professionals sometimes resist forming strong bonds with co-workers.

Creating social ties within teams is especially important as collaboration and communication is crucial to accomplishing goals. There are several things that can get in the way of effective communication such as a lack of feedback-rich culture and being unable to provide constructive feedback. Harvard Business Review provides insight into how to give positive and constructive feedback.

If you feel you are not an assertive communicator, there are four steps you can take to become more effective.

  1. Ask for information you need: Be willing to ask your peers or others for help will make you more effective.
  2. Give others the information they need to be successful: Offering help and feedback to others will make them more effective.
  3. Receive information openly: Be willing to receive feedback from others – trust in your peers will help you develop this.


Below are some Do’s and Don’ts of giving feedback:

Dos Donts
Do set realistic expectations Dont use overly critical expressions
Do meet with individuals privately Dont focus solely on your own needs and opinions
Do provide data to back up your assertions and share this data Dont get defensive
Do reach out to peers for feedback Dont be scared to provide feedback
Do counter difficult individuals with positivity Dont avoid conflict

Things to Think About:

  • Think about using assertive communication most frequently.
  • Share information though the ASK/GIVE/RECEIVE model as a reminder to yourself.


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Dr. Susan CainGetting Your Point Across Without Hurting Others: Quick Read on Assertive vs. Aggressive Communication

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