Howard is a manager at Gorilla Logistics Company. In his workplace, he faces a number of challenges. Firstly, his subordinates do not take instructions from him. As a result, they fail to complete their tasks on time. Howard is unable to control his subordinates, because he is not assertive enough as a manager.

Furthermore, Howard cannot say no to his boss, who overloads him with work that the boss himself should do. Again, Howard is not assertive enough to refuse these tasks.

Even at home his wife makes unreasonable demands and Howard is still unable to say no, because he is not assertive.


  1. Describe Howard’s behaviour.
  2. Why do you think Howard is not assertive?
  3. Do you think you are asser- tive, and why?
  4. If you were in Howard’s position, what would you do to deal with the many demands?

What is Assertiveness?

Assertiveness is a communication style where one expresses one’s thoughts, feelings and beliefs in an honest and direct manner.

Assertiveness is the ability to communicate your needs, feelings, opinions, and beliefs in an open and honest manner without violating the rights of others.

What other communication styles exist?

  1. Involves standing up for your personal rights and expressing your thoughts, feelings and beliefs in a way which is inappropriate and violates the rights of the other person.
  2. Behaviours associated with this style include:
  • Excessive emphasis on ‘I’
  • Boastfulness
  • Threatening questions
  • Blame
  • Sarcasm
  1. Violating your own rights by failing to express honest feelings, thoughts and beliefs, and consequently permitting others to violate your rights.
  2. Behaviours associated with passivity are:
  • Long rambling statements
  • Frequent justifications
  • Apologies
  • Self-dismissal
  • Self-putdown

Take an assertiveness test!

How assertive are you?
Answer yes/no to the following statements:
  • Are you able to exercise and express your strengths?
  • Can you express negative feelings about other people and their behaviours without using abusive language?
  • Can you easily recognise and compliment other people’s achievements?
  • Do you feel comfortable accepting compliments?
  • Do you have the confidence to ask for what is rightfully yours?
  • Can you accept criticism without being defensive?
  • Are you able to refuse unreasonable requests from friends, family, or co-workers?
  • Are you able to stand up for your rights?
  • Can you comfortably start and carry on a conversation with others?
  • Do you ask for assistance when you need it?
  • If your answer is ‘YES’ to all 10 questions, then you are already practicing Assertiveness Skills.
  • However, if you have answered ‘NO’ to more than 3 of these 10 questions, then it indicates a need to understand and acquire Assertiveness Skills.

Why should you be assertive?

Consequences of being non-assertive

Skills for Assertiveness

DESC (Describe, Express, Specify, Clarify)
The acronym DESC stands for:
  • D – Describe
  • E – Express
  • S – Specify
  • C – Clarify
To become more assertive and develop assertiveness skills, you must:
  • Describe the actions or behavior taking place.
  • Express why that behavior is an issue.
  • Specify the resulting actions or change of behavior you would like to effect.
  • Clarify the consequences for failing to change behavior or meet demands.

Broken Record

  • The Broken Record skill involves repeating yourself until the person gives in or concedes to your demands.
  • The Broken Record skill can prove to be useful to develop, when trying to become more assertive.
  • This skill is really very easy to develop and use as you just have to repeat yourself.
  • It has been found that most people capitulate after you repeat yourself three times.


  • Fogging is an especially useful skill to use when someone is putting pressure on you to do something.
  • So, your response to the pressure is to put up a fog. This involves listening to what the other person says and then deciding whether or not you wish to comply with their request.
  • If not, then using their words, or similar words to theirs, acknowledge their need but state your case.
  • This method is a very polite method of saying no.

Self disclosure using “I” statements

  • “I” statements are among the most powerful you can make, both for yourself and others.
  • In “I” statements you are affirming who you are and what you want.
  • Using “I” statements is the trademark of assertiveness.

Negative Assertion

  • It is a natural human tendency that when people call us names, criticise us or give us negative labels, we usually wish to defend ourselves.
  • However, when we try to defend ourselves, aggressive or manipulative people take advantage of our defensiveness and soon find our weak spots.

Negative Enquiry

  • Negative Enquiry involves inviting extra criticism and/or examples so that you have the benefit of gaining additional feedback from the other person.
  • It helps you understand the other person’s point of view and also helps you to investigate further into their dislike towards you or your ideas and opinions.
  • Negative Enquiry is a very interesting skill to use for assertiveness.

Self Confidance

Self confidance video

Confidence in the workplace

  • Confidence is knowing what you’re good at, the value you provide, and acting in a way that conveys that message to others.
  • If you want to raise your confidence to a level that helps, rather than harms you, it’s important to know what you aim to achieve on a personal and professional level.
  • Within the workplace, the notion of confidence as an action should be applied. The more we act, the more our confidence grows.

Tips to be confident in the workplace


  • Paterson, R. J. 2000. The Assertiveness Workbook: How to express your ideas and stand up for yourself at work and in relationships. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications .
  • MTD Training. 2010. Personal training and motivation. UK: Ventus Publishing.
  • Dalley, D. 2013. Developing your assertiveness skills and confidence in your communication to achieve success. How to build your confidence and assertiveness to handle (Skills Training Course). 1st ed. Lancashire, UK: Universe of Learning Ltd.