If you’re like a lot of people, you associate assertiveness with being mean or aggressive but assertiveness is really about knowing what you need and want, communicating it clearly and concisely, and showing mutual respect and consideration for the other party.
It’s actually an empowering communication style that enables you to voice your opinions without being aggressive or a human doormat.
Welcome to yet another blog on our series of assertive communication.
Hi everyone, I’m Fia Fasbinder. Welcome to the Moxie Talk blog, where we help you find your voice, share your message, and lead with confidence.
If you are watching us on our Youtube channel, please take a second to click that alert button so you get notified of all of our new videos and please make sure to subscribe to our channel.
Today, we are going to spend some time on useful phrases that you can practice and pull out of your back pocket whenever you need to be assertive. Here are my top 10 favorite assertive strategies and statements.
Along with the strategies that I talked about in my previous video, there are a number of simple yet very effective communication phrases that you can use to become more assertive.
Here are some of my favorites:
Strategy 1: Use “I” Statements
Number 1 are ‘I’ statements. When you use ‘I’ statements like ‘I feel, I am, I need, I want,’ you take responsibility for your feelings instead of blaming them on the other party.
Conveying what you feel in a matter-of-fact way provides a non-confrontational solution to get your voice heard and be acknowledged but doesn’t put the other person on defense. Let me give you an example:
If I said ‘When you interrupt me, I feel frustrated,‘ instead of ‘You are so annoying when you interrupt me,’ can you tell the difference?
Here’s a couple of more examples,
- ‘I feel hurt,‘ instead of ‘You hurt me.‘
- ‘I don’t agree,’ instead of ‘You’re wrong.’
- ‘I feel ignored,’ rather than ‘You don’t care.’
Hence, you can see the difference between switching between an ‘I‘ statement and a ‘You‘ statement.
Strategy 2: Change Your Verbs
Number 2 is to change your verbs. Try using verbs that are more definite when you communicate. This will help you send a clear message and avoid sugar-coating things so much that people are left confused by what it is you really want from them.
To do this use verbs like
instead of could or should.
instead of need.
instead of have to. For example,
- I will be going on vacation next week, so I’ll need somebody to cover my workload.
- I want to go to this training course because I believe that it will help me to progress in my role and career.
- I choose this option because I think it will prove to be more successful than the other options on the table.
I’m sure you can see how assertive yet non-aggressive those statements are and they definitely send a clear message; there are no minced words. The receiver knows exactly what the message is intended to say.
Strategy 3: Use “And” Instead of “But”
Number 3: Use ‘and’ instead of ‘but.’ This can seem unnatural and somewhat difficult but this technique helps to create a sense of cooperation and understanding in situations where it can be difficult to say ‘No.’
Always consider if you can include an idea rather than reject it first.
This is actually a term that’s borrowed directly from improvisation actors like the actors you see on The Second City or Saturday Night Live. Here’s how it works.
You can use this assertive technique if you’re asked to stay behind at work and you’re asked to do XYZ when you have a previously scheduled important event that evening.
Here’s the possible dialogue:
- Your colleague says to you: ‘I need you to stay and help with XYZ which is important for our department.’
- You can say—and here’s where the ‘And‘ comes—in ‘I know that XYZ is important for our department and I must leave shortly to go to an important pre-scheduled event.’
- Your colleague could say something like: ‘But you’re the only person I could really trust with this project, the only person I can trust to complete XYZ. If XYZ doesn’t get done, we’ll all be in trouble.’
- You could say something like: ‘Yes! I know that XYZ is important and I really have to go to this event this evening.’
Doing this says: “Both are important, how can we compromise?”
I’m sure you can see how just replacing ‘but’ with ‘and’ opens up so much room for dialogue.
Strategy 4: Beef Out Your “No, I Can’t” Statements
Number 4, beef out your “No, I can’t” statements.
It’s common to receive requests for help when you’re in the middle of something. Many people can be hard or impossible to be straightforward with and they just don’t take ‘No‘ for an answer.
That’s when saying, “No I can’t” just seems so harsh or somewhat aggressive. Therefore, here’s an alternative:
- ‘I can’t commit to this right now as I have other priorities at the moment.’
or a slight modification to this statement will allow you to temporarily hold off the request. It might not take it away forever, but you could say something like,
- ‘I can’t commit to this right now as I have other priorities at the moment. Let’s touch base in a little bit of time.’
- ‘Now’s not a good time, I’m in the middle of something. How about we reconnect at ‘X’ time?‘
As you can see how just beefing out your “No, I can’t” statements will open up dialogue and it will not put that person on the defensive.
Strategy 5: Thanks, But…
Number 5, this is what I call the ‘Thanks, but…’ statement.
I know we talked about not saying ‘But’ before. However, this is a little bit different. Here are some examples:
- Thanks, but I’m not interested right now
- Thanks, but I can’t make that a priority right now
- Thanks, but I need to take some time to myself right now
Please don’t say “Thanks but no thanks!”
A slightly more empathetic way to say that and to elaborate on the thanks but statements would be
- Thanks for thinking of me, but I think I’ll pass on this one
- Thanks for keeping me in the loop, but I can’t make it at this time
- Thank you for sharing, but I’d like to hear from some other people in the group
- I really appreciate that you’re enjoying doing ______ and thanks for inviting me, but it’s really not my scene
The point is to communicate why you’re saying no so it’s clear
Now for a twist on the classic thanks but statement—notice that the phrase ‘thanks but‘ could be used to provide a dash of empathy before any assertive statement. Statements that can buy you a little bit more in time. They could include things like:
- I’ll think about it and get back to you, and thank you so much
- Thanks for thinking about me, I just don’t know. Do you mind if I take a while to think about this?
- This is so important that I just want to make sure I give it the time it deserves and I can’t do that right now.
So you can elaborate on your thanks but statements so that you provide as much empathy as you feel that that receiver of your message needs.
Strategy 6: Focus On Facts
Number 6, focus on facts by avoiding accusations and focusing on fact statements, and then stating how those facts affect you.
For example, let’s say you said you have been coming home late in the past week which is a fact:‘I’m concerned about you getting so little sleep,’ instead of something confrontational like: ‘You’ve been coming home late in the past week and you’re really trying my patience. What’s going on?’
You can see the difference?
Only state what you see and feel, not what you assume.
So stick to the facts and then talk about how it affects you or how it affects that other person. You’re definitely going to open up dialogue in a way that is assertive versus aggressive with this.
Strategy 7: Acknowledge People’s Emotions In A Heated Conversation
Number 7, acknowledge people’s emotions in a heated conversation.
Acknowledging your opponent’s emotional reactions and suggest to postpone this until they have calmed down. This can defuse situations and provide an opportunity to start afresh when things have cooled down.
For example, ‘I sense your frustration and it’s understandable in this situation. Perhaps we could continue this conversation when we’re both less affected by the emotions right now and we’ve thought about this for a while.’
That will definitely take the edge off and show some empathy simply by acknowledging what the other person is feeling.
Strategy 8: Demonstrate That You Seek Cooperation
Number 8 is to demonstrate that you seek cooperation. By being all-inclusive and soliciting the view of others you can show that you want buy-in. You want buy-in from everyone around you.
Here are some examples of what that would look like, ‘Let’s look at both the pros and the cons of this. When would it be convenient to talk about these?’
As you can see how just even stating that there are pros and cons and you’re not saying which side of the argument you’re on, you’re soliciting both sides. This will show that you are assertive without being aggressive.
Strategy 9: Find Areas Of Agreement While Discussing Differences
Number 9—and this is kind of in the same lines of number 8—find areas of agreement while still discussing differences.
When someone expresses disapproval, find something in their criticism that you agree with. Using their wording to express agreement with a part of their statement shows that you have listened to them and that they have been heard.
Then clearly express where your views differ and try to offer a win-win solution.
For example, ‘I respect your view. I interpret what’s happened differently though because of XYZ. Why don’t we…?’
Or you can say,
‘You’re on the right spot about the recent price increase. This is, however, out of my control. What if I can do something about this? Let’s meet and we can talk about the different paths forward.‘
Strategy 10: Say It Like It Is
Last but not least number 10, say it how it is.
If someone is pitching their idea or trying to sell you something or wants something from you which does not interest you, there are phrases you can use to let the person know that ‘you’re looking for someone else to hire,’ or ‘you’re not looking at all,’ or ‘you’re not interested in their idea or concept,’ without offending them.
By adding that you would rather keep him or her in mind, it signals that you’re open to future opportunities. Here’s some things you can say,
- This doesn’t meet my needs or the needs of our company right now but I’ll be sure to keep you in mind
- That won’t work for me or for us right now but I’ll get back to you if anything changes
- I really appreciate you thinking of me but I’ve got too much on my plate right now. I’ll get back to you if anything changes
You can see the difference between sugar-coating it or leading them on versus telling them no, but telling them in an assertive and non-offensive way. Assertiveness skills can decrease your stress levels and increase your confidence.
If you are still wondering whether you tend to come off as assertive or aggressive, ask your friends or a co-worker that you’re close to or your family for some honest feedback about the statements and the phrases that you’re saying.
Then practice! Like practicing any new skill the more we practice assertive communication the more confident and comfortable we feel pulling it out of our back pocket at a moment’s notice.
Thank you so much for reading. I hope this blog was valuable. If it was and if you know anybody that could benefit from some assertive communication phrases and statements, please feel free to share this with them. Make sure to like it and leave a comment.
If you want more information on what Moxie Institute does and the communication skills that we teach, check out moxieinstitute.com
Until next time make sure to lead brilliantly live boldly and Speak with Moxie.