Rex C. Mitchell, Ph.D.


  1. Passive: in this communication style, you don't express directly your feelings, thoughts, and wishes. You may try to communicate them indirectly, or you may withhold your feelings and wishes entirely. You smile a lot and subordinate your needs to those of others. You find it difficult to make requests. Because you are often not saying what you mean, you don't look like you mean what you say. You find it hard to say no.
  2. Aggressive: you find it easy to state how you feel, what you think, and what you want, but often at the expense of others' rights and feelings. You tend to humiliate others by using sarcasm or put-downs. You are likely to go on the attack when you don't get your way. Your sentences often begin with "You..." You are so intent on being "right" that you don't really hear what others are saying, even when you ask them a direct question.
  3. Assertive: you make direct statements regarding your feelings, thoughts, and wishes. You stand up for your rights and take into account the rights and feelings of others. You listen attentively, and let other people know that you have heard them. You are open to negotiation and compromise, but not at the expense of your own rights and dignity. You can make direct requests and direct refusals. You remain calm when others refuse your requests. You can give and receive compliments. You can start and stop a conversation. You can deal effectively with criticism, without becoming hostile or defensive.


Assertiveness advocates replacing traditional, inherited assumptions and inappropriate rules with alternatives (if you please, a Bill of Assertive Rights), for example:

  1. You have a right to put yourself first, sometimes
  2. You have a right to have your own opinions and convictions
  3. You have a right to change your mind or decide on a different course of action
  4. You have a right to make mistakes - and be responsible for them
  5. You have a right to be the final judge of your feelings and accept them as legitimate
  6. You have a right to feel and express pain
  7. You have a right to ask for help or emotional support
  8. You have a right to ignore the advice and opinions of others
  9. You have a right to protest any treatment or criticism that feels bad to you
  10. You have a right to offer no reasons or excuses to justify yourself to others
  11. You have a right not to respond to a situation or to take responsibility for someone else's problem
  12. You have a right not to have to anticipate others' needs and wishes
  13. You have a right to say, "I don't understand" or "I don't know"
  14. You have a right to say "no."

The notes above are only a very brief introduction to the ideas and concepts that are a part of this subject. There are many books, articles, and other materials related to this important and substantial topic. One currently-available source that I like a lot (it deals with a broad of communication topics in addition to assertiveness is McKay, Matthew, Davis, Martha, & Fanning, Patrick (2009) Messages: The Communication Skills Book. Oakland: New Harbinger Publications.

| Selected Writing | Mgt. 456 Menu | Mgt. 458 Menu | University Site Home Page | My Consulting Web Site |
* Or press the BACK button on your browser to return to your (different) access point *
Last modified June 1, 2010 Copyright 1998-2010 Rex Mitchell