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May 03, 2024

10 Assertive Communication Examples: Speak Up Like a Pro

In every office, some team members are super comfortable voicing their opinions, while others just nod and smile, hesitant to speak up. Which are you? Many of us fall into the latter group, worried that being assertive might rub people the wrong way.

Due to the fear of being too assertive (or even aggressive), we hold back our gold-star ideas, pressing questions, or even minor annoyances about the fridge smelling like last week’s forgotten lunch. But what if speaking up didn’t have to be as daunting as facing down Darth Vader with a toy lightsaber? Read on for 10 assertive communication examples you can try out at work!

The downsides of being passive

Being passive might seem like the easy route—it’s comfy and conflict-free. But it means your ideas remain on the back-burner and your concerns go unheard. It’s like always choosing to be a background character in your own story. And that’s no bueno. Imagine you’re at Hogwarts and you’ve got the invisibility cloak on 24/7—cool for eavesdropping, not so great for making an impact.

Check out on these drawbacks of not speaking up:

  • Continued feelings of self-doubt and lower confidence
  • Reduced reputation as a leader
  • Less influence on projects and outcomes
  • Increased likelihood of misunderstanding and miscommunication
  • Accumulation of stress and frustration
  • Missed opportunities for personal and professional growth
  • Perceived as uninterested or unengaged by others

What is effective assertiveness?

It’s not about tipping the scales towards aggression. Effective assertiveness is the ideal blend of directness and tact, of confidence and courtesy. Like Captain Jean-Luc Picard navigating a delicate diplomatic mission, you get to express your thoughts clearly and respectfully.

"To be passive is to let others decide for you. To be aggressive is to decide for others. To be assertive is to decide for yourself. And to trust that there is enough, that you are enough." ― Edith Eva Eger

Reframing “being assertive”

Let’s tweak the lens here. Think of assertiveness not as confrontation, but as clear communication. You’re not starting a battle; you’re merely participating more fully in the conversation. It might take the shape of asking a question, sharing an observation, or making a suggestion—simple and direct.

General tips for delivering assertiveness effectively

Navigating the delicate balance between assertiveness and tact is key to effective communication in the workplace. Before we share some specific assertive communication examples, here are some general tips for asserting your views while maintaining a respectful and collaborative tone. Use these strategies to communicate clearly while reducing the chances that others get defensive.

  • Use “we” or “us” instead of “I” to foster teamwork and shared responsibility: “How can we improve this?”
  • Replace “but” with “and” to validate others’ points while adding your own: “I hear you, and…”
  • Listen and empathize with others’ views as opposed to only sharing your own perspective
  • Avoid interrupting or talking over others to show respect and give space for diverse views
  • Stick to the facts and avoid assumptions or judgments when offering developmental feedback
  • Ask open-ended questions to encourage a dialogue. Questions like “What are your thoughts?”
  • Focus your phrasing around finding solutions rather than emphasizing problems

Assertive communication examples: 10 phrases to try at work

Now for some example phrases that illustrate common types of assertive communication at work. Either use these as is or adapt them to your own voice. Give ’em a try!

1. Requesting a resource: “I’d love to have access to the new software; it would really help me work faster. What do you think?”

2. Sharing an opposing view: “I’d like to share a different perspective…” or “I’ve had a different experience…” or “I’ve gotta different viewpoint to share on this.”

3. Managing multiple requests: “I’m glad to help with this task, but could we clarify priorities again to ensure I meet all my deadlines?”

4. Seeking clarification: “Could you tell me more about…” or “I’m still not totally clear on this aspect; Walk me through…” 

5. Proposing an idea: “I’ve had an idea that might improve our client onboarding process. Can we find a time to discuss?” or “What if we considered…?” or “I’d like to add to that thought…”

6. Navigating a disagreement: “We both seem to be dug in. Tell me more about your perspective on this.” or “Where do you think the disconnect is?” or “Where do we have common ground so far?”

7. Addressing a problem: “I’ve noticed a few errors in our reports, which is creating some confusion on the team. What could help ensure we catch these earlier?”

8. Asking for feedback: “I’d appreciate your feedback on this project. What’s one thing that went well and one thing I could improve?”

9. Responding to unrealistic deadlines: “That deadline feels fast-approaching. Can we go over the project scope again to ensure it’s doable within our timeline?”

10. Giving critical feedback: “I noticed you talked over others a few times in our last team meeting, which seemed to cause them to hold back for the rest of the meeting. What’s been your experience in these meetings?”

In summary…

Boosting your assertiveness isn’t about changing who you are; it’s about making sure you’re heard and valued in the workplace. It’s about sharing your thoughts confidently and respectfully. So, take the leap, express yourself, and maybe—just maybe—you’ll find it’s not as scary as it seems!

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