Being upfront and honest can set the tone for healthy communication.

Being assertive means communicating with others in a direct, honest, and respectful way without sugarcoating your message or being forceful and aggressive. Assertiveness in relationships can foster healthy communication in the following ways:

  • Help your partner better understand your boundaries, needs, and wants
  • Inform others of what you do and don’t like, which will help them understand you better and allow them to better support your needs
  • Allow both partners to be on the same page about a relationship

When someone is proactive, they state what they need or want unambiguously, neutralizing adverse outcomes like defensiveness, cognitive distortion, and misunderstandings.

What Is the Skill of Assertiveness?

When you state your thoughts, needs, or wants clearly and concisely, you are being assertive.

When we assert something to our partner, for example, we say it straightforwardly while also
holding space and consideration for others.

Assertive language is respectful and not overstated. Overstating our point will surely raise
defensiveness while understating it leads to resentment.

Moreover, being assertive is not the same as being aggressive or harsh.

When someone is aggressive or harsh…they may make ultimatums, use force or threaten someone,
can be disrespectful or communicate in a way that is intimidating and hurtful or disrespectful.

While aggressiveness can be one-sided, assertiveness involves respectfully expressing yourself while recognizing the other person has boundaries and rights of their own.

Although society often puts assertiveness into buckets relating to gender, this
is false. Being assertive makes you a real person with real perspectives, opinions, and thoughts. And that is not masculine or feminine but being human.

Assertiveness helps people to:

  • Self-advocate
  • Change from being a victim to being empowered
  • Provide a roadmap to others on their boundaries, needs, wants, and expectations—setting the foundation for healthier relationships.

What Are Examples of Assertive Behavior in a Relationship?

Below are some examples of being assertive in relationships.

  • Stating directly that you want to go out with someone or the kind of relationship you want. By telling a person you want to date them or explaining how serious or open you’d like the
    relationship to be, you can gather the information you’d like from them. Then, whatever the response, you know where things stand, which provides clarity and prevents
    unnecessary anxiety.
  • Calling out when something is bothering you or when you need something from your partner. A challenge that I see is that people wait too long to seek counseling.

There is so much suppression of true feelings, wants, and expectations that someone is usually shocked or seemingly unaware of exactly how the build-up occurred. When you are assertive and able to hear their perspective, you can find a solution that works for both of you.

  • Having difficult conversations when you have a need that isn’t being met Avoiding topics that bother you about your partner or relationship may feel safe at first but can be detrimental. When we use communication, like passive aggression, we are sidestepping what we mean to say, hoping that our partner will just get it. While we save ourselves the discomfort of being direct, we will likely end up in a negative spiral with our partner. suggests the following ways to navigate difficult conversations:
  • Focus on one topic at a time.
  • Pick the right time to discuss it when you are feeling calm and your partner is feeling receptive.
  • Preface that you will be discussing a sensitive topic, frame it positively, and give examples of what you think might help solve it together.
  • Set ground rules of engagement, and if things become heated, give one another time to self-regulate before re-engaging.
  • Telling your partner what you DO want and not just what you don’t want. While it’s easy to get caught up in pointing out the behaviors of others that you don’t like, clearly communicating actions you would like and appreciate may increase the likelihood of it happening. By telling people what you like when they do it, you can share your appreciation and provide direct and helpful feedback about what you enjoy and would like more of.

Regardless of how long you’ve been in a relationship, no one is a mind reader. When we state the things we do want directly, clearly, and respectfully, it adds positivity to the relationship.

What Are Ways to Become More Assertive?

I recommend the following tips for becoming more assertive.

  • Know your current communication style. We need to know what we do in order to do something different. Once you are clear about what you want to change, set a personal goal to learn more about how to be assertive in relationship.
  • Practice, practice, practice. Assertive communication becomes easier the more you do it. It might feel uncomfortable at first, but the more you learn to flex this muscle, the closer you can get to becoming better at asking for what you want, need, and deserve that will add to your happiness.  Bradden suggested the following ways to practice.
  • Use a journal to track your progress.
  • Schedule time to practice being assertive.
  • Say “no” more often to things you don’t want to do.
  • Express yourself even when it feels uncomfortable.
  • Make a list of phrases that you want to integrate into the assertiveness lexicon and share them with your partner.
  • Increase your ability to withstand discomfort with healthy tension or friction, which may happen when you express yourself assertively.
  • Embrace setting boundaries as an act of self-love and lesson on how others should treat you. In order to be more assertive in our relationships, we must be clear with ourselves about our personal boundaries. Once you can define your boundaries, it becomes easier to assert your need and wants to your partner.
  • Seek out help from a mental health professional who can guide you toward becoming more assertive.

Assertiveness in relationships can help create healthy communication. However, being assertive doesn’t come naturally to everyone, but with practice, there are ways to learn to become more assertive.