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Assertiveness: A Journey Worth Taking; Part Three

This week we shall explore what to do when the person you are asserting yourself to persists in being either aggressive, passive aggressive or even by-passes your point altogether.


If the person you are speaking to takes the conversation off on a tangent and fails to respond to your remark, the broken record technique is very effective. When used correctly, with a calm and steady tone of voice, it helps the conversation to remain on point and maximizes the likelihood of the person responding to your comment. If this happens simply and calmly repeat your main point until the other person responds.


Negative assertion is a powerful assertiveness skill which can allow the person you are speaking with to feel heard and more validated. If the person criticizes you take time to honestly assess whether you agree with any of their points. If you do say so and explain what action you will take to avoid this behavior in future. For example, ‘I agree that at times my concentration is low and I shall endeavor to actively listen to you when you are explaining something to me in future’.


Negative inquiry is also very valuable when faced with a remark from others you suspect may be a sweeping statement and not grounded by evidence. Simply ask the person for an example of when you have displayed the behavior they have commented on. Keep inquiring until a firm example is given – if none can be given you have exposed the persons statement as unsubstantiated and malicious. If they can provide you with an example, avoid acting defensively and take time to assess if they are valid in what they are saying. Once you have had time to consider this then respond in an honest fashion, for example ‘I appreciate you believe I acted in an inconsiderate way however I disagree because I prepared this gift for you with humor and love and do not consider it offensive’ or ‘I take on board what you are saying and understand why you found this gift to be offensive. I will avoid buying you similar comedic gifts in future’.


Finally, when we communicate assertively we must also be aware of our body language, as this needs to reflect an assertive demeanor. Maintaining a measured tone of voice is key, as is using direct eye contact and avoiding staring. Endeavor to use open hand movements and stand in an upright and relaxed fashion, as this displays confidence and honesty whilst also suggesting a receptive state.


You might find role-playing with someone close to you beneficial before you enter into an assertive conversation. This can help nerves for those of us that are new to behaving assertively and can better prepare us for possible responses we may face. Next week we will look at all of the benefits to being our new assertive selves and how it can shape a new healthier self image.


What was your experience of preparing to assert yourself? How did the role play exercise help you?  Did anything unexpected come up? Please comment and share your experiences with our community to gain insight, encouragement and support.




  1. Role play with someone close to you how you will assert the boundary you chose from last week and try to use the broken record technique, negative assertion and negative inquiry where necessary.


Further resources:


‘A Woman In Your Own Right: Assertiveness and You’ by Anne Dickson, available on Amazon



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