All right. You’re tired of playing their game. You finally realize that those difficult people in your life are not going to change just because you want them to be different. You’ve decided to refuse to play your part in the dysfunctional relationship(s) by choosing to be assertive.

Now what?

Healthy communication is the ability to let others know your needs, concerns, and feelings in an open and honest way without gimmicks, threats, manipulation, or hidden agendas. There’s no doubt that the assertive communication style is the only way to effectively deal with the difficult people in our lives.

The Assertive Personality- Open, Honest, and Direct

When we are assertive we choose to handle ourselves, our reactions, our relationships, and stressful situations in a healthy, responsible, and non-manipulative manner. We understand that we have choices. Remember that you will be treated exactly as you feel you deserve to be treated.

Communication is a learned skill. We must model assertive communication to our children so they can learn to handle conflict and sustain healthy relationships. Assertive people ask questions, seek answers, look at all points of view, and engage in meaningful, open-ended dialogue without anger, hurt feelings, or defensiveness. Does that sound like the typical exchange today?

We see examples of non-assertive communication everyday (media, talk shows, news, politics, etc.). In fact, most problem-solving models are not effective in the long run. For example, if two employees cannot seem to work together, they’re rescheduled or reassigned to different shifts, floors, or departments to avoid having them work together. The message is clear: do not confront, mediate, or learn to communicate; simply separate and avoid the problem. Is it any wonder that the divorce rate is so high?


Our children are encouraged to be passive. When children ask “Why?” they’re often given the pat response, “Because I’m your parent (or teacher) and I said so!” There are times when a child needs to immediately follow direct instructions, but there are many missed opportunities for our children to learn to respectfully participate in discussions that affect their lives.

Take Charge!

Regardless of our diverse histories, each of us is responsible for our present behavior. If we want to neutralize difficult people, we must commit to communicating assertively. Warning! Difficult people will not like being treated assertively – at first.

Difficult people only respect people who have the confidence to stand up for themselves. Assertiveness is their biggest enemy. It signals that you have figured them out and will no longer be swayed by their manipulations. Things may get worse before they get better!

Be prepared for some trying times with the difficult person when you first become assertive. For instance, asserting yourself with an employer who is used to your working overtime, missing lunch, accepting angry criticism and attacks, may earn you the label of an insubordinate. Likewise, asserting yourself with a parent who has become comfortable with your total compliance and willingness to let guilt cause you to give in may cause them to declare, “You don’t love me anymore.” Unfortunately, there is no “quick fix.”

It’s up to you…

Self-respect is the true key to developing and maintaining healthy relationships. Our relationships with others mirror our relationship with ourselves. Self-esteem develops when we consistently strive to make healthy, fair, and ethical choices.

It is true that if you demand respect and become more assertive the relationship might end. But, it is not quitting to have the courage and self-respect to sever an abusive or addictive relationship. Sometimes being assertive is about knowing when it is imperative to our well-being and self-respect to disengage.

Assertiveness is more than just words. You must have a belief in yourself that radiates through your voice, gestures, tone, attitude, and body language that says, “I am a worthy person and I will be treated respectfully.”

Self-respect is where assertiveness begins and manipulation ends.

Take Action!

Look closely at the times your family or friends are assertive. How do you react? Doesn’t it feel good to be with someone who is upfront, honest, and cooperative?

Think about the times when you are not assertive. What other communication style(s) do you most often use? Does it work? Are you rewarded for your non-assertive behavior?

Try to be assertive at the times you might use another communication style. Do others react more positively toward you?

Award-winning keynote speaker and author, educator, entrepreneur, human resource professional, actress, comedienne, song-writer, radio/TV talk show personality, board-certified organizational/family therapist, and executive life/career coach. for more information or call 972.596.5501
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