Assertiveness is a key communication skill that will help you feel listened to and understood! It’s important to discover YOUR VOICE, your unique way of talking, asking questions, commenting, disagreeing and problem-solving, making your needs and requests known.  Assertive skills help you have positive interactions with others! Being assertive empowers you to avoid being rude and aggressive, and helps you not be too passive and shy, but just feel and share in just right the right way!

Q      What does assertive communication look like and sound like in real life?

Q      How can you resist being aggressive or passive, which can feel easier in the moment but does not solve problems & makes things worse?

Q      How can you get your needs met without hurting others?

Q      How can I feel more comfortable expressing myself?


1.       The “nice no”:  Students may feel pressured to go along with other people’s ideas or invitations. Examples include: “Do you want to trade snacks?” and “Do you want to hang out with just me today? (When your “friend” purposefully excludes someone else). These invitations can cause anxiety if we want to decline them. A simple technique for responding assertively to such requests is a “nice no.” We might say, with a smile, “Thanks for asking me, but I’m not interested.” Sometimes a simple “No, thanks, not today” does the trick. Sharing a different suggestion or idea often works as a follow-up to a “nice no”.  You may have to repeat yourself, say it firmer but not mean.

2.       Setting a boundary: Sometimes students are asked by peers to do things that are outside their comfort zone, such as “Will you let me cut in line?” or “Can I copy off your paper?” An assertive technique for responding to such invitations is to set a clear and firm boundary by saying, “No, I’m not comfortable with that.” You don’t need to explain why or negotiate about it—they can simply set a clear boundary and hold to it, don’t give in to peer pressure!

3.       Asking for some thinking time:  People sometimes ask us questions that we’re not ready to answer. We might need more information, a chance to weigh other options, or time to reflect on our feelings about the situation. An assertive technique for responding to such questions is to ask for some thinking time: “I’m not sure how to answer that right now. Can I get back to you later today?” A key point is to ask for the time we need, whether it’s later the same day or next week.

4.       Stating your needs:  We sometimes have misunderstandings because we haven’t communicated our own needs clearly. It may seem that other people are ignoring or disrespecting our needs when in fact they’re simply not aware of them. If we recognize this, we can address the problem by stating our needs calmly. For example, a student might say to a peer, “I need space today, I’m not feeling good.” And a student might say to a teacher, “Could you please repeat that? I need to hear the directions again.”

5.       Using an “I feel” message:  Sometimes we have misunderstandings that are more personal. If we feel hurt by someone we’re close to, we may respond by being aggressive, making an accusation, or withdrawing passively to protect ourselves. But with friends, teachers, and people who care about us, we can use an “I feel” message to assertively communicate our feelings and emotional needs.  You may say to a friend, “I feel sad when you cancel our plans because I love hanging out with you.” This gives the friend a chance to understand the speaker’s needs and try to meet them.

6.       Knowing how to respond to aggression:   Sometimes when we communicate assertively, others may give us an aggressive response that might make us think less of our feelings or perspective. The best thing to do in this situation may be to calmly remove you from the conversation by saying something like, “I think I communicated my thoughts clearly, so there’s not much more to talk about” Or “I’m done talking about this.” You may need to walk away if needed.

7.       Seek help if needed:  When the person or problem persists after you’ve tried assertive communication & problem solving it on your own, please seek help from an adult (teacher, parent or counsellor). Sometimes we will need mediation, which is a third person in the middle who can listen and help us solve an issue.