for Health Coaches

One of the most valuable lessons in my Stephen Ministry training was ASSERTIVENESS.  I have read a lot of books on assertive behavior, but until I had so many lessons planned around it, I didn’t really consciously apply it to my life.

You have to wonder how many people are like me.  You don’t really realize what you’re doing or not doing and it can make or break relationships.

The second week into my assertiveness training, my husband wanted to go to church early.  I wanted to run.  I didn’t want to get cleaned up to go to church, then come back home and go get all sweaty and have to get cleaned up again.  It was much smarter to get sweaty, get cleaned up and go to church.  It really was smarter, but,  I gave in and then proceeded to make him pay for it with guilt.  It took me about 2 minutes to realize what I was doing.  That was my last episode of passive-aggressive behavior.  I went to church, not because he was inconsiderate or dumb, but because I had committed to it.  Regardless of my reasoning, it was my choice.

Boy does that make a difference!  Once you take responsibility for behaviors like that, and you see it for what it is, everything becomes so much easier.


     Communication Styles

Everyone benefits from assertiveness.

First, don’t be afraid to be assertive.  Everyone benefits from an assertive person.  Passive, aggressive and passive-aggressive behavior creates losers all the way around.







Quiet and fearful

Loud and unaware of others

Quiet and mopey or sarcastic

Conversational tone and straightforward

Eye contact

Doesn’t look in the eye


Looks away and/or stares

Comfortable eye contact


Poor posture

Rigid and intimidating

Poor posture and sometimes rigid

Relaxed and open




Difficult and unpredictable

Participates openly


Agrees with others

Unaware of others


Honest and open


Others more

Self more






Distorted listening




At the expense of others

Sometimes and inappropriately

Reaches goals without hurting others


Personally, passive-aggressive behavior is the most difficult to deal with.  Maybe because it was a learned behavior for me and it’s the part of me that bugs me the most.  It’s also the type of behavior that I recognize in other people and it’s hard not to point it out.

It is a misconception that it is not okay to be assertive.  You are entitled to express your views, feelings, and opinion.  You are also entitled to respect.


     How To Be Assertive

It’s a learned behavior

If you want to be positively assertive:

  • Express yourself openly and honestly.
  • Be direct and firm.
  • Empower yourself and those around you.
  • Respect yourself and others.
  • Be socially responsible
  • Be aware of others.
  • Use non verbal communication appropriately.

These behaviors are generally learned.

  • We learn to step back and passively let others pass us by.
  • We learn that if we want to be heard we must bully our way into a position.
  • We learn to give in and then we are resentful of it.

We can also learn to be assertive by practicing honesty, openness and direct communication, listening and taking responsibility for ourselves, our actions and our decisions.

     Further Reading

The more you read, the clearer it becomes.

Good reading:

Haugk, R. N. (1992). Speaking the Truth in Love. St. Louis: Stephen Ministries.

Smith, M. J. (1975). When I Say No I Feel Guilty. New York: Bantam Books.

Being Assertive, Reduce Stress, and Communicate Better  Mayo Clinic

How to Be Assertive Mind Tools

Adapted and Republished from August, 2012


  1. Tamisha Ford

    Love this post, Cathy! Right up my alley! 🙂 I love how you pointed out the contrasts in all the different modes too. Wonderful. There are so many other fun facets to being assertive, such as starting difficult conversations, which women and some men, often struggle with. Also, learning to set personal boundaries and honoring them, managing your time effectively and honoring that, learning how to change your mind, and learning to respond to your own aggressors within – your own internal chatter that competes with your internal desires to handle your business. I don’t know anyone who would look at these modes of living and say they aren’t okay – they are SO okay. 🙂 Thanks for writing this!

  2. Cathy

    Tamisha, maybe you need to do a guest follow up blog! Great points.

  3. Mick O'Toole

    Great blog. Just wrote about something like this on my blog called “You Don’t Have To Be Nice.” Thanks for sharing your valuable and keen insight. Always appreciated. Mick


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