Passive versus Assertive Communication

Passive versus Assertive Communication

When you communicate with others, do you have a hard time speaking up for yourself and find that you tend to just “go with the flow” to make others happy? Or maybe you have a hard time saying no, even if you are already overwhelmed with other responsibilities.

If this resonates, you may have a passive style of communicating that, over time, can lead to feelings of resentment, anger, depression, and stress. When we aren’t able to express our own needs and wants and instead prioritize the needs and wants of others, it sends the message that our thoughts and feelings aren’t as important. Therefore, others may take advantage of your quiet nature, “easy-going-ness,” or inability to say no (whether they mean to or not).

So what can you do about it?

Practice assertive communication!

Assertive communication is when you can convey your feelings and needs, and enforce and maintain healthy boundaries, while still respecting and compromising with the needs and feelings of others.

Using “I” statements is an effective way to communicate assertively to let others know how you are feeling without making them feel attacked, blamed, or defensive.

For example…

“I feel frustrated when you are late.”

“I feel attacked when you yell at me.”

“I cannot stay late at work tonight. But I can work on the task first thing tomorrow.”

“I’m already feeling overwhelmed by my current workload. But if another team member helps me out, then I can get that additional task done.”

Keep in mind that it takes time and practice to learn to be more assertive, and that’s okay! It may help to start small, in low-risk situations with someone you trust, to practice and develop your confidence. Being clear and direct through assertive communication may improve your self-esteem and decision-making skills, relieve stress, allow you to experience more positive relationships, and earn the respect of others.


Mayo Clinic Staff. (2022, May 13). Being assertive: Reduce stress, communicate better. Mayo Clinic.

Scott, E. (2023, September 26). How to use assertive communication. Verywell Mind.

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