Practicing Assertive Communication

Jalicia Maeweather

February 4, 2024

Throughout our lifetime we are bound to run into situations where we need to engage in communicating with assertiveness. That can sound a little intimidating, as being assertive tends to be associated with negative connotations. One possible reason for this misinterpretation could be because people confuse assertion with aggression.

  • A few synonyms for the word assertive are: confident, bold, decisive, and assured.
  • A few synonyms for the word aggression are: hostile, belligerent, antagonistic, and pugnacious.

See the difference? Assertion does not only come in the form of speaking, but in active listening as well. This is apparent in James 1:19 which says, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry…” As Christians, we should be meek, not weak. Which means that we can use assertive communication without feeling guilty about it.

Assertion vs. Aggression

As Christians we can sometimes feel as though we are not allowed to speak up for ourselves when necessary, or use firm communication when it is appropriate. However, if we are practicing assertive communication properly, we can still communicate effectively without jeopardizing the teachings found in the Bible. Imagine being at work, and the boss just keeps piling on task after task (without piling on added compensation). This eventually begins to cut into personal time and creates added stress. With all of the anger and frustration building up on the inside, the first thought may be to burst into the boss’s office and give them a hostile set of choice words. This will not only lead to termination, but this is also not a proper way to communicate assertively.

One alternative in this situation could be to schedule a meeting with the boss, and explain how the job description and the delegated tasks are not aligning, and discuss possible options going forward. Respectfully and confidently speaking up for oneself can be an effective way to set a standard and remind others of what is and what is not acceptable. The latter option is a better example of the way Christ would like us to be. “Rather, speaking the truth in love we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ...” (Ephesians 4:15). Practicing assertion in this manner will help us to live our lives more in alignment with the teachings of Christ, which leads with love, compassion, and humility.

Meekness Not Weakness

In keeping with the example from above, let’s say the meeting has been scheduled with the boss, and it’s now your time to shine and communicate assertively, and you start off with, “Um, I was wondering if maybe it wasn’t too much trouble, could you please consider lessening my workload just a little?” That's not exactly assertive confidence. If the boss responds with “no”, then what?

An optional assertive opening sentence for this particular situation could be, “I am noticing that my workload is steadily increasing and cutting into my personal life. I would like to discuss my job title to ensure that there have been no changes in the job description and that I am doing my best within my scope of practice.” This shows that you mean business, and there is no room for manipulation or for the boss to be evasive about your concerns. You don't have to be angry, but you can be firm. When God commanded Moses to go to Egypt and free the slaves, Moses did not approach Pharaoh and say, “Um, if it's not a bother, would you please free my people?” No. Moses said, “LET MY PEOPLE GO!” Even with all of Moses’ apprehensions and fears, he still pushed through and was able to speak assertively.

Have No Fear

One of the many reasons that communicating with assertion can be difficult is that if we have not been used to doing it, there may be a little bit of fear. But we are encouraged by God. 

“Have I not commanded you, be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9). 

This is the comforting reminder God gave to Joshua, but this is a good reminder for us as well. God will never allow us to go through any situation (great or small) without him being right by our side. 

We may also find ourselves having a fear of hurting other people’s feelings when we speak assertively. When we are careful to respectfully assert ourselves with loved ones or otherwise, we cannot burden ourselves with thoughts of how well they received it or if it hurt their feelings. If we have properly practiced speaking with loving assertion with another person and they are angered by it, that is something that they will have to resolve within themselves.

Healthy Relationships

While some may be apprehensive about the practice of assertive communication, it can be used to resolve conflict while simultaneously promoting unification and love. In fact, we are instructed to do so. 

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother” (Matthew 18:15). 

Practicing assertive communication can help to build stronger, healthier relationships and a more positive and supportive community around us. 

God wants us to live a full, abundant life that is free in him! This does not include shrinking ourselves down or not speaking up for ourselves when we need to. He wants us to form loving, healthy relationships with our sisters and brothers. As long as we are able to continue to hold on to understanding, meekness, and love while communicating assertively, we can be sure to communicate in a Christ-like manner.

About the author — Jalicia Maeweather

Jalicia (Juh-lee-suh) Maeweather is a life coach with a specialty in mental health. She is also the author of the book, The Uninvited Guests Of Grief. Jalicia enjoys writing, knitting, and spending time with friends and family.

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